Japanese Grand Prix: Sainz Quickest In Rain-Affected FP1

Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz was the fastest man during Friday morning’s practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix, marking the first time the Spaniard has topped a session.

The unexpected speed in extremely wet conditions saw him clock a fastest lap over half a second clear of second quickest Daniil Kvyat in the sister Red Bull car. With Mercedes’ surprise lack of pace at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix fresh in their heads, Rosberg and Hamilton recorded third and fifth respectively, with Ferrari’s meddler and Championship contender Sebastian Vettel wedging his way into fourth.

The torrential rain saw limited running from those who ventured on track, with eight drivers – including Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer – deciding to stay in the shelter of their garages. Max Verstappen brought the other Toro Rosso to sixth, over 1.5s shy of team-mate Sainz’s session-topping time. Kimi Raikkonen took the second Ferrari to seventh while Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas coasted to eighth and tenth, and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr placed ninth and eleventh. The slowest driver to clock a lap was McLaren’s Jenson Button with a lap over six seconds slower than that of Sainz’s effort.

The order of practice cannot give too much scope to how Qualifying might play out. The conditions were far too heavy to even set a time for most of the session, and the latter part of the running saw drivers tip-toe the circuit for fear of losing control – and valuable parts on the car. Bottas, for example, went off at the ultra-fast 130R corner while Felipe Massa skipped through the gravel earlier in the lap.

Sebastian Vettel predicted this week that Mercedes would return to their strong hold over the grid this weekend, but judging from the times he seems to be holding them honest. With a dry qualifying and race predicted, the major players’ pace is still to be seen.

Free Practice One results:

  1. Carlos Sainz
  2. Daniil Kvyat
  3. Nico Rosberg
  4. Sebastian Vettel
  5. Lewis Hamilton
  6. Max Verstappen
  7. Kimi Raikkonen
  8. Felipe Massa
  9. Marcus Ericsson
  10. Valtteri Bottas
  11. Felipe Nasr
  12. Jenson Button
  • Daniel Ricciardo (NT)*
  • Nico Hulkenberg (NT)
  • Sergio Perez (NT)
  • Fernando Alonso (NT)
  • Pastor Maldonado (NT)
  • Jolyon Palmer (NT)
  • Will Stevens (NT)
  • Alexander Rossi (NT)

*NT = No TIme

Image courtesy of Scuderia Toro Rosso/Getty Images.

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