While Lewis Hamilton took a rather easy victory in Singapore a fortnight ago, it was clear that Mercedes wasn’t as quick as many had expected with the rivals closing in on the Brackley based squad.
However, today at Suzuka, Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg enjoyed a comfortable advantage over their rivals - both on a single lap as well as on the long runs. Based on today’s data, it would be fair to conclude that Singapore was a one-off for the championship leaders and one can expect Mercedes to enjoy the same advantage over their rivals in the final five races, as it did during first three quarters of the season.
Nico Rosberg, who was forced to retire from the Singapore Grand Prix after the electronic circuits in his steering column were contaminated with a foreign substance, was quicker than Lewis Hamilton in the long runs. The average of German’s race simulation came out to be 1:39.971. Hamilton’s average time was two tenths slower(1:40.157).
Mercedes were themselves surprised by the margin they had over their rivals, as Hamilton expressed later today: "Yeah. It changes from track to track and I don't really understand it. It's amazing what this team has done, to be able to come to one of the most demanding circuits for downforce and be that competitive is fantastic. The car didn't feel spectacular this morning, but on the option [tyre] it felt really good."
A upbeat Nico Rosberg echoed Hamilton's words.
"It's good everywhere - one lap, long run, everything. The team has really brought a great car here. It's great to see. I think this track suits us. Yes I am a bit surprised [by the advantage] but the car just feels good. I feel comfortable out there and it's great to drive. All in all positive,'' he said.
If the typhoon Phanfone does hit the Suzuka circuit on Sunday, Mercedes are still in for a treat, based on how they performed in wet conditions at Spa qualifying in August.
Williams were the second fastest team yet again, this time getting their acts together from Friday itself. The team usually focuses on aero work on Friday, leaving rivals unclear about their actual pace until FP3.
Bottas’ average time was just over seven tenths slower than Nico Rosberg which equates to 37 seconds over 53 laps of the race.
After a double podium finish in Singapore, it seems like Red Bull are in for a much lower points result with Friday running suggested that the energy drinks giant have only got the third car this weekend. Further, they only got to collect data from one car in FP2 after Daniel Ricciardo ran wide at the final corner early in the session.
Jenson Button impressed again on a track where he excels, setting the fourth fastest time in the session and managing decent lap times on high fuel as well. Ironically, the facility is owned by Honda - the manufacturer that will supply power units to McLaren from next season.
Fernando Alonso finished behind Kimi Raikkonen in FP2 in the timesheets and his Ferrari hardly looked like a handy car on long runs. Rumous of his move to McLaren have only intensified this week amid major changes at Marannello including ousting of F1 boss Stefano Domenicali, engine boss Luca Marmorini and company president Luca di Montezemolo.