Japanese GP Practice One: Valtteri Bottas ahead of Lewis Hamilton
Fast start for upgraded Mercedes at Suzuka, with Ferrari and Red Bull adrift early on; P3 cancelled and qualifying moved to Sunday because of Typhoon Hagibis
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 11/10/19 6:16am
Valtteri Bottas edged out Lewis Hamilton in an impressive start for Mercedes at the start of what is set to prove a condensed Japanese GP weekend.
With the expected impact of Typhoon Hagibis meaning all Saturday's running has been cancelled and qualifying moved to Sunday morning at Suzuka - at 2am UK time, four hours ahead of the race - teams have just two practice sessions to prepare their cars.
In bright, warm and calm conditions on Friday morning, Mercedes made by far the fastest start with Bottas and Hamilton one second clear of the chasing pack.
Bottas, despite an earlier near-miss with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, set the pace with a 1:28.731, 0.076s clear of championship leader and four-time Suzuka victor Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel, also a four-time winner at F1's only figure-of-eight circuit, was third in the lead Ferrari ahead of team-mate Leclerc and the lead Red Bull of Max Verstappen, but there was an unexpectedly large early gap.
Mercedes trialled some judicious, late-season updates to their W10 as they bid to rebound to Ferrari's recent surge which has seen the Scuderia claim all four pole positions since the August break.
Carlos Sainz's McLaren stopped early on track, but the Spaniard returned to set the seventh-fastest lap ahead of the two Racing Point cars and team-mate Lando Norris.
Mercedes set the early benchmark
Unbeaten at one of F1's most flowing circuits since the dawn of the hybrid era in 2014, Mercedes are able to clinch a sixth successive constructors' championship double with a strong result on Sunday - and they started in ominious fashion on Friday morning.
Testing what the Silver Arrows have described as "small" updates, including revised sidepods, the world champions were immediately on the pace on the medium tyre before switching to the quicker softs later in the session.
"They are showing class and they've got all the downforce," said Sky F1's Paul Di Resta. "But what Ferrari are very good is keeping some engine mode available for later.
"This shows Mercedes are back in business at the moment."
Red Bull chief Christian Horner, meanwhile, confirmed to Sky F1 they they were running the much-talked-about new fuel in their Honda power units for the Japanese manufacturer's home race. However, Verstappen and Alex Albon will hope for a closer gap to the front from the second session,
There was further interest for the Japanese fans too, with Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto making his F1 practice debut for Toro Rosso.
The 31-year-old, running in Pierre Gasly's STR14 for the session, performed commendably too, racking up 30 laps without any major errors and finishing within a tenth of team regular Daniil Kvyat in 17th place, albeit on faster tyres.
"It's amazing power - I'm very, very surprised!" Yamamoto told Sky F1. "This is the biggest different point between Super Formula and Super GT, the car was working well."
Japanese GP Practice One Timesheet
|1. Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1:28.731|
|2. Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.076|
|3. Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+0.989|
|4. Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+1.181|
|5. Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+1.315|
|6. Alexander Albon||Red Bull||+1.644|
|7. Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+1.971|
|8. Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+2.079|
|9. Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+2.228|
|10. Lando Norris||McLaren||+2.270|
|11. Romain Grosjean||Haas||+2.552|
|12. Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+2.576|
|13. Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+2.695|
|14. Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||+2.832|
|15. Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+3.054|
|16. Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+3.189|
|17. Naoki Yamamoto||Toro Rosso||+3.287|
|18. George Russell||Williams||+4.069|
|19. Robert Kubica||Williams||+4.753|
|20. Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+8.156|