The second free practice session of the Japanese GP was interrupted two minutes before the checkered flag due to the accident of Pierre Gasly who ran wide at turn 9 and hit the front left against the barriers. The red flag was inevitable, the driver was unharmed, the car wasn’t too damaged because the impact wasn’t at high speed.
Max Verstappen confirmed himself as the fastest with Red Bull, but the world champion resorted to two sets of soft tires to edge out three tenths of a second from Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. The Milton Keynes team does not feel the absence of Adrian Newey who is in Tuscany to take part in a historic race: Max, in addition to standing out in the flying lap, also dictates the pace in the race simulation which the orange man carried out incredibly with the Test tyre, i.e. the experimental C2 that Pirelli brought to Japan with a view to 2024. Evidently they didn’t want to give precise references to their opponents, but Ferrari did more than admirably.
The first news is that Charles Leclerc has regained team supremacy over Carlos Sainz. The Monegasque with 1’31″008 did not express his best because he made a mistake in the first sector which cost him at least a tenth, but the standard version of the SF-23 then showed good pace in the long run carried out with the averages. The winner of Singapore, Sainz, struggled more in the afternoon and finished fourth, adapting less well to the new solutions. Carlos’ tire wear was decidedly higher with the update: the new feature worked with the Monegasque and the we will certainly see tomorrow.
Lando Norris with the McLaren once again slipped between the two reds: the Englishman paid a tenth from Leclerc, but above all he showed greater tire degradation than the Ferrari in the sequence of laps with petrol. Oscar Piastri is eighth, but leaves almost half a second to his teammate.
In fifth position is George Russell who invented a flying lap, but Mercedes among the three top teams also seems to be the most in difficulty with pace. Lewis Hamilton did poorly in the qualifying simulation: the seven-time world champion was actually 14th. Worse than forecast.
Fernando Alonso is sixth with Aston Martin ahead of Alexander Albon with Williams: the Spaniard has found a good pace in the long run and could threaten the black arrow. The FW45 amazes in the third sector with Logan Sargeant who is the fastest of all, but then in the end the American finished last of the last, a sign that Grove’s car is fast on the straight, but lacks aerodynamic downforce.
Sergio Perez is embarrassing: ninth with Red Bull, one second behind His Majesty Max. The feeling is that the Japanese at Honda didn’t open up the engine for the Mexican like they did for the Dutchman. We’ll understand better tomorrow…
Closing the Top 10 is Valtteri Bottas who had a moment of awakening with Alfa Romeo, while GUanyu Zhou did not go beyond a 16th place. Lance Stroll is not in great shape and is satisfied with the “green” of 11th place, ahead of Esteban Ocon with the Alpine and the best of the Haas, represented by Nico Hulkenberg.
Liam Lawson with AlphaTauri is 15th: the New Zealander precedes his home idol, Yuki Tsunoda only 16th, after the outburst in the first round that had led him to fifth. Did he also have the engine with the map pushed and then it returned to normal? The Japanese is preceded by Kevin Magnussen with the second Haas.
Pierre Gasly disappoints regardless of the bang: the A523 is worth more than 19th position…