Wet qualifying to put Red Bull in the mix

2016 Japanese Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Daniel Ricciardo believes the wet conditions expected for Saturday’s qualifying session at Suzuka will give Red Bull a chance to take the fight to Mercedes.

“If it rains for quali, it won’t hurt us and we might even be able to get on the front row,” said Ricciardo.

The Red Bulls lagged well off Mercedes’ one-lap pace in second practice. However Ricciardo and Max Verstappen had to abandon their original runs on soft tyre due to a Virtual Safety Car period. As the track is wearing the soft tyres out quickly, they were unable to set representative times.

“We made some improvements from this morning,” said Ricciardo, “the lap we had to abort because of the Virtual Safety Car looked to be in the 32s which was close to Kimi [Raikkonen’s] time.

Japanese Grand Prix practice in pictures
Mercedes’ qualifying pace is usually stronger than their race pace. More rain on Sunday would be welcome for Red Bull but some forecasts are now indicating the rain will not return until after the race.

Red Bull stand a good chance of being competitive even if it isn’t wet. Mercedes have imposed some new limits on their engine use following Lewis Hamilton’s breakdown in Malaysia.

“After Malaysia we are looking for another good result,” said Verstappen, who looked slightly quicker than his team mate again during practice. “This track should suit us and we are close to the top guys at the moment.”

“Ferrari are in the mix, short runs look OK but I’m not sure how their long ones are going, I’m hoping we can handle them though. There are talks of rain for later in the weekend which for us I think will play into our hands, we can’t be sure but if it comes I think we can be even stronger in qualifying and the race.”

If the race is run in dry conditions, drivers may therefore find the track rather different to how it was this afternoon. The hard tyre (which Hamilton used on his longest run, below) looked the better race tyre than the medium (used by Rosberg) but Pirelli advise that may reverse if Sunday’s conditions are cooler. The Red Bull pair used the hard tyres for their longest runs.

McLaren’s drivers were not happy with their race simulations at Honda’s home track. “Our long-run pace is more of an issue,” Jenson Button admitted, “and that’s something we need to solve as it’s usually a forte of mine, and it wasn’t today.”

“The degradation is significant, we’re some way off, and we’re looking into the reasons why. I think there’s something not quite right, as opposed to there being a set-up issue; but hopefully we can fix it by tomorrow.”

Remarkably, Hamilton has never had a pole position at Suzuka, but he was within a tenth of a second of Rosberg today. He tends to perform better in wet weather sessions than his team mate as well. Pole for him with his team mate behind one or both of the Red Bulls is the bet result he can hope for tomorrow.

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Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’32.4311’32.25059
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’32.6461’32.32256
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’33.8171’32.57343
4Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’34.3791’33.06155
5Sebastian VettelFerrari1’33.5251’33.10353
6Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’34.7671’33.57067
7Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’34.5301’33.87363
8Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’35.0031’33.98547
9Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’35.3811’34.02864
10Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Ferrari1’35.6721’34.08660
11Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’34.1121’34.15052
12Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’36.1691’34.12756
13Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’35.6881’34.24150
14Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Ferrari1’35.4461’34.30550
15Kevin MagnussenRenault1’36.8221’34.33966
16Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’35.6771’34.39853
17Esteban GutierrezHaas-Ferrari1’36.2191’34.64332
18Jolyon PalmerRenault1’37.9921’34.76053
19Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’35.9671’34.82441
20Pascal WehrleinManor-Mercedes1’37.9661’35.29254
21Esteban OconManor-Mercedes1’37.7971’35.40066
22Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’36.2941’36.31845

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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Author information

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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10 comments on “Wet qualifying to put Red Bull in the mix”

  1. Yeah, I fully expect it to be wet and to have Hamilton with one of the Red Bulls on the front row and the other next to Rosberg on the 2nd row.

    I would throw Vettel in there too, as he has always been good in Suzuka and in the wet, but somehow it seems he just does not have the confidence in this Ferrari to pull one out of the hat currently.

    1. @bascb And a penalty to throw in too!

      1. Oh, yeah. Tthat too, yes @craig-o

  2. If I compare longruns from both RedBulls with Hamilton (all on the hard tyre), they seem to be almost a second per lap qiucker… That can’t be right.

    I think they either run with a tuned down engine or possibly carry more fuel/use less DRS that RBR. @keithcollantine do you have anymore info about this maybe?

    1. Maybe they are tuned down due to Hamilton’s blowout at Sepang, and subsequent advisory to all teams.

    2. @jeffreyj I think you’re right, it’ll be fuel loads and engine settings.

      1. Yeah,so unfortunately we still basically don’t know anything apart from what we saw in terms of race pace in Malaysia.

        Although I have to say that Verstappen was especially good in the sweeping 2nd sector at Sepang compared to Hamilton. S1 at Suzuka is also faster flowing, while S2 is rather technical and should be ok for RBR as well. The final sector including the back- and pit straight is real Merc territorial I recon

  3. Looks like it could shape up to be an interesting battle between the Bulls and Mercs on Sunday. Ferrari seem a little off on race pace, but then again, this is one of Vettel’s favourite tracks, so I’d expect him to push hard for a podium this weekend.

    In the midfield, the Force Indias are looking strong followed by a close battle between Williams and Mclaren. Got to feel that the best Mclaren will be able to pull of will be another P7 or P8 position this weekend. So much for high hopes at the home grand prix.

  4. Keith, how do you define a “very slow” lap time for the purposes of your lap time chart? I’m intrigued! X

  5. The weather could help the Red Bulls! Now even the weather is against our poor Lewis :-(

Comments are closed.