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:

https://www.racefans.net/charts/2014drivercolours.csv

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Sebastian Vettel 101.441 100.689 100.795 101.957 100.851 101.04 101.079 101.034 101.212 101.302
Daniel Ricciardo
Lewis Hamilton 99.769 99.962 99.763 99.764 100.001 100.229 106.104 100.69
Nico Rosberg 99.97 99.725 99.882 99.649 99.695 101.811 99.674 99.847 100.274
Fernando Alonso 119.81 121.545 123.902 116.643 98.129 111.696 96.637 120.159 96.672
Kimi Raikkonen 96.529 125.887 111.307
Romain Grosjean 102.458 102.087 102.231 102.365 104.466 102.348 102.311 105.148 104.759 102.936
Pastor Maldonado 103.758 103.105 102.59 102.397 102.163 102.917 102.69 103.09 102.476
Jenson Button 102.19 108.85 101.266 101.201 101.217 101.701 105.71 101.368 101.965 101.112 101.288 101.287 101.918
Kevin Magnussen 101.018 101.547 101.91 101.694 102.071 101.453 101.567 102.08 101.008 101.498 105.329
Nico Hulkenberg 102.481 104.161 104.138 102.374 102.151
Sergio Perez 97.988
Adrian Sutil 103.557 103.623 103.17 103.156 103.378 103.561 103.716
Esteban Gutierrez 111.258 111.507 101.092 115.18 98.365
Jean-Eric Vergne 101.713 98.396 105.494 98.04
Daniil Kvyat 101.179 101.386 101.105 102.213 102.26 101.043 101.351 101.174 101.721 101.76
Felipe Massa 116.487 114.075 97.985 97.7 119.431
Valtteri Bottas 100.677 100.712 100.435 101.194 100.647 100.012 100.435 101.137 100.342 100.907 100.999 101.048
Jules Bianchi 99.306 109.066 99.635
Max Chilton 105.676 106.34 104.359 103.938
Marcus Ericsson 108.434 104.613 104.209 104.269 105.012
Kamui Kobayashi

Sector times and ultimate lap times – second practice

Pos No. Driver Car S1 S2 S3 Ultimate Gap Deficit to best
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 34.229 (1) 42.646 (2) 18.155 (1) 1’35.030 0.048
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 34.346 (2) 42.580 (1) 18.392 (5) 1’35.318 0.288 0.000
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 34.703 (3) 43.001 (5) 18.328 (3) 1’36.032 1.002 0.247
4 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 34.800 (4) 43.193 (8) 18.400 (6) 1’36.393 1.363 0.321
5 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 34.995 (6) 43.038 (6) 18.376 (4) 1’36.409 1.379 0.000
6 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 35.017 (7) 42.997 (4) 18.401 (7) 1’36.415 1.385 0.021
7 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 35.141 (10) 42.987 (3) 18.401 (7) 1’36.529 1.499 0.000
8 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 35.055 (8) 43.160 (7) 18.316 (2) 1’36.531 1.501 0.106
9 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 34.859 (5) 43.640 (15) 18.444 (9) 1’36.943 1.913 0.000
10 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 35.209 (12) 43.397 (9) 18.580 (14) 1’37.186 2.156 0.000
11 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 35.056 (9) 43.668 (16) 18.495 (10) 1’37.219 2.189 0.000
12 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 35.166 (11) 43.616 (14) 18.568 (13) 1’37.350 2.320 0.213
13 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 35.308 (13) 43.409 (10) 18.662 (15) 1’37.379 2.349 0.321
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 35.345 (14) 43.577 (13) 18.539 (11) 1’37.461 2.431 0.043
15 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 35.643 (18) 43.571 (12) 18.565 (12) 1’37.779 2.749 0.007
16 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 35.394 (15) 43.717 (18) 18.687 (16) 1’37.798 2.768 0.000
17 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 35.512 (16) 43.465 (11) 18.953 (21) 1’37.930 2.900 0.435
18 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 35.545 (17) 43.701 (17) 18.764 (17) 1’38.010 2.980 0.000
19 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 35.695 (19) 44.455 (21) 18.919 (20) 1’39.069 4.039 0.000
20 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 36.202 (21) 44.177 (19) 18.857 (18) 1’39.236 4.206 0.070
21 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 36.126 (20) 44.257 (20) 18.892 (19) 1’39.275 4.245 0.058
22 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 37.097 (22) 45.478 (22) 20.185 (22) 1’42.760 7.730 0.000

Speed trap – second practice

# Driver Car Engine Max speed (kph) Gap
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 305.8
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 304.8 1
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 304.7 1.1
4 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Renault 301.9 3.9
5 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 301.4 4.4
6 22 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 300.7 5.1
7 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 300.5 5.3
8 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 300.4 5.4
9 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 300.3 5.5
10 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 300 5.8
11 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 299.9 5.9
12 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari 299.6 6.2
13 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 299.5 6.3
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 299.3 6.5
15 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Renault 299 6.8
16 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 298.3 7.5
17 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault 294.1 11.7
18 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari 292.8 13
19 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari 292.4 13.4
20 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 292.4 13.4
21 4 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari 289.9 15.9
22 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham Renault 277.4 28.4

Complete practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2 Total laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’35.612 1’35.078 54
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’35.461 1’35.318 54
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’36.037 1’36.637 45
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’36.576 1’36.279 49
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’37.649 1’36.409 52
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’37.686 1’36.436 50
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’37.187 1’36.529 38
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1’37.327 1’36.714 55
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1’37.714 1’36.943 53
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1’37.466 1’37.186 30
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1’37.219 19
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’38.582 1’37.504 25
13 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’38.851 1’37.563 52
14 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’38.012 1’37.700 40
15 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’38.324 1’37.786 18
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1’39.097 1’37.798 53
17 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.046 1’38.010 44
18 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault 1’38.157 22
19 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.318 1’38.365 27
20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1’40.031 1’39.069 40
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1’41.580 1’39.306 30
22 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1’41.757 1’39.333 39
23 Roberto Merhi Caterham-Renault 1’41.472 24
24 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1’42.760 3

2014 Japanese Grand Prix

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Image © Williams/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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

  1. Formula-I (@)
    3rd October 2014, 14:41

    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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