Contrary to the weather forecast, conditions remained dry for free practice in Suzuka, with all three slick tyres performing strongly and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton going quickest on the supersoft: outpacing last year’s practice times in cool conditions.
The track surface proved to be a bit more aggressive this year than expected, possibly due to recent typhoons having cleaned the surface. This may accelerate tyre wear and degradation, with teams carrying out track assessments in free practice over all three compounds on different fuel loads. A few cases of blistering were noted in free practice, but this affected only a small number of drivers.
The work carried out in free practice will be particularly important if it rains tomorrow as expected, limiting dry running. Sunday’s race is nonetheless expected to be dry and warmer than today.
Mario Isola: “The teams benefitted from unexpectedly dry weather to gather plenty of information about all three compounds here, on a slightly more aggressive surface than generally anticipated, with each tyre potentially forming part of a viable race strategy for Sunday. This obviously includes the supersoft, with the softest choice in Japan this weekend being far less extreme than the hypersoft tyre nominated at the last two races. This means that there will be a different approach to strategy and tyre choices, when it comes to qualifying as well, as already seen by the quite mixed choices made by different teams in their tyre selections for the grand prix here. There are still some question marks to consider – especially if Sunday’s race conditions turn out to be quite different to today or tomorrow – so it’s hard to make any more detailed predictions for now.”