Pirelli: Big air of unpredictability about the whole weekend

Pirelli report from the first day of free practice of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, Round 17 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Suzuka Circuit.

What we learned from FP1:

  • Qualifying has been postponed to Sunday morning at 10:00am to try and avoid the effects of an incoming typhoon. All track activity on Saturday is cancelled: if for any reason qualifying can’t take place, the FP2 times are likely to be used to set the grid as FP3 has also been scrubbed.
  • Mercedes has been fastest in both sessions held today, using both the medium and soft tyres. With no FP3 and weather conditions uncertain, teams focussed on both race and qualifying preparations, using the Red soft and Yellow medium tyres almost exclusively. This meant that the normal Friday programmes were slightly compromised, with teams putting in qualifying banker laps as well as long runs.
  • The fastest FP2 time (from Valtteri Bottas) was set on soft tyres and was more than half a second faster than the equivalent time from last year: very close to the 2018 pole.
  • Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was the next-fastest car in FP2, having shown plenty of pace straight out of the box to end up third-fastest and best of the rest.
  • Weather conditions are still looking uncertain for Sunday, with strong winds as well as rain quite likely. Today, conditions stayed dry, with ambient temperatures during FP2 of around 29 degrees and track temperatures of 33 degrees.
  • So far, we see a performance gap of around 0.6 to 0.7 seconds between the soft and medium, with 0.8 to 0.9 seconds between medium and hard. The hardest possible nomination has been made to cope with the corners at Suzuka: C1, C2 and C3.

Mario Isola, Head of F1: “The postponement of qualifying and cancellation of FP3, which was absolutely the right decision under the circumstances, affected the run plans for free practice. Teams not only had to ensure a banker lap, just in case the FP2 times are used to set the grid, but also had to prepare for the race. Despite that, it’s very hard to know exactly what the race conditions will be on Sunday, and how useful today’s running will have turned out to be.

“The performance gap between the different compounds is not quite as relevant as usual: the hard compound has not been used much today, while the comparison between the soft and medium tyres was very much influenced by track evolution during FP1, as well as by teams using the soft at the end of FP2 to set a time that could form the grid, should qualifying not be held on Sunday morning.

“There’s obviously now a big air of unpredictability about the whole weekend, which will hopefully lead to an exciting race.”

FREE PRACTICE 1 – TOP 3 TIMES

DRIVER TIME COMPOUND
Bottas 1m28.731s SOFT C3 NEW
Hamilton 1m28.807s SOFT C3 NEW
Vettel 1m29.720s SOFT C3 NEW

FREE PRACTICE 2 – TOP 3 TIMES

DRIVER TIME COMPOUND
Bottas 1m27.785s SOFT C3 NEW
Hamilton 1m27.885s SOFT C3 NEW
Verstappen 1m28.066s SOFT C3 NEW

FP1 – BEST TIME BY COMPOUND

COMPOUND DRIVER TIME
HARD C1 Stroll 1m35.046s
MEDIUM C2 Bottas 1m30.524s
SOFT C3 Bottas 1m28.731s

FP2 – BEST TIME BY COMPOUND

COMPOUND DRIVER TIME
HARD C1 Hulkenberg 1m35.357s
MEDIUM C2 Leclerc 1m28.709s
SOFT C3 Bottas 1m27.785s

MOST LAPS BY COMPOUND SO FAR

COMPOUND DRIVER LAPS
HARD C1 Russell 13
MEDIUM C2 Kvyat, Vettel 22
SOFT C3 Gasly 21

TYRE STATISTICS OF THE DAY

HARD MEDIUM SOFT
Kms driven* 267 1829 4291
Sets used overall** 4 31 83

* The above number gives the total amount of kilometres driven in FP1 and FP2 today, all drivers combined.
** Per compound, all drivers combined.

MIN. STARTING PRESSURES (slicks) EOS CAMBER LIMIT
PRESSURE 22.5 psi (front) | 20.0 psi (rear) -3.00° (front) | -1.75° (rear) CAMBER