The Friday in F1 Japanese GP weekend saw rain play a major role as Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes remained as the teams to beat at the front.

The wet weather conditions on Friday of F1 Japanese GP weekend at Suzuka limited the running for most of the teams and drivers despite the prediction of rain on Sunday. They took it slow as the conditions were not great enough to take a high risk.

It was seen with the case of Haas’ Mick Schumacher who crashed out after the chequered flag fell in FP1. The mixed conditions put up mixed results where Alpine’s Fernando Alonso topped the first session, while Mercedes’ George Russell did it in second.

But in larger context, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes remained as the Top 3 F1 teams and the trio are not certain about the genuine pace. The latter shut itself off the battle noting that they will likely fight for positions just outside the podium places.

It remains to be seen how Ferrari and Red Bull do, where luck will also play a big role if the conditions remain as it was. They all have good data though to understand and strategise if the weather remains the same. Saturday’s dry running will be important if it is dry.

Sainz: “Not ideal, but at least the conditions were pretty consistent out there today when it was wet; that allows you to do a couple of tests that we never get to run in these conditions, so we managed to get a couple of tests done which are always interesting. I always run in the wet because I feel you can still learn something and you can always learn something from the car, from the driving, especially after a wet Singapore. That’s why it was important for me, after a difficult race in Singapore in these conditions, to really try and got back on top of the car today in these wet conditions and see if I could find my rhythm again, which was important, and we managed to do so: I was quick and I was back at home again. I think Red Bull are quick everywhere: wet, dry, slow, fast circuits, straights, slow-speed corners. They are quick everywhere with the package they have now. But we are also very quick, so it will be a matter of who nails the weekend and who has that last tenth, two-tenths advantage over the others.”

Verstappen: “I would have liked that it was a bit more representative, but it’s always nice to be here. Luckily, it wasn’t a complete disaster with the weather; at least we could get round and do a little bit of stuff, but in terms of knowing where you are with pace, in the wet it’s a bit tricky. Just the basic things, really, so that’s what we did, and not more than that. That’s why I’m also looking forward to tomorrow to see how we can be in the dry. It’s just basically starting from zero tomorrow in the dry, but again, it’s the same for everyone, and I don’t think it will make massive differences throughout the grid.”

Hamilton: “There’s always things to be taken from it, yes, so some of the stuff with the set-up, some of the stuff with the tyre wear, tyre temperatures, and the balance that we’ve been moving around between sessions. So there’s definitely things to take from it and there is data on the downforce loads and what wing levels everyone else is on – and on the positive side, we were able to switch our tyres on today. No clue where everyone stands. Really have no idea. If it’s dry, I imagine the Red Bulls and the Ferraris will be quite quick. We really have no idea – I hope that we’re fast but that’s a hope that continues to be the case each weekend!”

The pack behind saw Alpine duo do well in the conditions where both Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso found themselves in the Top 10. The wet pace seemed to be good especially against their direct rivals McLaren, who did okish in FP1 but lacked in FP2.

In fact, they didn’t run as much as well for whatever reasons. The Top 10 featured Alfa Romeo and Haas drivers too, where the former looked decent in the conditions while the latter were down to one car in FP2 due to the bizarre crash for Schumacher.

The German reckoned the spray caught him out in the puddle. This hurt their chances a bit in FP2. Even though AlphaTauri were slightly behind in the pack, Yuki Tsunoda was emotional about his first time at his home venue in Suzuka.

Having visited as a fan before, Tsunoda is now living the dream of racing at his home track. It was also the first time for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi who found good grip even though he had his moments, while Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel felt he was in Germany with the flags in support of him all around.

Ocon: “It’s really fantastic to be driving in Japan again after so many years. I have missed this track and it was great to experience it with these cars. As expected, it was a wet one today, but we did get more running in the end than we originally thought we would. The car performed well in both sessions and we recorded some good data on the programmes that we ran today. I definitely got the most of that one set of Intermediate tyres! I’m looking forward to what looks like some dry running tomorrow and a good Qualifying for the team.

Bottas: “It’s great to be back in Suzuka, it’s definitely my favourite track and I really enjoyed driving here, even in the wet. It hasn’t been a bad day for us: the car performed pretty well and, while in the past we sometimes struggled on wet tracks, today everything was ok as we got the tyres to work – this is a track that creates a lot of energy. We tried the new front wing we brought here, which worked as expected: of course, due to the weather we weren’t able to collect all the data we would have wanted, but the feeling we were expecting was there and it gave us more stability in the high speed corners, which is what we needed it to do. I am looking forward to tomorrow.”

Norris: “While conditions were pretty challenging today, the laps we did were useful. We are struggling for pace a little bit, so we have some work to do overnight. However, tomorrow is expected to be dry and Suzuka will be a very different place, so we’ll work hard to get ready for FP3 and set ourselves up for quali and the race.”

Tsunoda: “It’s been an amazing experience, an absolute dream come true. When I left the garage for the first lap in FP1 I was really emotional, especially when I entered Turn 2, as I’d been watching there last time I was here as a fan. I tried to not let this get to me when driving but as soon as I jumped out the car the adrenaline hit, and it was a great feeling. I haven’t driven here since Formula 4, and I’d say even my out lap today was a faster lap than I’ve ever done here before in Suzuka.

“The conditions haven’t been great, with the rain, so it’s been tricky to find the sweet spot with the car, as sometimes the track dried really quickly and other times the rain was much heavier. We’ve spent the day gathering as much data as possible and building up the pace lap-by-lap when possible with the weather, but we’ve still got some work to do. Tomorrow looks to be sunny, so it’ll be another new experience for me, which is harder heading into Quali with little running, but everyone is in this position with the new car, so we’ll see what we’re able to do.”

Vettel: “All the banners in the grandstands and the fans around the circuit make it feel like the closest thing to a German Grand Prix without the German flags! It is great to see so much support. Out on track, the grip was not great, but it was good fun – it is still a great track, even if it is wet, and I enjoyed myself. Obviously, it was all about being out at the right time if you wanted to set a competitive lap-time – but that was not the most important thing for us today. There is probably not much we can carry over into tomorrow, when it is expected to be dry – but we were still able to test some things, especially in the second session, and they might give us some added direction.

Schumacher: “Yeah, obviously it was quite rainy, unfortunately we had a little aquaplane moment then it led to us losing the rear. Of course, it’s not amazing; we lost some time especially in the FP2 session because we didn’t get out and drive – mainly for safety reasons and the chassis. Yeah, we’re going to do more of a job tomorrow but the track is great, the car feels great today, so I’m sure we’ll be hopefully in a good position and tomorrow should be dry, so we’ll see what we can do there.”

Latifi: “It’s my first experience here and it’s a very fun track to drive. It’s much easier to learn a track when it’s dry as you can focus on hitting your references and not have to worry about sliding around out there. Even in the wet there’s still a lot of grip, so I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in the dry and hopefully we can experience that tomorrow. It’s yet to be seen how much of today will be useful for the coming days as there’s still a chance of rain on Sunday but unlikely for Saturday. Overall, I’m happy with today with no real issues and now our focus is on maximising the dry running for tomorrow.”

Here’s how FP1 in F1 Japanese GP panned out

Here’s how FP2 in F1 Japanese GP panned out