Williams reveal pace in the calm before the storm

2014 Japanese Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Mercedes were the class of the field in the two dry practice sessions at Suzuka on Friday, even though Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg set their best times with laps that were less than perfect.

But as sunny skies during the first session gave way to gathering clouds and spots of rain in second practice, the teams are well aware that rain is threatening in the days ahead. And lots of it.

Typhoon Phanfone is working its way steadily towards the region, and while forecasts continue to indicate the worst effects of it won’t be felt until after the grand prix, it remains to be seen just how much of a race is going to be possible if Suzuka sees as much rain as is increasingly expected on Sunday.

For now, however, the teams went about the business of evaluating their latest upgrades and set-up tweaks on a dry circuit. This will not have been entirely in vain, as Saturday’s qualifying session is still expected to be dry.

As usual Mercedes were fastest followed by the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso which we have learned to expect looks a bit faster than it really is on Fridays. However the presence of the Williams of Valtteri Bottas in fourth place is intriguing – Williams have tended to keep a low profile on Fridays, and this could be an indication that the optimism they headed into this weekend with is entirely justified. His long-run pace looked good, too, though he probably won’t be able to make use of it until next week in Sochi.

Felipe Massa was over a second off his team mate’s pace, and complained more than once during today’s running about being unhappy with the balance of the car. But afterwards he said this was not connected to the team’s latest upgrades.

“I had some issues today and just couldn’t get any grip,” Massa explained, “it has nothing to do with the new aero parts as those seem to have worked well. Once we can fix the issues, I think we can be competitive tomorrow.”

In dry conditions Williams could be a threat to Red Bull, particularly as their rivals missed out on valuable high-fuel running due to Daniel Ricciardo crashing his car early in the second session. However as we’ve seen several times already this season the RB10 reacts positively to wet conditions while the FW36 is decidedly averse to them.

McLaren also had a productive day as they continue to make steady gains with the MP4-29. “We traditionally lack pace to our rivals on a Friday, so it’s nice to see the performance we have,” said Jenson Button.

“That first session wasn’t too bad, but we were able to make some really productive changes to the car as the circuit gripped up and the temperatures rose in the afternoon. The majority of those changes will also help our long-run pace, which is another positive.”

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:


Sebastian Vettel101.441100.689100.795101.957100.851101.04101.079101.034101.212101.302
Daniel Ricciardo
Lewis Hamilton99.76999.96299.76399.764100.001100.229106.104100.69
Nico Rosberg99.9799.72599.88299.64999.695101.81199.67499.847100.274
Fernando Alonso119.81121.545123.902116.64398.129111.69696.637120.15996.672
Kimi Raikkonen96.529125.887111.307
Romain Grosjean102.458102.087102.231102.365104.466102.348102.311105.148104.759102.936
Pastor Maldonado103.758103.105102.59102.397102.163102.917102.69103.09102.476
Jenson Button102.19108.85101.266101.201101.217101.701105.71101.368101.965101.112101.288101.287101.918
Kevin Magnussen101.018101.547101.91101.694102.071101.453101.567102.08101.008101.498105.329
Nico Hulkenberg102.481104.161104.138102.374102.151
Sergio Perez97.988
Adrian Sutil103.557103.623103.17103.156103.378103.561103.716
Esteban Gutierrez111.258111.507101.092115.1898.365
Jean-Eric Vergne101.71398.396105.49498.04
Daniil Kvyat101.179101.386101.105102.213102.26101.043101.351101.174101.721101.76
Felipe Massa116.487114.07597.98597.7119.431
Valtteri Bottas100.677100.712100.435101.194100.647100.012100.435101.137100.342100.907100.999101.048
Jules Bianchi99.306109.06699.635
Max Chilton105.676106.34104.359103.938
Marcus Ericsson108.434104.613104.209104.269105.012
Kamui Kobayashi

Sector times and ultimate lap times – second practice

PosNo.DriverCarS1S2S3UltimateGapDeficit to best
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes34.229 (1)42.646 (2)18.155 (1)1’35.0300.048
26Nico RosbergMercedes34.346 (2)42.580 (1)18.392 (5)1’35.3180.2880.000
377Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes34.703 (3)43.001 (5)18.328 (3)1’36.0321.0020.247
420Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes34.800 (4)43.193 (8)18.400 (6)1’36.3931.3630.321
522Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes34.995 (6)43.038 (6)18.376 (4)1’36.4091.3790.000
61Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault35.017 (7)42.997 (4)18.401 (7)1’36.4151.3850.021
77Kimi RaikkonenFerrari35.141 (10)42.987 (3)18.401 (7)1’36.5291.4990.000
814Fernando AlonsoFerrari35.055 (8)43.160 (7)18.316 (2)1’36.5311.5010.106
926Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Renault34.859 (5)43.640 (15)18.444 (9)1’36.9431.9130.000
103Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-Renault35.209 (12)43.397 (9)18.580 (14)1’37.1862.1560.000
1125Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Renault35.056 (9)43.668 (16)18.495 (10)1’37.2192.1890.000
128Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault35.166 (11)43.616 (14)18.568 (13)1’37.3502.3200.213
1319Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes35.308 (13)43.409 (10)18.662 (15)1’37.3792.3490.321
1427Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes35.345 (14)43.577 (13)18.539 (11)1’37.4612.4310.043
1511Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes35.643 (18)43.571 (12)18.565 (12)1’37.7792.7490.007
1613Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault35.394 (15)43.717 (18)18.687 (16)1’37.7982.7680.000
1721Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari35.512 (16)43.465 (11)18.953 (21)1’37.9302.9000.435
1899Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari35.545 (17)43.701 (17)18.764 (17)1’38.0102.9800.000
199Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault35.695 (19)44.455 (21)18.919 (20)1’39.0694.0390.000
2017Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari36.202 (21)44.177 (19)18.857 (18)1’39.2364.2060.070
214Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari36.126 (20)44.257 (20)18.892 (19)1’39.2754.2450.058
2210Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault37.097 (22)45.478 (22)20.185 (22)1’42.7607.7300.000

Speed trap – second practice

#DriverCarEngineMax speed (kph)Gap
16Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes305.8
277Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes304.81
344Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes304.71.1
425Jean-Eric VergneToro RossoRenault301.93.9
511Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes301.44.4
622Jenson ButtonMcLarenMercedes300.75.1
78Romain GrosjeanLotusRenault300.55.3
820Kevin MagnussenMcLarenMercedes300.45.4
91Sebastian VettelRed BullRenault300.35.5
107Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari3005.8
1114Fernando AlonsoFerrariFerrari299.95.9
1221Esteban GutierrezSauberFerrari299.66.2
1326Daniil KvyatToro RossoRenault299.56.3
1427Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes299.36.5
1513Pastor MaldonadoLotusRenault2996.8
1619Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes298.37.5
179Marcus EricssonCaterhamRenault294.111.7
1817Jules BianchiMarussiaFerrari292.813
1999Adrian SutilSauberFerrari292.413.4
203Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault292.413.4
214Max ChiltonMarussiaFerrari289.915.9
2210Kamui KobayashiCaterhamRenault277.428.4

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’35.6121’35.07854
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’35.4611’35.31854
3Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’36.0371’36.63745
4Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’36.5761’36.27949
5Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’37.6491’36.40952
6Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’37.6861’36.43650
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’37.1871’36.52938
8Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes1’37.3271’36.71455
9Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Renault1’37.7141’36.94353
10Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-Renault1’37.4661’37.18630
11Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Renault1’37.21919
12Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’38.5821’37.50425
13Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1’38.8511’37.56352
14Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’38.0121’37.70040
15Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’38.3241’37.78618
16Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault1’39.0971’37.79853
17Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari1’39.0461’38.01044
18Max VerstappenToro Rosso-Renault1’38.15722
19Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari1’39.3181’38.36527
20Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault1’40.0311’39.06940
21Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari1’41.5801’39.30630
22Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari1’41.7571’39.33339
23Roberto MerhiCaterham-Renault1’41.47224
24Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault1’42.7603

2014 Japanese Grand Prix

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Image © Williams/LAT

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Keith Collantine
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11 comments on “Williams reveal pace in the calm before the storm”

  1. This should be an interesting race even though it may not rain. Nico long run (i see in fp2) is better than Lewis, sure its not 100% representative, but it they should be close again. An improving McLaren may could threat Ferrari and RBR, or maybe even Williams. and don’t forget JEV long run too

    1. JEV making it to the end of a long run? I’ll believe that when I see it…

      Rosberg kept missing his braking into the chicane – wonder if that will decide pole position.

      we were able to make some really productive changes to the car as the circuit gripped up

      May have to change them back again – sounds like the circuit’s about to grip down again, even if it’s not raining during Saturday practice & qualifying…

  2. Sauber looks really bad. Bottas’ run is quick and consistent. That really smells of a podium.

    Button’s run is worthy of mention too. 1 lap further than Bottas at very similiar pace.

    Ferrari… I’m not sure what they were doing. Finding the limits? So Alonso is not happy with the car and was trying to push it to see where to find an improvement? Or just not bothering with long-run setup knowing it is going to rain on Sunday?

    I’m kinda looking forward to rain. It is a demanding track, doubly so when wet, so we’ll get to see more driver skill. Not to mention that Ferrari looks better in the wet, when engine is… erhhh… when PU is not that important

  3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    3rd October 2014, 16:33

    It’s quite remarkable that a driver as good as Hulkenberg in a car that was on the podium in Bahrain finished the day with a laptime half a second slower than Andre Lotterer’s 1’37.022 Super Formula pole lap from Suzuka earlier this year. That said the new and rather beautiful Dallara SF14 chassis, based on Dallara’s findings from their HRT chassis, has made Super Formula the fastest spec series in the world, fractionally faster than Dallara’s GP2/11 car.

  4. Given the threat of rain, do you guys think we’ll see some mixups on the grid since some will be qualifying with a wet setup? Is any team actually going to gamble on a dry-setup for qualifying and potentially throw the race?

    1. I’m pretty sure that there are no longer “wet” set ups, other than changing ride height slightly to keep the plank out of puddles. The differences I think come in relation to which cars can heat the tires more easily, a critical issue in wet-dry conditions. But it looks to be wet-wet Sunday. Indeed, I expect to hear Horner call again for “monsoon” tires.

      1. Ah, I always thought they made other adjustments like increasing wing angles, etc. for more downforce. I guess that it ultimately comes down to the mechanical grip they can get versus the aero, but that was my understanding.

        In any case, I hope the race doesn’t get delayed due to rain… I really wish they’d moved up the start time to give us that separation. If there’s any safety cars it’s probable that we won’t get a full race distance.

      2. @dmw,@steevkay, I think Steve has a valid point, they may not run softer springs for wet conditions anymore, but the small adjustments they have to make are still likely to cost several positions on the grid against cars optimised for dry conditions, that’s if Q3 is dry.

  5. As for these numbers, Ferrari didn’t do a proper long run, and Williams doesn’t seem clear of RBR and not close to Mercedes. I think it will be normal service—MB runaway, with Alonso and Ricciardo scrapping with the Williams.

    I don’t think rain changes this picture. MB was supposed to suffer when it maxed out DF in Singapore, but Hamilton still was dominant there. I think MB’s concern should be checking every o-ring and rubber boot to keep the electronics dry.

  6. I’ve been to Japan in 2004 and witnessed a serious typhoon the day I spent in Yokohama. If those ridiculous amounts of water hit the track on Sunday during the race it will be red flagged; no way FIA will let them race.

    On the other hand, Japan 2007 at Fuji was hit by severe rain too on Saturday and they did not interrupt the session and Lewis managed a monster lap to get the pole.

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