The opening day of track action at the Suzuka Circuit got underway beneath overcast skies with specks of rain turning into heavy drizzle towards the end of the opening 90 minutes of practice. The rain became heavier through the afternoon and was positively lashing the 5.8km circuit by the time the clock ticked down to signal the start of the second 90-minute session. Originally scheduled to begin at 0500 GMT, the start of the session was delayed by 45 minutes as drains overflowed and rivers of water coursed down inclines at the undulating track. World championship leader Lewis Hamilton went fastest in that session, setting a time of one minute, 48.719 seconds, kicking up a dense mist of spray as he toured the circuit, nearly 20 seconds off Sebastian Vettel’s morning best on a dry track.
However, Scuderia Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both appeared unconcerned by the loss of track time on Friday as a result of heavy rain hitting the afternoon’s free practice in Suzuka.
“We kind of expected it to be a wet afternoon.” – Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen told reporters after the end of a truncated second free practice session, due to the heavy rain – “We’d run a little more laps in first practice and it was okay. Everything felt fine so we have a good idea in the dry how it is.”
The Finn added that there had been little point in completing anything more than an installation lap in the rain: “We did not even try to learn anything.” – he shrugged – “Obviously it is very limited on the tyres. In case if it’s wet tomorrow and in qualifying then we have to save the full wets.”
The forecast is indeed for more showers on Saturday. However the race itself is looking set for dry conditions, which should help Scuderia Ferrari given their strong pace in dry conditions: “If it is tomorrow wet the whole day, we will do some running in the morning.” – the Finnish driver concluded, as reported by Italian national sports newspaper based in Rome Corriere dello Sport at the end of the second practice session ahead of the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen has taken a new engine for this next race, which will take place at the Suzuka track on Sunday. It’s the latest spec of the Ferrari power unit, which is reported to be lighter than its predecessor. However, the Finnish driver said that he did not notice any difference in the limited running he’d had with it so far at the Suzuka circuit.