In the early hours in the western world whilst everyone dreams of unicorns and desert islands – the crowd in Japan is murmuring their approval at the technology presented before them. When they have had their fill of the electronics, they turn the channel over and start to watch FP1 with the rest of the world.
The Intrepid TJ13 reporter has stayed up until the early hours… well late evening in Murica-land to bring all you early risers, or in other words workers, news of the first practice session…
FP1 opened with typical shots of the Ferris Wheel and the weather engaged in the same denial of reality normally reserved for those at the top of the sport, sunny and hot as if there weren’t a typhoon swanning about just off the coast. Pictures of Not Kenny Handkammer also made the opening montage as Red Bull’s former chief bolt was nowhere to be found and their only official comment on the matter was they couldn’t talk about it.
Shots of Verstappen meaningfully lowering himself into the cockpit topped the show as the track went green. JEV’s side of the garage was unusually surrounded by a huge media scrum as the press was drawn like a moth to the flame to gawk at the youth they no longer possess. At Marussia, it was Stevens who was out of luck as his paperwork was inexplicably held up in Germany by a reported industrial action and it was a delighted Chilton who climbed back into the race car for a session of doing almost nothing under very restricted running for both cars.
Opening laps featured Verstappen driving once around and directly back into the pits for his participation trophy. Not all good news as he did manage to break something on the car, at least in third gear. Meanwhile, Button once again did not fail to disappoint as he moaned piteously about his pit limiter over the radio during his installation lap.
15 minutes gone and the most interesting thing was the fact that Gutierrez was sporting a seriously styling pair of glasses underneath his helmet, potentially explaining some of his dubious driving from earlier races.
AS the laps added up under the bonus tyre section it was no surprise to see the Mercs at the top of the heap, with Rosberg being a bit tidier than Hamilton and thus coming off the better by time the action wound down. Merhi, running for the ever doomed Caterham, was the first victim to spin as he discovered that accelerating across AstroTurf to rejoin did not, it turns out, save any time. This discovery also ruined a neat lap for Bottas who was forced off by the shenanigans. Still, he put in a strong showing during the first part of the session winding up 3rd, followed by Alonso and Massa. Once the bonus tyres expired at the hour mark there was the inevitable waiting about and doing nothing for 10 minutes or so before the fun kicked off again.
The Mercs maintained the advantage with Rosberg taking it to the 1:35’s staying with the Hards, and Hamilton again unable to get a clean lap in, struggling a bit with understeer in Degner 2, a turn that would go on to bite a few more drivers before the end of the session. The real story was in the Ferrari garage as Alonso had been given a bag of grapes which he promptly shared round to everyone but Mattiacci. Whilst this bit of political intrigue was going on Merhi at Caterham singlehandedly rewrote the fundamentals of the space-time continuum by going 1.9 seconds slower than Ericsson, a feat previously not thought possible. A good lap by Alonso vaulted him up into 3rd. 0.5 seconds off Rosberg as Grosjean murdered a set of tyres in slow motion.
Approaching the 30 minute mark and the end of the qualifying runs there was a series of entertaining shots of a proper tank slapper by Merhi and Vettel collecting some interesting slip angles again out of Degner 2. A brake issue curtailed Alonso as the rake on Vettel’s car was so steep sparks could be seen at the nose of his car. Still, The RB duo crept steadily up the ladder, from around 10th to around 5th despite Ricciardo falling foul of Degner 2 as well. Raikkonen turned in a good lap to claim 5th as the last shots before everyone retired to ready for the race sims were slow motion embarrassments of both Hulkenberg and Perez with a massive lock up and dragging some dirt back onto the circuit respectively.
The heavy fuel runs were every bit as exciting as one might think they’d be, with the interesting exception of Hamilton again not being able to get round less scruffily than his teammate. And thus it would have ended had young Verstappen, having run roughly 0.4 off Kvyat, not blown his engine entirely up during the last few minutes of the session. With smoke pluming out he carefully parked it near a gap in the fence, no doubt leaving JEV swearing never to lend his car to a teenager again.
Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
01 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.461 27 laps
02 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.612 +0.151 26 laps
03 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.037 +0.576 19 laps
04 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:36.576 +1.115 25 laps
05 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:37.187 +1.726 19 laps
06 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:37.327 +1.866 24 laps
07 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:37.466 +2.005 27 laps
08 Jenson Button McLaren 1:37.649 +2.188 24 laps
09 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37.686 +2.225 26 laps
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:37.714 +2.253 26 laps
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.012 +2.551 22 laps
12 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.157 +2.696 22 laps
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.324 +2.863 10 laps
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.582 +3.121 9 laps
15 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:38.851 +3.390 21 laps
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:39.046 +3.585 19 laps
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:39.097 +3.636 26 laps
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:39.318 +3.857 18 laps
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:40.031 +4.570 18 laps
20 Roberto Merhi Caterham 1:41.472 +6.011 24 laps
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:41.580 +6.119 10 laps
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:41.757 +6.296 15 laps