N oh he's not there. But Typhoon Hagibis is casting its shadow. All activities on the route on Saturday have been canceled. Saturday is hotel day for everyone. Because the race management announced the cancellation to the teams shortly before the first practice session, the usual Friday program was adapted to the circumstances.
Everyone used two additional sets of tires that would normally have been reserved for the third practice session. Some teams like Mercedes split one set each on both sessions, others like Ferrari only drove both extra sets in the afternoon.
Everyone covered as many laps as possible. The hardest-working driver was Sebastian Vettel with 63 laps. But it wasn't that much more than usual. “Maybe two or three rounds. Because of the tightly packed program, there was not enough time to do more laps, ”said the Mercedes engineers.
The second training session got its special charm from the stewards' decision that the order is the starting grid when qualifying falls into the water on Sunday too. Then two Mercedes would be on the front row.
Most of the teams chased for times at the beginning of the training and only focused on the endurance runs in the second part. Renault and Racing Point did it the other way around. And Ferrari broke off the long runs earlier to knock Mercedes off the throne in the last few minutes of training. Although Charles Leclerc could improve, it was not enough. There was just too much traffic on the route. That is why the two Renaults ended up in the lower part of the ranking.
Mercedes was also therea power to the long runs. Followed by Red Bull. Ferrari struggled with the tires. Even the medium rubbers did not get the red cars moving at all. 'At least we now have a lot of data and a lot of time to evaluate it,' smiled team boss Mattia Binotto.
The first day of training was a hint, nothing more. Ferrari also had a poor first day of training in Singapore. Then Leclerc took pole position on Saturday. At Red Bull you saw cautiously satisfied faces. The new fuel from Mobil has breathed more power into the Honda V6 turbo. The improvement should be in the double-digit range.
Red Bull also went the right way with the vehicle set-up. You started the first day of training with too little downforce. With more downforce in the second training session, Max Verstappen made competition with the Ferrari. Sports director Helmut Marko says: “We are on the same level as Bottas. Hamilton is too fast for us. ”
Six things you need to know:
Why is Mercedes so strong?
The aero package was a step forward, but not the reason why Mercedes finished both training sessions with a one-two. This type of racetrack with its smooth curve sequences and different curve radii is as if painted for the Silver Arrows. The Mercedes were also a force in Shanghai, Barcelona, Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Budapest.
Valtteri Bottas won both practice sessions just ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull was 0.281 seconds behind, Ferrari 0.356 seconds. Surprisingly, the Mercedes left practically no time on the Ferrari on the straights this time. At top speed there was almost a tie with 309.7 to 309.1 km /h. And the Silver Arrows were significantly faster in the corners. In turns 2 to 5 and 13 and 14, Mercedes made up six tenths on the Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton took Charles Leclerc three-tenths off in the first sector.
Sebastian Vettel's only explanation: 'Maybe Mercedes has turned the engine on more than we do.' drove less fuel than we would normally do on a Friday. ”For comparison, here again sector times and top speeds.
Can Red Bull Ferrari be dangerous?
Red Bull did on first day of training made a better impression than Ferrari. On a lap and in the long run. 'This time we went the right way with the vote,' said Helmut Marko with a sigh of relief. Red Bull started the training session with too little downforce, but corrected that in the second session. While Max Verstappen was satisfied with the third fastest time of the day, there is still room for improvement in the race simulation.
'We tried too much with the setup, but should have gained enough knowledge to close the gap to Mercedes. At least to Bottas. Hamilton's long run was inviolable. ”Then one more thingKudos to Alexander Albon. 'For not knowing the track, he did better than the other Suzuka newcomer Lando Norris compared to his team-mate.'
While Mercedes and Red Bull kept their tires in good condition over the distance, suddenly collapsed by two seconds at Ferrari after seven laps. Sebastian Vettel was not yet satisfied with the first day of training. On his fastest training lap, he got stuck behind a Williams. His Ferrari is not yet on the ball on the long runs. “We didn't like the medium tire at all. It loses grip far too quickly, ”Vettel wondered.
The Singapore winner sees Mercedes as a favorite:“ We mustn't pretend we already have Mercedes in our pockets. In the last few races we were equally quick at best. They still have a very good car at the start. ”But Vettel also admits:“ We have already become stronger on this type of track. And we still had our problems in the first half of the season. Since the Singapore upgrade, we've found it easier to get the balance right. ”
What was going on with Renault?
The two Renault drivers landed in 16th and 17th place, but it's not as bad as it looks: “We have the wrong one Order chosen. First long runs, then the fast lap on soft tires. I was stopped on both attempts. At the end of the training there was simply too much traffic on the track. I didn't find a gap, 'explained Nico Hülkenberg.
But he also admits:' The vehicle balance was not as good in the afternoon as it was in the morning. Front and rear axles do not yet match. It's not like I can easily shake off a second off my sleeve. I currently see us in 12th or 13th place. '
The engineers now have to clarify what influence the new front wing had on the balance problems. In the long runs, the French works racers are passable. However, comparisons are difficult because of the different programs to the competition. In any case, this much can already be said: For McLarenand Racing Point is not enough.
Who is better: Racing Point or McLaren?
Clear answer. As of Friday, McLaren is the fourth force. On one lap, the lead over Sergio Perez was just 0.248 seconds. In the long runs it was more. “We lacked the speed a bit. But there is no reason why we should be slower over the distance, 'said team manager Andy Stevenson.
McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl, on the other hand, drew a positive balance:' Our cars were fast from the start, you can see times off an electrical problem that Carlos stopped at the beginning of the training. We have the fourth fastest car on one lap and in the long runs. ”
McLaren started the day with aerodynamic tests and divided the second training session into qualifying runs and racing simulations. “We started with little fuel in the tank. That was the right decision when I look at the teams that tried at the end of the training session. There were simply too many cars on the track to drive fast laps, ”Seidl looks back. In fact, only Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly were able to improve in the last few minutes of training.
How long do the tires last?
Pirelli sports director Mario Isola is expecting a one-stop race. There are three strategies available. Soft-medium, medium-soft or medium-hard. “Last year the winner started with medium tires and ended with hard tires. But the rubber compounds were a step softer. Medium-hard corresponds to soft-medium today. ”
Isola expects that the three top teams in Q2 may compete with medium tires in order to start that way. This creates more flexibility in terms of tactics. The delta between medium and soft was unusually large at 1.3 seconds in the second training session, but the risk for the top teams to qualify with the harder tires in Q2 is lower than the large gap suggests.
“The teams drove with the soft tires on less fuel than usual in order to set a good lap time. With the medium rubber, there was more gasoline on board.So the comparison is unfair, ”warned Isola. Mercedes has calculated that the actual difference between the two types of tire is 0.6 seconds.
What happens if the qualification fails on Sunday?
Typhoon Hagibis has overturned the entire schedule. For the fifth time in the history of Formula 1, the starting grid will not be determined until Sunday. Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. But what happens if the wind is still blowing too strong or the rain is too strong?
The rules do not provide a solution in this case. That is why the stewards have drawn up a procedure just in case. In this case the result of the second training would be the starting grid. Penalties would have to be taken into account as usual. The choice of tires for the start is free, however. Fast laps were therefore no longer as unimportant as they were in the second training session. The teams were already chasing times in the second training session. That limited the time for long runs.