F1 Suzuka FP1 Results & Full Report: Red Bulls Run Away Whilst Hamilton Crashes

What Happens When a Session’s Worth of Practice Won’t Win the Championship

10:47pm EST —It was another Red Bull runaway in the first practice session for the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel (1:32.585) leading teammate Mark Webber by less than a half-tenth of a second.  Robert Kubica was the closest challenger, a half second off Vettel, with Adrian Sutil and his perpetual fast times in Friday practice putting him fourth fastest and the first of a number of drivers a second off the fastest pace.  Lewis Hamilton rounded out the fastest five with a time posted in the first half of the session and within nine running laps as a trip over the kerbs forced him into the tire barrier at Degner, damaging the left front suspension of his McLaren.  Teammate Jenson Button was twelfth fastest at the end of the session, just slower than Felipr Massa, and faster than Fernando Alonso with the usual Ferrari mid-pack times for the first session.  Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg continued the hopes of Williams with sixth and seventh fastest times, Michael Schumacher, Nick Heidfeld (continuing his replacement of Pedro de la Rosa at Sauber), and Nico Rosberg rounding the top ten.

The first of two Friday practices began under a relatively clear and sunny sky, with most of the field streaming out of their garages straightaway, Alguersuari leading the way.  Sakon Yamamoto was in his HRT for at least Friday, presumably no longer suffering from the illness that struck him down for the race two weeks ago in Singapore.  Jerome D’Ambrosio was again in the Virgin Racing of Lucas di Grassi.  Soon enough, only Hamilton, Button, and Kovalainen were on the circuit, the others having completed their installation laps and returned to the garage.  Various drivers took the mantel of “only driver on the track” as teams worked on set-up, though Mike Gascoyne noted on Twitter, “Expect more running than usual in P1 as teams try to get as much dry running as possible as there will be none tomorrow.”  Yamamoto was the first to set a time, nearly a half hour into the session, a 1:42.950, nearly fourteen seconds off Schumacher’s lap record of 1:28.954 from 2006.  He was soon joined by D’Ambrosio, both setting times in the 1:41s as Yamamoto improved.  Kobayashi and Hulkenberg, then Buemi took those times away from the rookies as more and more drivers began actually completing laps with one third of the session gone.  With fifty-five minutes left, Kobayashi was fastest with a 1:34.271, less than six seconds off the record, with Hulkenberg, Buemi, D’Ambrosio, Petrov, Yamamoto, and Senna the seven drivers to have set a time.

Massa went straight to third fastest with his first run.  Schumacher was second fastest at his first run.  Hamilton, however, was fastest on his first proper run, with a 1:33.643 as only Glock, Liuzzi, Heidfeld, Kubica, Sutil, and Alonso not having set a time with the session nearly half over.  At the halfway point, Hamilton provided his own drama by going over the kerb on a turn, and sliding through the gravel on the next (Degner), hitting the tire barrier and smashing his left front, ending his session by parking under the crossover.  Though his left front wheel was detached, reports from the scene indicated the damaged from the relatively low-speed crash looked worse than it was.  At the same time, Vettel took fastest position from the Briton, with at 1:33.157.

Thirty minutes left in the first session, Sutil had displaced Hamilton as second fastest, with Vettel, Sutil, Hamilton, Kubica, Webber, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Hulkenberg, Schumacher, and Massa the fastest ten.  Button and Alonso were thirteenth and fourteenth fastest.  Alonso soon  moved up to tenth fastest, leaving Button in fourteenth as Kubica’s times overtook Sutil’s and knocked the damaged Hamilton back another position.  Webber soon took over second fastest as Button returned the favor to Alonso, jumping up to tenth.  Vettel had been improving his times, having set a 1:32.725 with twenty-five minutes left.  He took another two tenths off on another lap, setting the best times of the session in the first two sectors, though Webber was right behind, just about five hundredths off his teammate.

Most of the drivers were back into the garage before the final fifteen minutes of the session, with only Hulkenberg (seventh fastest) and Alguersuari (eighteenth fastest) still on the circuit before they, too, returned to the pits, Alguersuari doing so after traveling through the gravel at the hairpin after locking up.  Buemi, Alonso, and Button were the first back out, along with Schumacher.  The times had not dramatically changed, particularly at the front, and Rosberg was the only driver, but for the crashed Hamilton, not on the track with five minutes left.  Vettel remained just .048 faster than Webber, though Kubica was the next closest, a half second back.  Sutil’s time in third was a full second slower than Vettel, showing another Red Bull dominance of the first practice session.  Button had a bit of a trip over the kerbs where Hamilton did, though he kept the McLaren out of the tire barrier.

Final Times for FP1:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel 1:32.585 23
2. Mark Webber 1:32.633 +.048 23
3. Robert Kubica 1:33.129 +.544 23
4. Adrian Sutil 1:33.639 +1.054 13
5. Lewis Hamilton 1:33.643 +1.058 9
6. Rubens Barrichello 1:33.677 +1.092 21
7. Nico Hulkenberg 1:33.707 +1.122 24
8. Michael Schumacher 1:33.739 +1.154 20
9. Nick Heidfeld 1:33.791 +1.206 23
10. Nico Rosberg 1:33.831 +1.246 9
11. Felipe Massa 1:33.929 +1.344 25
12. Jenson Button 1:34.042 +1.457 19
13. Fernando Alonso 1:34.169 +1.584 23
14. Kamui Kobayashi 1:34.271 +1.686 19
15. Vitaly Petrov 1:34.373 +1.788 24
16. Tonio Liuzzi 1:34.379 +1.794 21
17. Sebastien Buemi 1:34.991 +2.406 26
18. Jaime Alguersuari 1:35.684 +3.099 22
19. Heikki Kovalainen 1:36.949 +4.364 25
20. Timo Glock 1:37.329 +4.744 17
21. Jarno Trulli 1:37.388 +4.803 23
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio 1:37.778 +5.193 23
23. Bruno Senna 1:38.814 +6.229 28
24. Sakon Yamamoto 1:39.443 +6.858 26

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