According to the weather forecast, todays is the only day that should be totally dry in Japan as those entered in the 17th round of the Formula 1 World Championship got down to business at the infamous Suzuka Circuit.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was third fastest in the first free practice session, with a time of 1.33.525, to finish just ahead of his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, whose best lap was a 1.33.817.
Aerodynamic comparison runs and mechanical set-up work were the order of the day for both Ferrari men, after Kimi did one installation lap on the Hard tyres and Seb did two. After that, they switched to the softest tyre available, the Soft.
“Overall I am not entirely happy with the balance of the car today, but I am sure this is something we can work on,” Sebastian said afterwards. “I didn’t try the Medium compound, we focused more on the Soft tyre in the morning, and on the very Hard tyre in the afternoon.”
“We tried to do our homework, but the balance is not there yet. We will now need to look at the data and see where we are, also compared to the others. Ideally you would always love to have more grip around here, because it feels fantastic if you do, but I am sure we can tune the balance and distribute the grip a bit better, so that we will be in a better shape tomorrow.”
“As for race expectations, a podium finish is always possible, there might even be rain at some point. It sure doesn’t help if you start further at the back (because of the grid penalty), but overtaking is possible, even if it is not so easy.”
In the second session, the two drivers worked on different programmes in their SF16-Hs, while preparing for qualifying and the race. Kimi Raikkonen, third in 1.32.573, alternated between Medium and Soft tyres, while Sebastian, who was fifth fastest in 1.33.103, fitted the hardest tyre available here in Japan, the Hard.
The only glitch was a minor electrical problem on Kimi’s car, which was quickly resolved, as the Finn completed 26 laps, eight fewer than his team-mate.
“It was one of those days that seem a bit tricky but in the end go for better,” Kimi said. “My feeling with the car was not very nice, I suffered a lot with understeer and I was struggling with the balance through the first sector, but the lap time was ok.”
“In the end we got a bit better, but we are not still where we want to be. In the second session I had a small electric issue, likely with a sensor, but we changed it and it was ok. Tomorrow is another day, we’ll try to work on small things to try to improve. If we get the car where we want and with a better feeling for sure we can go quite a bit faster.”