Hamilton sets blistering pace in second session

10/10/2014
NEWS STORY

Despite the new location it was business as usual this morning with Mercedes filling the first two places on the timesheets. Nico Rosberg led the way with teammate Lewis Hamilton just 0.65s behind.

The main opposition, certainly this morning, appeared to come from McLaren, though both Ferraris were up there.

Being Friday, and being the opening session on a brand new track, it will be tomorrow when the remaining teams really show their hands, but currently Mercedes looks set to add another trophy to the cabinet this weekend.

The new track surface meant a number of offs, with Turs 2, 15 and 17 being the scenes of the most incidents.

Valtteri Bottas' running was compromised after errant tyre blankets meant his second set of tyres went the way of the Pitpass supper (tuna and leek pie) last night... overcooked.

There are two DRS zones, the first detection point is just after the start/finish line with the activation point located just after T1, while the second detection point is before T9 with the activation point just after the same corner.

Tyre choices are medium (prime) and soft (option), the latter making their first appearance in the coming session.

Ahead of the start of the session, the air temperature is 21 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 57 degrees. It remains bright and sunny.

Having been by their teams' reserve/test drivers, Kamui Kobayashi and Esteban Gutierrez are back in the hot seat this afternoon.

The lights go green and Chilton leads the way, followed by Gutierrez. Chilton is Marussia's sole runner this weekend, the team opting not to run Jules Bianchi's car out of respect to the Frenchman.

Chilton gets things underway with a 1:53.499, but this is quickly eclipsed by Gutierrez (48.805). Moments later, Bottas posts an even more sensible 44.352.

A 43.155 sees Button go quickest, with Magnussen (43.961) making it a McLaren 1-2 moments later.

Vettel goes fifth (45.023), albeit 1.868s off Button's pace. Indeed, as Bottas raises the bar with a 42.669, Vettel is left 2.354 adrift of the Finn.

As Vettel runs wide in T17, Button stops the clock at 41.928.

Local hero Kvyat goers third with a 43.348, the Toro rosso driver subsequently complaining that his car "feels strange".

Hamilton goes second (42.333) and Vettel fourth (43.272) as the track gradually 'rubbers in'.

All eyes on Rosberg who goes quickest in S2, going on to post 41.882 and thereby eclipsing Button by 0.046s.

Kvyat runs wide in T17 and Magnussen at T2 as Hamilton takes the top spot with a 41.750.

Currently 20th, 6.396s off the pace, Grosjean complains that he thinks he has a problem with his rear suspension.

Rosberg posts 41.508 having been quickest in the final two sectors however, teammate Hamilton is on a hot lap. A poor final sector however, means the Briton fails to improve.

Behind the Mercedes, it's Button, Alonso, Kvyat, Bottas, Magnussen, Perez and Vergne.

Meanwhile, it's revealed that Hulkenberg faces a five-place grid penalty after the team has opted to change his gearbox.

As Raikkonen remains firmly rooted at the bottom of the timesheet (49.949), Grosjean is the latest driver to have an off-track moment, this time at T4.

With 56:10 remaining, only Alonso, Gutierrez and Ericsson are on track, the Mexican the first to switch to the option (soft) rubber. As he pits, Kvyat complains that his car is "lazy" and "not responding".

As Gutierrez begins his flying lap, Sutil and Hulkenberg are next to switch to the softer rubber. The Mexican improves from 16th (44.155) to 12th (43.424). It had been predicted that the difference between the two compounds could be as much as 2s.

Hulkenberg improves from 15th (43.581) to 4th (41.969), at 1.6s that's closer to what we expected.

Following a slow lap, Hulkenberg completes another flying lap, this time posting 41.677 an improvement of a further 0.3s.

Elsewhere, Raikkonen (option) posts 41.969 to go fifth, as more and more drivers switch to the softer rubber.

Rosberg and Button trade best times in S1, the German maintaining the pace in S2. At the line Button posts 41.196 but this is soon beaten by the Mercedes driver (41.027).

Magnussen goes quickest in S2, finally crossing the line at 41.065 to go second.

Sutil gets very, very out of shape in T7 as Hamilton (softs) can only manage fourth (41.230).

At half-time, it's: Rosberg, Magnussen, Button, Hamilton, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Alonso, Ricciardo and Massa. However, of those, Alonso is the only driver yet to try the softer rubber.

No sooner has Button posted a very impressive 40.718 than Rosberg posts an even more impressive 40.596.

A 40.494 sees Magnussen go quickest however, Hamilton is on a hot lap subsequently banging in a 39.817, 0.677s quicker than his nearest rival.

Having gone quickest in S2, Rosberg runs wide in T17 and ruins his lap but still manages to improve his time... just.

With 36:00 remaining, Alonso, Vettel and Ericsson are the only drivers yet to try the soft rubber.

Another improvement from Hamilton (39.630), who is fastest in the first two sectors.

Grosjean is a very, very unhappy bunny. "I'm telling you there is a problem with the car. It is consistently the same problem." The Frenchman is currently 18th, 4.395s off the pace.

PBs in all three sectors see Vergne go seventh (41.554), the Frenchman really upping his form in recent weeks. That said, teammate Kvyat goes quicker (41.08) to take seventh.

With 30:00 remaining, Alonso and Vettel finally make the switch to options.

Whilst Alonso posts a PB is S1, Vettel's opening sector is compromised by a mistake in the final corner. The Spaniard maintains his pace in S2, finally crossing the line at 41.404 to go 8th. Vettel can only manage 17th (43.000).

Vettel is still struggling, the German running wide in T17 and once again failing to improve.

As most drivers now focus on longer runs, Vettel finally improves, the German posting 41.396 to go ninth. Elsewhere, Perez runs wide in T13.

With 16:00 remaining all but Ericsson and Alonso are on track.

Sutil off at T2 and Hulkenberg and Button at T13.

Asked how his option tyres are holding up, Button replies "OK". The Briton is told that his long-run pace is comparable to Mercedes. Shortly after he locks-up at T13 again and flats spots his tyres, on advising his team he is told to pit.

Ricciardo slows to a halt, thereby bringing out the yellow flags. Indeed the session is red flagged as the Red Bull is recovered. The Australian is not on the racing line and close to a gap in the wall through which the car can be recovered, but after Suzuka officials are taking no chances. Smoke pours from the rear of the car.

The session is re-started with just three minutes remaining, enough for two laps.

Ironically, Vettel heads the queue at the end of the pitlane.

"Tell Vettel to let me by," urges Kvyat.

Unsurprisingly, there are no further improvements, though before the red flag Alonso (unseen) improves to third with a 40.504.

Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Magnussen, Alonso, Rosberg, Bottas, Button, Massa, Kvyat, Vettel and Vergne.

Raikkonen is eleventh, ahead of Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Perez, Sutil, Grosjean, Maldonado, Gutierrez, Ericsson, Chilton and Kobayashi.

Check out our Friday gallery, here.

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Published: 10/10/2014
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