Suzuka took some early casualties in Free Practice Two, with Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez lauching themselves into the barriers at Degner and Spoon. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel turned-up the wick in wait for a challenge from Lewis Hamilton.
Free Practice Two started minus a Marussia courtesy of a chassis re-assembly for Jules Biannchi. A few more chassis however were getting a workout at the Ferris Wheel chicane as some drivers lowered the anchors a little too late and ran over the curbs. Any more of that and they could be facing the same scenario that ended Paul di Resta’s race in Korea.
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were using a fair of lateral load through the double-apex corners and often had to ‘save the moment’ by opening up the steering over the rumble strip. An opposite-lock moment at the S-Curve adding to the show. Two drivers who weren’t so lucky were Pastor Malonado and Sergio Perez; Pastor falling victim to the notorious second Degner and Sergio Perez putting a right rear on the white line on the entry to Spoon Curve.
Checo’s McLaren precdictably snapped sideways and met the barrier side-on without arresting much speed before their rendezvous.
Perez was noticeably shaky over thepit-radio, but otherwise unharmed for such a high load accident. Sergio later had his elbow placed in an ice-pack, possibly from banging his arm against the sidewall of the cockpit.
On the timesheets however, Vettel had laid down the early markerof a 1.34:87, just four tenths ahead of Rosberg and Webber. Hamilton was another tenth away easing his way into the session. The unrelenting nature of Suzuka was compounding the aerodynamic difference between the haves and the have not’s with nearly a second and a half difference between the Red Bull’s and the Williams alone.
Webber had now undercut Vettel’s provisional best by nearly half a second, but all eyes were on Alonso as he carried way too much speed into Degner Curve, launching his Ferrari over the first curve and extremely fortunate ride out the slide without any contact. A new set of Pirellis (if not underwear) were no doubt on order in the Ferrari pits.
Vettel had now bettered Webber’s time by another four tenths (nearly a second under his personal best effort and the first into the 1:33′s) while Daniel Ricciardo had quietly snuck his STR8 into the top six in front of Massa and Button. Romain Grosjean was again exploring the uses of astroturf with more gusto than Bill Murray in Caddyshack.
Webber closed within two-tenths of Vettel and was beginning another run when Raikkonen pushed things a little too hard on his first flying lap after exiting the pits, although this time the gravel trap was the only thing to stick to his E21 after his Friday practice shunt in Korea. It was only the second lose for the Finn (in two successive races) for as long as many can remember.
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