The Friday in F1 Japanese GP saw limited running due to weather situation as it adds to the trickiness that teams now face to prepare.

It wasn’t the best of days for teams and drivers on Friday of F1 Japanese GP. While they got some running in FP1, the FP2 was mostly a washout where seven drivers didn’t even bother to complete an install lap, leave alone trying to go for a fast lap.

From the limited running, things seems to be close between Red Bull and Ferrari at the top. The former seems to have the upper hand for now, but Carlos Sainz believes that they have lowered the gap when compared to the last Japanese GP few months ago.

On a brighter side were the Mercedes pair too. Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell felt good with the car, something they haven’t felt in practice so far. They felt good with the balance straight up to be in a better position to fight and hope to continue with it.

The McLaren pair decided to divide their set-up but found themselves close to each other. They feel to be in a good place still, while Aston Martin trialed their new update with Lance Stroll, while Fernando Alonso will have to wait until FP3.

Verstappen: “I think it was a good start for us. The balance wasn’t too far out, so I think that’s always a great way to start. But it does look like everyone is a bit closer compared to last year. Then, of course, in FP2 we couldn’t really do anything. Still a few things to look at, to try, but overall I’m quite happy with that FP1. Well, I think in general, already the whole year over one lap it seems like people definitely got closer. Of course, the long-run pace, again I have no clue how that will look, but I don’t expect gaps to be like they were last year here at this track.”

Sainz: “Honestly a bit closer to the Red Bulls than I anticipated or expected, so positive signs in terms of progress made from five months ago to now. Still obviously FP1, you don’t know what fuel loads and engine modes are running, but it feels like we – obviously last year, we were eight-tenths off in quali, and here to be two-tenths off in FP1 was a good feeling, or a good starting base. But Red Bull are going to be difficult to beat this weekend. I think it looks again tight with the McLarens, the Mercedes. Red Bull are a step ahead but a smaller step ahead than maybe I thought, so it should be an interesting fight out there. I was confident in Bahrain, confident in Jeddah, confident in Australia, hit the ground running here this morning. Just when you do a good winter test, we understood the car well, we found a set-up that more or less seems to work everywhere, and also you know, the car is just better this year, which helps!”

Hamilton: “It was a great session. It was a really good session for us. It was the best session that we’ve had this year, it was the best the car has felt this year so far, so it felt really positive and I was really excited. This is a circuit that every driver loves to drive. In the last couple of years we’ve had a really difficult balance, really difficult car and a difficult balance to drive here. And given the difficult last few races we’ve had, great work’s been done this past week and we just seem to have hit the ground a bit more in a sweeter spot, so I haven’t really made any changes since. It’s hard to know [how things look]. As I said, I think we’ve got a better platform or baseline to start from, so as long as we don’t make too many changes and eff it up! I think probably just stay where we are. It’s a shame we didn’t get that FP2 session. They have changed the tyre rule, so therefore no-one goes out and runs on the intermediate, which just doesn’t make sense really, but there you go.”

Norris: “It’s better than it looked, I think, just because of the red flag. While I was on my best lap the red flag came out and then the tyres drop off a lot on the second lap. I think we’re in a good position, probably around third-quickest team, but very, very close with us, Mercedes and Aston. Kind of as you would expect, and Ferrari and Red Bull are too far ahead. I’m sure maybe it can narrow down a little bit into tomorrow, but I think so far probably as we expected and as it’s been all year. I mean, I was on a different level of downforce to what Oscar was. I tried something different, I tried a bit lower and it didn’t seem to be quite as good. It would have been nice to get some more running today, but I’m sure tomorrow morning will be fine just to get that kind of final feeling before quali. The car’s still good, it’s more that, just like we said, Ferrari have taken a good step forward and are probably ahead of us. But the car is still performing in the window we expect and where we think it should be. We still a struggle in certain places, so the focus is on trying to limit the losses in those few places. If we can do that I think we can still have a good day.”

Stroll: “We’ve got updates on the car here and it’s always good to test them out on track. This morning, it was a lot of aero rake running. Then, it was a bit of a slow day with the rain, so we didn’t get too many laps today. Tomorrow, the focus will be on Qualifying. We have an idea of where we’re going to be, but we’ll see. It’s great to be back in Japan in front of the passionate fans. It’s a brilliant track to drive with the speed of the corners and flow of the track.”

The other end of the field had Visa Cash App RB’s Yuki Tsunoda show good pace again with the updated floor. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo did not get a look in after Ayumu Iwasa was given a FP1 run to make it two Japanese drivers in their home event.

It was a good show from Stake F1 Team’s Valtteri Bottas as well who seemed confident of a Top 10 run in their updated car. But the same wasn’t for the Haas pair, as Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg noted about the team’s high-speed struggles.

Alpine ran their own updates with both Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon hopeful of slightly better place. For Williams, it was another difficult run after the accident of Logan Sargeant, who admitted his mistake. The chassis wasn’t damaged in good fortune for them.

Tsunoda: “It’s great to come back to Suzuka in front of the Japanese crowd; I enjoyed it so much and it felt great. It was a positive first day for us. I think we started good in FP1, finishing top 10, showing that the pace is there. The upgraded floor is targeted at slow-speed corners, whereas here is more medium- to high-speed corners so we’re not expecting too much. Together we’ll finetune a couple of areas where there’s room for improvement before FP3, put it together for qualifying, and focus to extract the performance. It’s been very special and it’s only Friday, so I’m looking forward to giving it my all and fighting to achieve our maximum!”

Bottas: “It’s great to be back on track here in Suzuka for what, overall, has been a positive day for us, despite the mixed weather conditions. The upgrades we have brought for this race have been working as we expected, and the feeling within the team was quite good this morning. It’s a shame we couldn’t make the most out of FP2, with the rain preventing most meaningful laps, but we still got some decent running and gathered useful information to work on overnight, as well as practiced our pit stops. We still haven’t managed to run on the soft tyres in dry conditions, but we’ll hopefully be able to do that tomorrow in the final practice session, to come prepared for Qualifying and try to get into the top ten.”

Magnussen: “I don’t think we started the day off well with the balance, we had lots of understeer and tried to correct it during FP1. We probably needed a bigger set-up change, so we changed the rear wing and a few other things as well, so I would’ve loved to have tried that out in FP2, but the session got rained on. It was too dry to go out on inters, and too wet to go out on dry tires – so it resulted in no running. Hopefully FP3 can be dry tomorrow before qualifying, and if that’s the case, there will be no issues.”

Gasly: “We tried a few things in Free Practice 1 today, which was the only running we did on Practice day here in Japan. There was some rain in the afternoon, quite unfortunately timed, so it meant we remained inside the garage for the one-hour duration. We learnt a lot in the morning session with the new parts. Everything worked as expected and we have some valuable data to run through to confirm a few more things. That’s always the most important thing in Practice, especially when you have upgrades running for the first time. We’ll see what we can do to improve the car ahead of Qualifying tomorrow. There have been no surprises so far and all eyes are on the rest of the weekend.”

Sargeant: “I put the car in a place I didn’t realise I was at. It’s a bit of a silly mistake and one that I shouldn’t be making especially in FP1. Fortunately, it wasn’t like the mistake last year when I over pushed. Nevertheless, I still left the team with some damage but got away better than it could’ve been.”

Iwasa: “I’ve driven at Suzuka many times but it’s a completely different, amazing and special feeling to do it in an F1 car. There is much more capacity to push, and the limit of the car is much higher. I got good experience for the future, and I appreciate the opportunity. I’m super thankful to Red Bull, Honda, and all the people at VCARB who have made me feel welcome as soon as I walked into the hospitality. There were no issues today and I was able to have a good feeling from the car straight away, so I was able to build up the pace quicker than expected, which was positive. Also, I think I could make quite some good progress with the team throughout the session. The main target was to get as much data for the team as I could, so I shouldn’t push too much because it was important to just complete many laps. I hope they got some good data for the weekend. In the end, my second set of tyres was to build up the pace and get the feeling of driving an F1 car around the Suzuka circuit. I think we achieved all our targets and for the rest of the weekend, I will try to get more experience in the team. Today’s drive has given me extra motivation to keep pushing hard.”

Pirelli’s note: “It should be noted that the 2024 Sporting Regulations include a change to the allocation and management of wet weather tyres over a race weekend. As from this year, each driver has five sets of Intermediate tyres available and two sets of Extreme wets, irrespective of the weather conditions, but without the possibility of exchanging them for new ones on Friday night. Given that there’s a likelihood of more wet weather this weekend, it can be assumed that the teams therefore opted to minimise the use of rain tyres today.”

Here’s how FP1 of F1 Japanese GP panned out

Here’s how FP2 of F1 Japanese GP panned out

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