2016 Japanese Grand Prix Practice Review


Daniel Ricciardo wins the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen in second place and Nico Rosberg in third place. Williams, McLaren, Ferrari, Force India and Renault all managed to score some much needed points at the event also.

The Suzuka International Racing Course (or the Suzuka Circuit for short); in Japan is one of the most difficult racing tracks in the world. It is a technically, physically and mentally challenging race circuit. Nevertheless, the track is one of the favourites among Formula One drivers, and the spectators like it as well.

It is one of few circuits in the world to have a figure-of-eight layout, meaning the circuit runs both clockwise and anti-clockwise. The track does not actually intersect with itself, instead the back straight passes over the front section by means of an overpass.

Suzuka is a high-speed circuit with a top speed of 315 km/h and an average speed of about 230 km/h. The circuit length is 5.81 kilometers and it has a varied mix of high and low speed corners. A total of 18 corners with 10 right turns and 8 left turns.

The best possibility for overtaking is the tight Casio Triangle chicane at the end of the lap, even though the course is very narrow at this point. There are very small margins for driver error in Suzuka because there are almost no tarmac run-off areas, which mean that it is easy to get stuck in the gravel.

The nature of the track with its figure-of-eight configuration tests the cars all round handling characteristics and Suzuka is also, due to its high number of corners, one of the toughest rounds on the Formula One calendar for tyres.

The best set-up is the one which allows the best traction, grip and enable quick change of direction from the tyres. The weather is sometimes quite unpredictable in this region and rain is seldom far away, waiting to play a role in the Japanese Grand Prix as we all found out when tragically Manor driver Jules Bianchi lost his life in July as a result of his injuries he sustained in the race last year. Thoughts and prayers are with him, his friends and family as we head into this weekend.

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Mercedes look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1, 2 and 3.

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.32.431 followed closely by Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.215 seconds behind, Sebastian Vettel was in third with a gap of 1.094 seconds behind, Kimi Raikkonen in fourth with a gap of 1.386 seconds behind and Daniel Ricciardo in fifth with a gap of 1.283 seconds behind Rosberg.

Max Verstappen was in sixth with a gap of 1.948 seconds behind, Nico Hulkenberg was in seventh with a gap of 2.099 seconds behind, Sergio Perez was eighth with a gap of 2.336 seconds behind, Fernando Alonso was ninth with a gap of 2.572 behind and Valtteri Bottas was tenth with a gap of 2.950 seconds behind Rosberg.

During FP1, Fernando Alonso went off the circuit after losing the rear of his car, suffered a broken rear wing and went into the barriers at Spoon Curve. Alonso was able to get back to the pits in order for the team to look at what has happened and see how bad the damage is.

With twenty five minutes of FP1 left, Haas driver Romain Grosjean suffered a brake failure at Degner 2. Grosjean has a damaged front wing and had to reverse out backwards in order to get back running onto the circuit in order to get back to his garage.

Practice 2 saw  Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.32.250 followed closely by  Hamilton with a gap of 0.072 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in third with a gap of 0.323 seconds behind, Verstappen in fourth with a gap of 0.811 seconds behind and Vettel in fifth with a gap of 0.853 seconds behind Rosberg.

Perez was in sixth with a gap of 1.320 seconds behind, Hulkenberg was in seventh with a gap of 1.623 seconds behind, Alonso was eighth with a gap of 1.735 seconds behind, Bottas was ninth with a gap of 1.778 behind and Sainz Jr was tenth with a gap of 1.836 seconds behind Rosberg.

In the first ten minutes of the session, Kevin Magnussen went off at the chicane by taking too much speed into the corner. Magnussen was able to recover and keep on running in the session.

With fifty minutes left into the session, Esteban Gutierrez stopped before Degner 1 with an electrical failure. This then brought out the Virtual Safety Car as the Haas was recovered safely from the circuit.

Practice 3 saw Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.32.092 followed closely by Ricciardo with a gap of 0.302 seconds behind, Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.639 seconds behind, Verstappen in fourth with a gap of 0.692 seconds behind and Raikkonen in fifth with a gap of 0.919 seconds behind Rosberg.

Massa was in sixth with a gap of 1.179 seconds behind, Hamilton was in seventh with a gap of 1.192 seconds behind, Palmer was eighth with a gap of 1.547 seconds behind, Magnussen was ninth with a gap of 1.547 behind and Hulkenberg was tenth with a gap of 1.554 seconds behind Rosberg.

During FP3, Gutierrez ran too much speed into the Esses corner and spun his Haas 360 degrees. Luckily enough he was able to turn around and resume running in the session.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, or Verstappen also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso or even McLaren have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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