2011 Japanese Grand Prix (Rd 15, Friday Free Practice, Oct 7th, TV Notes)

Suzuka. © Creative Commons / Will Pittenger.

Practice One
McLaren’s Jenson Button topped the opening pair of free practice sessions on Friday morning.

On a day peppered with minor offs, the 2009 World Champion kept his MP4-26 on the road to be quickest in practice one ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton and later Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) in practice two.

Button’s fastest morning run of 1:33.634 was enough to head off Hamilton by nine-hundredths of a second.
As the battle for runner-up in the championship heats up, McLaren brought some rear wing upgrades in effort to stay ahead of the Ferrari machine.

Sebastian Vettel represented Red Bull’s better efforts in the morning in 3rd, albeit nearly half-a-second shy of Button; however the reigning champion’s practice was ruined at the death following an off in the Degner Curves.
Alonso was a further three-tenths slower than Vettel in 4th, with the second Red Bull of Mark Webber falling a few hundredths short of the Ferrari pilot in 5th.
Both Toro Rosso’s made it into the top eight with Jaime Alguersuari (6th) outpacing teammate Sebastien Buemi (8th) by six-tenths. Splitting the Red Bull junior squad was Felipe Massa (Ferrari), with a time 1.95 seconds off of Button’s pace as he tested a new front wing package for the Scuderia.

As technical directors Geoff Willis and Aldo Costa begin their tenures in the Mercedes squad, veteran Michael Schumacher brought the turquoise and silver team 9th place – half-a-second quicker than the Renault duo, Vitaly Petrov (10th) and Bruno Senna (11th).
Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was unable to match the seven-time world champion. His best of 1:38.197 left the former-Williams man down in 16th, with the current Williams pair – Rubens Barrichello (17th) and Pastor Maldonado (18th) – just shading Rosberg.
For Maldonado, it was another tough session, with the Venezuelan missing much of the session due to a spike in the electronics following an off.

Sergio Perez suffered KERS functionality problems, leaving him 15th; two places and one-tenth shy of home hero Kamui Kobayashi. At the back, Virgin’s Timo Glock (21st) ran only thirteen laps, with the German missing much of the session due to a gearbox oil leak.

Three reserves garnered laps at Suzuka. At Force India, Nico Hulkenberg sat in for Adrian Sutil, notching 12th place from twenty-one-lap session, while Karun Chandhok (20th, Lotus) managed twenty-two tours, compared to the twenty-five that Narain Karthikeyan ran with HRT.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes        1m33.634s            20
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes        1m33.725s  + 0.091   18
 3.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault        1m34.090s  + 0.456   22
 4.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                 1m34.372s  + 0.738   24
 5.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault        1m34.426s  + 0.792   25
 6.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1m34.937s  + 1.303   23
 7.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                 1m35.585s  + 1.951   27
 8.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1m35.590s  + 1.956   25
 9.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes                1m36.033s  + 2.399   22
10.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault                 1m36.370s  + 2.736   18
11.  Bruno Senna           Renault                 1m36.487s  + 2.853   18
12.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes    1m36.700s  + 3.066   21
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari          1m36.948s  + 3.314   24
14.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes    1m36.949s  + 3.315   22
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari          1m37.103s  + 3.469   29
16.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes                1m38.197s  + 4.563   18
17.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth       1m38.331s  + 4.697   11
18.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth       1m38.446s  + 4.812    8
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault           1m39.168s  + 5.534   10
20.  Karun Chandhok        Lotus-Renault           1m39.946s  + 6.312   22
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth         1m40.872s  + 7.238   13
22.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth         1m41.019s  + 7.385   24
23.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth            1m41.106s  + 7.472   25
24.  Narian Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth            1m41.775s  + 8.141   25

Practice Two
Button made it two-for-two in afternoon with yet another fastest lap, to leave him nearly two-tenths ahead of Alonso.

However, it was clear in the late stages of the second session that the Red Bull pairing were leading the way in terms of long run pace.

Indeed, both McLaren pilots swapped the top spot with Alonso over the course of the first hour, but as teams began to think more about race runs, McLaren’s real threat emerged.
Despite not running the absolute quickest on the soft Pirelli’s, Red Bull showed their hand in the latter thirty minutes of the session with high fuel laps consistently one second quicker than the McLaren / Ferrari quartet.
Of the shorter runs, Vettel secured 3rd, with Webber 4th and some distance ahead of Massa in the second Ferrari.

Schumacher (6th) found his Mercedes plagued with handling issues, although it would not stop the veteran from topping his teammate Rosberg (7th) once again. Hamilton, meanwhile, could only manage 8th come the flag.

Several offs and mechanical failures plagued the afternoon session. Vitantonio Liuzzi (HRT), Maldonado and Jarno Trulli all stopped on track with various problems, while Senna, Kobayashi and Barrichello created their own issues.

Approaching turn one, Senna lost his Renault on entry, but managed to luckily keep his engine running, allowing the Brazilian to escape. Kobayashi endured a much scarier moment, as his Sauber stepped out violently in 130R.
Neither, however, did the damage that Barrichello inflicted upon his FW33. The veteran lost control of his Williams machine entering Degner One, planting his car hard into the barriers, following a brief slide across the fake grass.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m31.901s    	     32
 2.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m32.075s  + 0.174  33
 3.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m32.095s  + 0.194  35
 4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m32.147s  + 0.246  28
 5.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m32.448s  + 0.547  34
 6.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m32.710s  + 0.809  26
 7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m32.982s  + 1.081  27
 8.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m33.245s  + 1.344  26
 9.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault               1m33.446s  + 1.545  36
10.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m33.681s  + 1.780  33
11.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m33.705s  + 1.804  25
12.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes  1m33.790s  + 1.889  36
13.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1m34.393s  + 2.492  35
14.  Bruno Senna           Renault               1m34.557s  + 2.656  27
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m34.601s  + 2.700  33
16.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m36.038s  + 4.137  33
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault         1m36.225s  + 4.324  35
18.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth     1m37.123s  + 5.222  14
19.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth       1m37.440s  + 5.539  30
20.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth       1m38.093s  + 6.192  30
21.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth     1m38.387s  + 6.486  16
22.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth          1m38.763s  + 6.862  36
23.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault         1m39.800s  + 7.899  24
24.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth          1m42.480s  + 10.579  4

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