Japan FP2: Verstappen fastest, Ferrari P2 with new floor update

FP2 Suzuka:

The second free practice session ended with the same driver on top, albeit with slightly different protagonists. Max Verstappen secured P1 with an advantage of over three-tenths to his closest pursuer, Charles Leclerc, in the Ferrari.

Lando Norris was within touching distance in the MCL60, whilst Mercedes and Aston Martin were further behind. Sergio Perez, however, appears to be struggling in Qualifying and Race simulations.

FP2: Ferrari tests the new floor and remains in Verstappen’s wake with Lando Norris. Sergio Perez is in difficulty. Lots of degradation on long runs

After the comparison tests carried out in FP1 with new and old surfaces, Ferrari debuted its new floor component with Leclerc in FP1 – before adding it to Sainz’s car in FP2.

The decision was taken to maintain this configuration, as the team saw positive feedback from the new floor in the first 60 minutes of action.

FP2 Suzuka

FP2 began with many drivers testing the Pirelly prototype tyres, which will be the medium compound next season. Max Verstappen was the only driver to begin the session on Softs, demonstrating a clear and aggressive approach from Red Bull.

Verstappen set a strong benchmark with a 1.31.377, making the soft tyres and the RB19 – which returned to track with Flow Viz on the rear in the Beam wing and diffuser area.

Behind him were McLaren and Albon with his Williams, on the mediums, setting similar laps to Sergio Perez. Ferrari set strong laps on the medium tyres, going behind Verstappen with Charles Leclerc three-tenths behind and Sainz seven-tenths adrift.

FP2 Suzuka

With 42 minutes left, the first response on softs came from Mercedes – with George Russell 0.677 behind the reigning Champion. Lewis Hamilton is further back with a gap of +0.868. However, Verstappen did not improve and still set a time of 1.31.391, a more than competitive time.

35 minutes remained when the McLarens went on the softsLando Norris set a 1.31.152, going fastest.

Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg went about six-tenths behind the Englishmen. Better than both of them was Alexander Albon, who gets close to 4 tenths of his friend Norris’ time. 

Norris’ teammate improves but, in this first attempt, has a gap of half a second while, back on track, the two Ferraris begin their attempt at the fastest lap with Soft.

Charles Leclerc immediately went fastest with a 1.31.008, enjoying an advantage of +0.144 over Norris, going fastest in the middle sector. Carlos Sainz was +0.229 behind his teammate, just one-tenth shy of the lead McLaren.

FP2 Suzuka

Fernando Alonso takes to the track with Soft 29 minutes from time, at the same time as Max Verstappen, who uses a second set of new Soft tires for the Qualifying simulation.

The Spaniard from Aston Martin was 0.484 behind the best time. Verstappen improved his first sector – already the best – and then, without setting other purple sectors, he went P1 with a 1.30.688.

Charles Leclerc returned to the track for a second attempt with the Soft tyres and tried to improve his time but was unable to make any progress.

George Russell also used a second set of softs, going +0.640 behind the fastest time. Lewis Hamilton went through a similar run programme, although his final time was over a second behind Verstappen’s.

The final twenty minutes were dedicated to race simulations. Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri went on the softs, while Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc used the Medium rubber. 

All cars suffered high degradation. The Soft offered very few laps with positive performance, as evidenced by the times from McLaren and Alonso.

The only one who managed to make a breakthrough was Max Verstappen, with an early time of 1.36.4 before rising to 1.37.4 and then 1.38 –  very positive results compared to the competitors.

The session was interrupted a few minutes from the end by an accident by Pierre Gasly, which triggered the red flag and thus brought forward the end of everyone’s long runs.

Lots of degradation on Soft tires for McLaren, Mercedes and Aston Martin

After a very fast attack time by Max Verstappen, the RB19 also suffered degradation, especially for Sergio Perez, who was unable to set even very competitive times.

Ferrari focused on working with the Medium tire and, despite paying for some degradation – normal on this track, with the simulations increasing the sensation of a 2-stop race – confirming an SF-23 in good shape.

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang