Driver reaction - Japan practice

The view from the cockpit at Suzuka

By William Esler.   Last Updated: 05/10/12 10:15am

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The drivers give their reaction after the first day of running in Japan where McLaren and Red Bull set the pace.

Red Bull

Mark Webber: "It was a nice change to get some good weather; it's been the first dry weekend for a while. We have plenty to go through this evening, it was a smooth one for us today and we completed all the runs we wanted to. It's a challenging venue in terms of balance here, but the car ran well and we tested both tyres. We have areas where we can improve, mostly with the balance, so we have some work to do. Suzuka is a great track that's remained untouched for a long time, it's a classic."

Sebastian Vettel: "The car's performing, but there are still some things we can improve. It was a bit nervous this morning, better this afternoon, but we need to make a step overnight. I think tomorrow will be very, very close, so everything we can get out of the car will matter. This circuit is so special; you have the people everywhere who are so passionate about F1 - almost crazy in a good way - and the track is fantastic, you have such nice high speed corners one after the other. It's so enjoyable, you don't want to come into the pits, but want to stay out on track."

McLaren

Lewis Hamilton: "I have the coolest job! Suzuka is such a phenomenal circuit! The first lap out of the pits felt great. Just driving through the first couple of corners and feeling the acceleration, it takes a few laps to get warmed up, but you keep getting faster and faster as you push the limits.

"But you need to be careful. At Spoon we saw a few people making mistakes today. If you put a wheel on the dirt, it's very easy to lose the car.

"As always, we'll be fine-tuning the car tonight ahead of tomorrow's sessions, but it looks very close between ourselves and Red Bull. I feel comfortable with our car - it's the best that it's ever been around here - and I think I could have matched Mark's [Webber] fastest time with an optimal lap. It's going to be very close in qualifying tomorrow."

Jenson Button: "I love Japan. This is a crazy race for me - the fans are fantastic, they're true supporters of all the drivers, and they get so excited about the sport. Also, there's such a flow about this circuit. It's important to find the right gear ratios though, because you're up and down the gearbox all the time.

"I didn't do too many laps in FP2: the balance wasn't quite right and we knew we couldn't go back on the changes we'd made until after the session, so there wasn't any point doing too much running.

"Still, we know how to dial the car in for FP3 tomorrow, and that's the important thing. The car felt good this morning, so we'll go back to something similar with just a few detail changes.

"Overall, the car is working well here. Qualifying will be very competitive, but I think we'll be up there."

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso: "This was a reasonably good day. I like driving at Suzuka because it's a very nice track which I love coming to race at and which, with its characteristics and its fast Esses, reminds me a lot of Spa. Overall, the feeling is good and I don't think the high temperatures can constitute a problem for the tyres.

"We have done a lot of races in hot conditions, and not that long ago either, given that Singapore was only a fortnight ago and just like we did there, we will have to learn to manage them, which indeed will be the case for everyone. It's hard to say if we can be as competitive here as in Silverstone: that was three months ago and we don't know exactly how our rivals' cars have evolved compared to how much progress we have made.

"We will have to wait until tomorrow, because usually on Saturday the pack gets jumbled up. As for the small updates we have brought here, there's not much to say and we will have to spend more time looking at their behaviour."

Felipe Massa: "Generally a positive day, during which we managed to get through everything on the programme. As usual on Friday, we tried both Pirelli compounds. It's hard to say precisely where we are: what is certain is that many of our rivals seem to be competitive, but as usual, we must wait until tomorrow to get a clearer picture of the situation.

"In the afternoon, we did a fairly long run at the end of which we saw quite high tyre degradation. It won't be easy to decide what will be the best strategy. I'd describe the balance of the car as average: even if we didn't match the pace of the others, there is still a lot we can do to improve and we must also take into account the fact that the track changes a lot from one day to the next. I hope that tomorrow the results will come, because we have the potential to do well."

Mercedes

Michael Schumacher: "We had two quite eventful sessions today, with a lot of work on the cars and my off in the afternoon. I had to go to the Medical Centre which was a precaution from the FIA but I am 100% okay. I think I was already concentrating too much on the corner ahead of me and therefore had a wheel on the dirt and went off.

"Overall, we had not been able to collect as much data as we would have wanted, as we had a lot of breaks working on adjustments to the cars, and we will also have to improve the balance. Obviously, with these temperatures the tyres will be a limiting factor, too. We will now certainly have to work a lot off the track, in front of the computers, and try to find the best approach for tomorrow."

Nico Rosberg: "We had a tricky day. At the end of the first practice session, the oil pressure sensor told me the system was low on pressure so I switched off the engine. It was coming to the end of its life, so we changed it during lunch to avoid any risks, but it cost some running time this afternoon.

"We are still not where we want to be in terms of performance and we will have to learn some lessons overnight, in order to make sure we have our tyre management under control."

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen: "We didn't get much running because of the issue with the KERS, but at least it happened today and we got it fixed. It wasn't ideal for helping us find the best setup but there's nothing you can do about these things. Suzuka is not the easiest place to get the car set up, but we still have tomorrow's practice before qualifying. I think we have the potential to be nearer the front than we have done in the last couple of races."

Romain Grosjean: "Not a bad day overall. The car felt much better in the afternoon than it did this morning ; we're still not quite where we want to be but the team has been working hard and hopefully we'll make a similar step forward tomorrow. Suzuka is not an easy track on the car ; the demands on the tyres are really high but the car felt consistent with both compounds which is a big positive. It's hard to say if P6 is the kind of position we'll be in qualifying ; there are definitely still a few tenths we can find so let's see what happens tomorrow."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg: "Quite a smooth Friday for me and nice to have two dry sessions with consistent weather. We went through the programme and did all the things we wanted to with no issues. I'm quite happy with the car on low fuel, but I think we still have some work to do to improve our high fuel performance. We took our usual approach with the tyres and did long runs on the hard and soft compounds, so we have lots of information to help us for the race."

Paul di Resta: "The morning session was straightforward and the balance was good straight after lunch with the changes we had made to the car. Unfortunately I made a mistake quite early on and was probably a bit too ambitious. I found myself with my two right side wheels on the grass and lost grip on the loose dirt.

"It's a shame it had to happen so early in the session and it creates extra work for the guys tonight. You have to be on the edge to feel what the car is doing and sometimes these things happen, but hopefully it won't cost us too much for the rest of the weekend."

Sauber

Sergio Perez: "It has been a good first day in terms of getting all the work done. But we have to improve our speed and I think we can do this. I also ran wide on my fastest lap, so I know there is more to come and we will be in a better shape tomorrow."

Kamui Kobayashi: "It is a fantastic feeling to drive here in Suzuka again after one year. It is such a great circuit, and every single lap is exciting. We have a couple of updates to the car and today's job is to fully understand how the new parts work.

"The lap times seem to be pretty close here, which means it is too early to judge on the performance, but I feel we can improve the balance and the set up."

Toro Rosso

Daniel Ricciardo: "It's a really nice circuit, I am happy to be back after my first experience here last year and I had fun driving it today. I particularly like the 130R, which is very challenging with the DRS and it's the point on the track where you sometimes hold your breath! This morning we started from our usual baseline and then I felt we could make some changes which we did in between the sessions.

"I think these improved the car even if it did not seem to help us close the gap to our opponents, which suggests everyone is making some steps forward. However, I am happy we have made progress and, as usual in fact, it seems our long run pace looks more competitive than our qualifying pace, which is important given that the points are only scored on Sunday."

Jean-Eric Vergne: "Another circuit that I had only seen on the simulator until today and I have to say it's really nice. The best part is the first part, the Esses, which is great fun to drive. Apart from that, I would say we had a positive first day of practice, a normal Friday, when the times don't mean much as we don't know what fuel loads everyone else has.

"I'd say we seem in pretty good shape, even if there are still some areas we can work on to find more performance for the rest of the weekend. As this is my first time here, I am also improving every time I go on track and so there is more to come from me too. I ran both tyres and that side of the package seems reasonably straightforward."

Williams

Bruno Senna: "It was an interesting day as we learnt a lot of things about the testing we've been doing. Missing the morning session was difficult as we were fine tuning the car set-up to suit my driving style, but we had a clean session completing plenty of laps and so overall it was good experience."

Pastor Maldonado: "We completed our programme today but we still have a lot of work to do. The car is looking consistent and our longer run pace was good. We still need to find some more performance ahead of qualifying so we'll now work through all the data we have gathered."

Valtteri Bottas: "Suzuka is a new track for me so it wasn't an easy session and it took quite a few laps to get into the rhythm. In the first run, the car balance wasn't ideal but we managed to improve the car for the second and third runs.

"I was also improving myself throughout the session. I think I have a new favourite track as Suzuka is fantastic to drive. It's challenging and very quick which makes it great fun."

Caterham

Giedo van der Garde: "I enjoyed myself today. It was my first run in the F1 car since China back in April so it took a little while to get used to how hard I could push the car, particularly compared to what I've been used to in GP2, but by the end of the session it was starting to feel good. We had a very clear runplan for today's session and I'm pleased we got through the program.

"The main thing is that today's FP1, and the other sessions I'll do this year, aren't about showing how fast I can go, they're about doing a solid job for the team, not making mistakes and learning as much as I can. Today was a good way to start that, getting accustomed to the tyres, KERS and learning a new track, and now I'm already looking forward to next week in Korea when I'll be in Vitaly's car."

Heikki Kovalainen: "A pretty good session for me today in FP2. Having sat out FP1 we had a lot to get through in the afternoon session and we got through everything we'd planned. On the early runs on the hard tyres we had to work pretty hard to find a decent balance but we made a few changes and started heading in the right direction.

"On the soft tyres the car felt much better - it immediately felt balanced on the performance run and the degradation levels and balance on the long run were pretty manageable. We also finished with a time that puts some clear air between us and the cars behind, so overall a pretty positive day."

Vitaly Petrov: "I came into Japan with a cold that meant I had to miss some of yesterday's work on track. I've felt better today but it's still good to have got through so much work today in the car. We've run a lot of laps, doing aero work and testing a couple of new parts in the morning session and focusing on the tyres in FP2. On the final lap in the afternoon session I went off in turn one after a problem with the rear wing.

"We'll have a very close look at what caused that so we can make sure it doesn't happen again but apart from that I've had an OK Friday here in Japan. As the day's gone on the car has felt better on each run and it was pretty consistent on both tyre compounds. Having completed the runplans we set for FP1 and FP2 we've generated a lot of information for the guys to work on tonight and I think we're setting ourselves up OK for the weekend ahead."

HRT

Pedro de la Rosa: "I'm happy with the day we had as we were very disciplined. We progressed as the day wore on and that's always positive. In the morning we started out with the old floor and then moved on to the new one to carry out an evaluation at a constant speed so now we can analyze all the data extracted and make comparisons.

"In the afternoon we focused on the set-up of the car. We've got quite a bit of understeer, as I think most teams do, but although we've improved it quite a bit we've still got a lot of work to do. We've also tested both tyre options and done a qualifying and long distance simulation. I'm satisfied because it's been a very productive day."

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Narain Karthikeyan: "It's been an intense day of work as we had a lot of tests to do with the new floor. It was important to carry out the aero evaluation at a constant speed to evaluate its efficiency whilst also working on adjustments to the set-up.

"And it was positive because we extracted a lot of data and we have good sensations. But now we must analyze all that data to get the most out of it for tomorrow because there are still some areas in which we can improve."

Marussia

Timo Glock: "It has not been any easy session for us. FP1 and FP2 were not straightforward because the car felt a bit difficult on the hard tyre. The balance wasn't good at all in FP1, but we have found a better solution in FP2. But still, all is not quite as good as it could be and we need to work a bit on our car set-up.

"We are a little further behind our competitors because of the KERS effect. I had the chance to follow some cars but when they deploy the KERS it has such a big effect here in Japan. We need to see what we can do tomorrow and try to close the gap to them by finding a way to improve the car for both long runs and qualifying. Let's see what we can do overnight."

Charles Pic: "Today was my first taste of the Suzuka Circuit and I enjoyed the experience very much. We achieved the full programme, but we are not where we would like to be yet and we were a few tenths missing today. Having said that, it is positive that the new floor Timo ran with seems to be working well, and I will get to feel the benefit of that tomorrow. I am looking forward to pushing the car forward and a stronger rest of the weekend."

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