Japanese GP practice as it happened

Text and video highlights of Japanese Grand Prix practice from Suzuka, where Mark Webber is fastest.

5 October 2012 Last updated at 08:16

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As it happened

  1. 0752: 

    So that's it from me. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari all look good to set things up nicely ahead of tomorrow's final practice and all important qualifying session. I'll be back at 0230 BST tomorrow morning. Until then, it's good morning from me.

  2. 0749: 

    Here's Andrew Benson's report, plus a link to the first practice highlights. A similar video edit for the second session will be up on the site later today so keep an eye out for that.

  3. 0747: 

    It's that time of the morning when I wish you good day and bid you farewell. Thanks for your company and contributions during the wee hours. Good effort. Hope to see you all tomorrow morning.

  4. 0743: 

    The marshals are in full swing, literally, sweeping up the mess Vitaly Petrov caused down at the first corner. The grandstand opposite the pit lane is still pretty full, though, as fans try to get a glimpse of their heroes. The Japanese are some of the most dedicated of F1 fans.


    Marco Mancini on Twitter: "Alonso with an off the pace Ferrari still doing great! Going to a fasinating end to the season between Alonso and Vettel."

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "It looks pretty competitive at the front. I'd like to pat Hulkenberg on the back - that's a good effort by him."

  7. 0739: 

    And here's the sharp end 1-12:

    1) Webber 2) Hamilton 3) Vettel 4) Hulkenberg 5) Alonso 6) Grosjean 7) Button 8) Senna 9) Massa 10) Schumacher 11) Rosberg 12) Perez

  8. 0737: 

    Here's how they finished 13-24:

    13) Kobayashi 14) Raikkonen 15) Maldonado 16) Ricciardo 17) Vergne 18) Kovalainen 19) Petrov 20) Glock 21) Pic 22) De la Rosa 23) Karthikeyan 24) Di Resta

  9. 0735: 

    So Red Bull looking strong in this session with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel first and third respectively. It was less successful for Mercedes who missed half the session before Michael Schumacher stuck the car in the barriers.

  10. 0733: 

    It's Vitaly Petrov who tells his team that the rear wing just came off when he was driving down the straight towards the first corner. That's a pretty alarming failure and he's lucky to escape unhurt.

  11. 0732: 

    A Caterham has slid off track without a rear wing.

  12. 0730: 


  13. 0727: 

    Kimi Raikkonen is told by his team that most drivers out on track are on high fuel so he'll need to find some space if he wants to get a quick lap in. Moments later, he runs wide, kicking up the dirt and ruining that lap. Next time around, he has a huge lock up at the final chicane as he struggles to slow the car down and narrowly avoids hitting Sebastian Vettel mid-corner. It's all a big scrappy.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "The dark horse in the championship is Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, whose third place owes more to consistency than anything else. Lotus have yet to win a race this year, and while as recently as Hungary in July Raikkonen nearly won, they have slipped from competitiveness since F1 returned from its summer break. "The last two or three races haven't been very good for us,' Raikkonen said, 'but that's how it goes, we have to try to improve the car and get back where we have been earlier this year. It was more normal last weekend (in Singapore). We made some mistakes on the set-up in the beginning and it kind of cost us a bit. We should get things running more nicely here. It should be a bit easier. We have to improve, we are falling away a bit from the front, but we have some new things here and in the next few races and we'll see how it goes."

  15. 0722: 

    Lotus have done a super job toget Kimi Raikkonen's car back to full health. The Finn climbs back into the car and prepares to head out for the final few minutes.

  16. 0720: 

    Michael Schumacher hops out of the car, pats the marshal on the back and then picks up big chunks of his car and places them into the cockpit to ensure they make it back to the garage.

  17. 0719: 

    It's a carbon copy of Paul di Resta's crash earlier in the session. Schumacher got a couple of wheels on the dirt at Spoon curve and spins the car around and off the circuit, hitting the wall in the same spot as the Scot. Damage to the right front end of the car.

  18. 0718: 

    Yep, it's Michael Schumacher. The seven-time world champion is racking up quite a repair bill of late.

  19. 0717: 

    There's a Mercedes in the barriers. One guess who it is...

  20. 0714: 

    Felipe Massa is looking very ragged out there. As he dives down the inside of Michael Schumacher, the Brazilian lets the car drift out too much on the exit and dips the left-hand-side wheels onto the grass and kicks up the dirt.

  21. 0711: 

    Many drivers have switched back to the hard tyres after their soft tyre outings with the focus now on long runs. Looks like Mark Webber will finish in P1 for this session.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "You might expect Nico Rosberg to be quaking at the thought of being joined at Mercedes next year by Lewis Hamilton, but he has cut a very chirpy figure in Japan so far. 'My team-mate is a seven-time world champion so the talent I'm up against is very high,' he said. 'So I think it's going to be a similarly difficult challenge. I remember racing Lewis in go-karts so I know it's going to be tough. He's very, very quick, one of the best out there at the moment. It's great he's joining the team. I'm confident I will do well. I'm pushing hard to do well. How I compare with my team-mate remains to be seen. I'm not worried or anything, as such, no.'"

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "McLaren are running two different set-ups on Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button's cars. I'm not sure which is new, but I think it's Hamilton's as I've not seen that one before. Hamilton has more downforce than Button, and when you remember that Button has a five-place grid penalty it makes sense. He'll need to do more overtaking, whereas Hamilton can go for broke and try for pole position. It's good to see two different philosophies for two different cars that are going to end up in two different places on the grid."

  24. 0705: 

    Lotus report that they expect to get Kimi Raikkonen - who suffered a Kers issue earlier in the session - back out before the chequered flag.

  25. 0702: 

    Soft tyre runs coming thick and fast now so there's plenty of action on the timesheets. Mark Webber leads from Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Nico Hulkenberg - who has been linked with Felipe Massa's Ferrari seat next year - is fourth, Fernando Alonso fifth and Romain Grosjean sixth. Nico Rosberg has finally set a lap time, but it's only an unrepresentative 1:43.525, 11 seconds off the pace

  26. 0700: 

    Mark Webber is fast becoming my tip for pole position this weekend. The Australian is certainly the least talked about of the title contenders following a poor run of results, but the Red Bull driver has looked strong here so far and underlines that pace by going fastest of all by two tenths of a second.

  27. 0658: 

    Lotus having removed the Kers battery, which is leaking cooling fluid, from Kimi Raikkonen's car. BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson says he'll be surprised if they manage to get the Finn back out in the remaining 30 minutes of this session because it's quite a big job.

  28. 0656: 

    Lewis Hamilton has been anonymous in this session, but armed with a set of soft tyres, the 2008 world champion finally turns it on. He clocks a 1:32.707 to go quickest from Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Hamilton was two tenths up after two sectors but ran a little wide in the final corner which probably cost him some time.


    Villaadog on Twitter: "I was hoping that Ferrari would sign Schumacher for one year, I think he would've done well."

  30. 0652: 

    Sebastian Vettel goes quickest, smashing into the 1m32s. Fernando Alonso can't quite match the Red Bull driver, slotting into second, two tenths off the pace.

  31. 0651: 

    Felipe Massa takes the scenic route on his way under the bridge towards the Degner curves which ruins that lap but there's no denying that Ferrari is gathering pace...


    Kursaki Marucho on Twitter: "I don't peg most of Michaels mishaps on him but on the Merc. Sauber has had a bit of pace this season. He should have signed for them."

  33. 0646: 

    Grosjean fastest, 0.242secs ahead of Button. Di Resta crashes at the Spoon curve after putting a rear wheel on the dirt. Raikkonen stops with Kers issue. 1 Grosjean 2 Button 3 Massa 4 Vettel 5 Kobayashi 6 Perez 7 Webber 8 Alonso 9 Maldonado 10 Hamilton.

  34. 0645: 

    Romain Grosjean slices two tenths off Jenson Button's time to go fastest while Felipe Massa looks quick but gets held up and is forced to settle for third, half-a-second off the pace.

  35. 0644: 

    Bang. Jenson Button nails it, taking six tenths of a second out of Sebastian Vettel's leading time. That said, Vettel was on the harder tyre when he set his time.

  36. 0642: 

    Kamui Kobayashi goes to within 0.022 seconds of Sebastian Vettel's leading time on a set of soft tyres in his Sauber. That demotes Jenson Button to third, but the McLaren driver is on a lap on the faster soft tyres and is looking mighty.

  37. 0641: 

    With 40 minutes gone, there's finally some movement in the Mercedes garage as Michael Schumacher heads out on track. Unfortunately, Nico Rosberg is still going no where. Plenty of work to do for Lewis Hamilton's new team here...

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "There is a bit of a consensus building that this could be a good race for Sauber. The car has clearly been good all year, but it has performed somewhat inconsistently in the hands of Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, sometimes qualifying really well only to fall back in the race, or climbing dramatically up the field on Sunday after a lacklustre showing on Saturday.

    "After the last race in Singapore, Jenson Button said he expected the Swiss team to be strong in Japan and this weekend Sebastian Vettel has agreed. 'I think the Saubers will be very strong this weekend,' the world champion said. 'It is not really a secret - they have a good car with a lot of downforce and sometimes it is a surprise to see them far down the grid.'"

    BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie

    "Just as the media was buzzing on arrival at Suzuka with the latest moves in the driver market, so too were the drivers themselves. Red Bull's Mark Webber said there were no surprises that Lewis Hamilton had signed for Mercedes but was caught unawares about McLaren picking Segio Perez ahead of other drivers on the grid. The British-based Aussie spends much of the next part of season travelling to races from his base on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Webber also said the outdoor training and sunshine was good preparation for the weekend ahead."

  40. 0638: 

    Next time around, Vettel finds that tenth to extend his lead at the top of the timesheets and become the first man into the 1m33s.

  41. 0635: 

    Sebastian Vettel's race engineer: "That was a good job in sector three mate, we need a little bit more in sector one, I think it's a tenth of a second."

  42. 0634: 

    Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi have headed out on the soft tyre. It'll be interesting to see the difference between the two compounds. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel has lit up the timesheets with a flier. The reigning world champion clocks 1:34.080 to depose Jenson Button.


    Force India driver Paul di Resta after his crash only minutes into this session: "I just found myself with the right-hand wheels on the grass, probably a bit of frustration with Kimi getting in my way but that's no excuse, I was 0.6secs up on my lap from first practice, so it's annoying to go off. Hopefully it won't cost me too much tomorrow."

  44. 0631: 

    Lewis Hamilton may be leaving McLaren - the team which has supported him since he was 13 and then gave him his debut in 2007 - for Mercedes next season but McLaren sporting director Sam Michael says the door is ajar for a return in the future.

    "Lewis's attitude has been perfect this weekend," said Michael. "He realises it's a small paddock and he could come back to us one day. He wants to leave on good terms."

  45. 0628: 

    Jenson Button is all over this track like a rash. The Briton looks effortless as he moves to the top of the cake with a 1:34.150, 0.038 seconds clear of Mark Webber who also looks strong here this weekend. Everyone has set a lap time in this session apart from Paul di Resta - who is out of this session after a crash - and the two Mercedes drivers who haven't even left the garage.

  46. 0624: 

    Huge moment for Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese, who has had the tail of that Sauber wagging all morning, gets it all wrong at the Dunlop curve, flying off the track and straight through a gravel trap. He keeps enough momentum to drive straight out unscathed, but the team will need to check the underbelly of that car for damage.

  47. 0621: 

    A frustrated Kimi Raikkonen asks his team "why is the Kers not working?" The team reply: "We have a Kers problem, we have to treat the car as unsafe at the moment." Moments later, the Finn parks the car in pit box while the team begin the investigation.

    It's more bad news for the Lotus driver who will be without the double-DRS this weekend after the team decided against using it.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "This is much more encouraging for Fernando Alonso and Ferrari. They looked out of sorts in the first session, with Alonso's car visibly oversteering in awkward places, such as the Esses. But after some changes before second practice, straight out of the pits he goes fastest, with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel just behind him. He'll be encouraged by that, I would imagine."

  49. 0618: 

    Fernando Alonso shoots to the top of the charts with a1:34.287 seconds, one tenth quicker than Lewis Hamilton with Sebastian Vettel a further tenth behind.

  50. 0615: 

    It's been a busy week for F1 with Hamilton signing for Mercedes, Schumacher announcing his retirement and Perez signing for McLaren. Do you think Schumacher has made the right decision? What about Hamilton? And how do you think Perez will do at McLaren? Get involved using the #bbcf1 hashtag or text 81111 (UK only).

  51. 0612: 
    GO! GO! GO!

    The marshals have done a super speedy job and we're already back under way at Suzuka. There's plenty of activity almost immediately with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel the first two to leave the pit lane.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "That shunt is unfortunate for Paul di Resta, who will now miss out on evaluating the 'soft' tyre both on low fuel and high fuel in what is the most important practice session of any grand prix weekend. Di Resta got the right-hand wheels on the grass as he turned into Spoon Curve and if it was a mistake - as it appears initially to have been - it's a bad one. It illustrates why Suzuka is a real old-school track. At some of the more modern circuits, with large run-off areas, he would probably have got away with a spin and then rejoined. At Suzuka, though, that sort of mistake means the car in the wall. Many would say that's the way it should be."

  53. 0609: 

    The session has been stopped, but the clock continues, as the marshals dive into action and help Di Resta escape to safety before removing the stricken Force India and sweeping up the track.

  54. 0608: 

    Di Resta's race engineer over team radio: "You OK Paul?" Di Resta replies: "Well, obviously that's it finished."

  55. 0607: 

    It's Paul di Resta. It's an absolute nightmare for the Scot who gets a wheel on the grass on the approach to Spoon. That spins the Force India around and sends the car sliding into the barriers. There's some big damage to the front right corner.

  56. 0606: 

    We have a Force India in the barriers at Spoon curve.

  57. 0603: 

    Romain Grosjean sets the early pace, clocking 1:34.514, six tenths quicker than Sergio Perez.

  58. 0600: 
    GO! GO! GO!

    We're up and running at Suzuka. Jean-Eric Vergne is the first man out on track again, closely followed by Sergio Perez.

  59. 0555: 

    Jonathan Legard has taken up residence in the BBC Radio 5 live commentary box. You can listen to him and the thoughts of Tony Dodgins and Gary Anderson by clicking on the icon at the top right of this live text commentary page.

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "Usually at Suzuka, a high-downforce set-up is what gives you the best lap time, but in first practice Mercedes were running a reasonably low-downforce set-up and they were fourth and fifth quickest overall. It all depends on fuel loads, of course, but the Mercedes looked pretty good, so I would imagine a few other teams will now try a lower downforce set-up in the second session. After all, for the race, lower downforce is better as it helps in both overtaking and defence. So if there is no performance penalty in running it - and perhaps even a performance benefit - it's a good choice."

  61. 0551: 

    So second practice starts at 0600 BST and will last for 90 minutes. This morning drivers focused on running the hard tyre, so we should see the soft make an appearance in this session.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "This has already been an especially active driver market 'silly season', but if there was one driver outside the top three teams for whom a move did not seem on the cards, it was Williams's Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan brings a huge sponsorship deal to Williams from his country's national oil company, and that five-year deal - which is only in its second season - guarantees either Maldonado or another Venezeulan a seat.

    "But in Japan Maldonado has not sounded that certain about staying at Williams. 'I don't want to talk about that now,' he said. 'The team is still looking for the next year, for the drivers, so I prefer to not answer your question about the drivers. But for sure there is still a market, it is moving a lot, so I hope to be in the best place I can.'

    "Outside Williams, his only realistic option is Sauber. But there is also uncertainty surrounding this weekend's Venezuelan general election. Maldonado's deal is personally endorsed by President Hugo Chavez. And if Chavez loses it is unclear what his successor would do about it."

  63. 0547: 

    Mercedes had a bit of a scare when Nico Rosberg coasted to a halt in the 'S' curves minutes from the end of the first session. The team later said the stoppage was because an oil pressure alarm caused a precautionary engine shutdown.

  64. 0544: 

    Tropical storms have been heading Japan's way of late, but BBC weatherman Ian Fergusson says they are likely to move past the country along the north east coast which means we can expect mostly sunshine with a very low chance of rain at the weekend. You can see the full forecast on our weather pages.

  65. 0540: 

    Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen and Caterham reserve Giedo van der Garde have had to get their wallets out during the break. The stewards handed them fines for speeding in the pit lane during first practice.

    BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie

    "It is always good fun to head to the merchandise area at Suzuka. The fans dress up in everything from race suits to homemade outfits supporting their favourite teams and drivers and there is an incredible array of souvenirs to buy - Jenson Button bath towels, Sauber biscuits and Red Bull teddy bears are all on sale. Local hero Kamui Kobayashi has his own range of merchandise, which is obviously popular with the fans, as are Ferrari and Fernando Alonso. The enthusiasm is infectious, although one man did seem to take it a bit too far. He was wearing a Ferrari cap, which seemed to feature Fernando sitting on a toilet. I couldn't quite work that one out!"

    Follow Lee on Twitter where she's already uploaded some sensational pictures from the Suzuka paddock.


    Marussia driver Timo Glock: "Strange 1st session. Felt like I was all over the place and slow but didn't look like on time sheet. Hope stays like this."

  68. 0538: 

    I've stocked up with some tortilla chips, a bowl of cereal and some chocolates in the shape of the Singapore Merlion - an imaginary creature which represents Singapore's origins as a fishing village - which I picked up on my travels to the country last week.

  69. 0536: 

    ...and a warm welcome to those who fancied a lie in and are just joining us now. You missed a busy session where Jenson Button - who dominated all three practice sessions here last year before going on to win the race - finished fastest again ahead of McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

  70. 0533: 

    Welcome back to those who munched on cheesy savoury snacks, leftovers and anything else they had in their cupboards while joining me for first practice. Get yourself a fresh brew and something sugary to keep you going because we've got another 90-minute session coming up....

  71. 0530: 

    Wakey-wakey. Anyone there? I do hope so because second practice for the Japanese is mere 30 minutes away and I don't think the drivers will be hanging around...

  72. 0345: 

    The marshals are out on track sweeping up any debris while the grandstands are emptying as fans head off to stretch their legs and find sustenance. I'm going to do the same, but I'll be back at 0530 BST to take you through second practice. In the meantime, here's Andrew Benson's report. Don't go falling asleep on me now, will you?

  73. 0343: 

    McLarens and Mercedes look strong, with their four drivers taking up four of the top five placings, but there's less good news for Ferrari with Felipe Massa in seventh and championship leader Fernando Alonso down in 11th.

  74. 0339: 

    And here's 1-12:

    1) Button 2) Hamilton 3) Webber 4) Rosberg 5) Schumacher 6) Kobayashi 7) Massa 8) Di Resta 9) Hulkenberg 10) Maldonado 11) Alonso 12) Perez

  75. 0337: 

    Here's how they finished 13-24:

    13) Raikkonen 14) Grosjean 15) Ricciardo 16) Vergne 17) Vettel 18) Bottas* 19) Glock 20) Petrov 21) Pic 22) Karthikeyan 23) Van der Garde* 24) De la Rosa

    *Bottas replaced Senna at Williams for this session, while Van der Garde borrowed Kovalainen's Caterham.

  76. 0335: 

    The field are now filing to grid to do a practice start and ensure all is well with the car. McLaren will be the happiest of teams after underlining their recent good form with the top two times.

  77. 0333: 


  78. 0331: 

    Misery for Mercedes as Nico Rosberg stops his car on the side of the track between Turns 3 and 4. The German hops out of the car, pulls off his gloves and begins the short walk back to the paddock.

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "In Singapore Red Bull ran a new front wing. The elements at their inboard end are twisted a lot more and go more horizontal. They have also taken the cameras from the front wing and mounted them on the side of the nose again.

    "They have also changed the rear suspension. They have put more camber change into the rear suspension, so that as the car compresses more camber load goes onto the rear tyres.

    "Normally if you haven't got enough camber change you have to put static camber on the car and that means you haven't got as good traction.

    "This should be good for traction and in the fast corners. In the last couple of races they have made a decent step forward and I haven't seen that step forward on the Ferrari yet."

  80. 0329: 

    While Red Bull's Mark Webber is third, his reigning world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel is keeping his card close to his chest. The German is down in 17th, 1.859 seconds off the pace. The Red Bulls have seen an upturn in form of late - BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson has more...

  81. 0326: 

    Looks like Jenson Button will finish this session in P1 with no one challenging the McLaren driver's 1:34.507. Unfortunately the Briton will be handicapped in the race whatever happens as he was forced to change his gearbox after the Singapore GP and will therefore incur a five-place grid penalty.

  82. 0323: 

    Earlier, BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson mentioned that there have been suggestions that some teams were pushing their front wing designs to far to gain a performance advantage. It appears the FIA is considering tougher tests on front wings. Here's the full story.


    Force India on Twitter: "Some balance adjusts for Nico before he heads out shortly on scrubbed hards. No issues with Paul's car - he seems pretty happy with things."

  84. 0317: 

    Talking of Kamui Kobyashi, the Japanese driver is really pushing as he bids to put on a good show for his fans. The Sauber driver lets his tail hang out on the exit of Spoon, collecting it while keeping his foot on the gas.

    BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie

    "Kamui Kobayashi has a hectic weekend ahead of him with much more PR work than driving! With tens of thousands of fans coming over the weekend to see Japan's only current F1 driver, the pressure can get a bit much. On Thursday he told me: 'I went downstairs in my hotel for breakfast and there were so many fans I didn't have time to eat it. I went back to my room and had a shower. It was very sad. I love breakfast!' He also thinks that this could be the best track for his Sauber car all season. Maybe on Monday he could be celebrating with a champagne breakfast!"

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Fernando Alonso's closest title rival is Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and while the reigning champion has benefited from a faster than the Spaniard, he has suffered two retirements as a result of car failures. Asked if he felt he needed Alonso to suffer in a similar way, Vettel said: "I don't want any bad fortune to hit others and help us in that regard. We are confident and we believe we can do it on the track. We have to try and focus on ourselves and whatever happens, happens. We need to make sure we finish the races and score big points.'"

  87. 0312: 

    Button fastest, 0.233secs ahead of Hamilton. Kobayashi has big moment in 130R. 1 Button 2 Hamilton 3 Webber 4 Rosberg 5 Schumacher 6 Kobayashi 7 Massa 8 Di Resta 9 Hulkenberg 10 Maldonado.

  88. 0308: 

    Plenty of laps on the hard tyre this morning, but we can expect to see the soft make an appearance in the second session. Out on track, Romain Grosjean gives his hards a beat down, locking up at the hairpin. Further up the road, Serigio Perez has a hairy moment in his Sauber, running wide at 130R.

  89. 0305: 

    Nico Rosberg's race engineer over team radio: "You're still boosting in the wrong places. You're boosting out of seven. You should be boosting out of nine first."

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Fernando Alonso would be forgiven if he was feeling a little haunted at the moment. He has led the championship, against the odds, for some months now but the Ferrari remains at best the third fastest car - and quite possibly only fifth or sixth - and Sebastian Vettel is only 29 points behind after victory in Singapore. Alonso was asked on Thursday whether he had nightmares that he is going to lose the title at the death like he did in 2010, through no fault of his own. "It is the way it is,' he said. 'If we can fight for the championship until the end, if we can win it will be a miracle because I don't think we were fast enough to win it, and if we don't win, it will be what we can do. We will do the maximum, we did 14 more or less perfect races until now. What we cannot do is mistakes in the last six, we need to continue like this, work hard, keep clam and bring the points every Sunday maximum we can, sometime sit will be fourth, sometimes it will be second. Sometimes it is an aggressive approach, sometimes it is not the time to risk, so you keep adjusting your approach.'"

  91. 0302: 

    Paul di Resta sets his first timed lap of the afternoon to go 12th. The Scot then improves to seventh, 0.867 seconds off the pace. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, improves to second, 0.233 seconds behind McLaren team-mate Jenson Button.

  92. 0258: 

    Jenson Button gets it all together to go fastest, 0.349 seconds quicker than anyone else, and then promptly gets on the radio to complain about oversteer, particularly in the final chicane.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "It has been a big week for driver moves but there is still one big decision to come - who will partner Fernando Alonso at Ferrari next year. The word from high up in the team is that incumbent Felipe Massa is most likely to stay, but they are waiting for two more races to ensure the Brazilian continues at the improved level he has shown in recent races.

    "But sources outside the team with good knowledge of the driver market say that Nico Hulkenberg has already been signed. The likeable German engaged in one of the most good-humoured, monosyllabic news conferences you're likely to see on Thursday, where it was noticeable that he had a big grin on his face most of the time. Was this because the Force India driver already has a Ferrari contract in his pocket. He said not. 'There has been a lot of movement but there's still a chance I could race here,' he said."

  94. 0253: 

    Fernando Alonso batters the kerbs as he flies through the final chicane to complete his 14th lap of the day. The Spaniard can't improve on his previous best and remains six tenths off the leading pace and 0.15 seconds behind his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, talking of which...


    Gwan on Twitter: "Re 0153. Have some leftover stuffed potatoes: bacon, onion & crème fraîche. Yum! No snacking as yet though."

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Without exception the drivers love Suzuka and while attention was diverted elsewhere on Thursday, world champion Sebastian Vettel did find time to put into words the challenge of the track and the appeal of racing in Japan. 'This is a really nice circuit,' Vettel said. 'The first sector - the amount of fast corners, left-right combination up the hill, the Esses - is very special. You don't find that anywhere else in the world. It really shows us what we can do. It pushes us to our limits, the car's limits. It's a great experience every time you go up the hill. The rest of the track ids a big challenge too and you end up at the start/finish line wanting to do another lap. That is what makes it special, as well as the fans, they are very passionate, the enthusiasm, in Japan they really love F1 and it is nice to race here in front of them.'"

  97. 0248: 

    Nico Rosberg slips into third place, 0.2 seconds off the pace. His Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher is having less success and is down in 13th, 1.5 seconds off the pace.

    We've yet to see a timed lap from British duo Paul di Resta - who had an issue with his steering earlier in the session - and Jenson Button with less than 45 minutes remaining. But as I type that, Button - the 2009 world champion - heads out of the McLaren garage.

  98. 0244: 

    Ah ha. We have a new leader in the form of Mark Webber. The Red Bull driver, who overcooked it into the final chicane on his previous tour, cuts out the mistakes to eclipse Lewis Hamilton's previous leading time by 0.054 seconds.


    Alex Wall on Twitter: "Re 0153. Quick microwave snacks, no time to leave the action for a second, Custard creams keeping me awake!"

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "A row has been brewing over the front wing designs of some of the cars. People noticed in Singapore two weeks ago that the Red Bull's front wing tipped backwards when the car was jacked up and asked governing body the FIA to look into it.

    "For this race, the FIA have devised different load tests to ensure that no teams can have wings that flex under load. The Red Bull's is attached by quite small mounting points, which it would be very easy to adjust if you wanted to so that they allowed the wing to move, although that's not to say they were. Also on Thursday after scrutineering Ferrari had stripped all the upper elements off their wing. That could just be changing it. We'll keep you abreast of any developments."

  101. 0240: 

    Times coming through thick and fast right now - nice to see the drivers are rewarding those of us who have got up/stayed awake at this time of day.

    Lewis Hamilton leads the way by 0.379 seconds from Red Bull's Mark Webber. Romain Grosjean is six tenths slower in his Lotus in third with Kamui Kobayashi a smidgen slower in fourth.

  102. 0236: 

    Felipe Massa complains about the handling of his Ferrari, but the Brazilian - who finished runner up to Lewis Hamilton in the 2008 title race - still clocks the second fastest time, one second off the pace.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Interesting admission from McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh just now to 5 live pit-lane reporter Jennie Gow. He says Force India drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg were on McLaren's list as potential replacements for Lewis Hamilton. They were under contract, he said, but McLaren could have got them if they had wanted to. But they preferred Sergio Perez. He says, based on McLaren's extensive analysis, he was the best choice."

  104. 0232: 

    Talking of Sergio Perez, the Mexican has headed out on track and clocks a 1:37.1 but that's 2.2 seconds shy of Lewis Hamilton's current leading time of 1:34.9.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Since it became apparent - following the emergence of the news on this website - that Hamilton was likely to move to Mercedes, McLaren have been insisting they were confident he would stay and team boss Martin Whitmarsh even went as far as to say the team had no 'plan B'. It turns out Whitmarsh was being a little economical with the truth. McLaren's new signing Sergio Perez revealed on Thursday that "conversations started a few months ago, and I wanted to do it. McLaren approached me and we started talking and everything came in the end. A team like McLaren approaches you and it's a good feeling, and you don't want to disappoint anyone. I have to give everything to my team and I am ready to do that, once I have finished this season.'"


    Jon Dale on Twitter: "Re 0153. A cup of tea and a bag of tangy cheese, triangular corn based snacks. Not exactly #comedinewithme."

  107. 0227: 

    The HRTs - who are running through a floor evaluation with Narain Karthikeyan using the new one and Pedro de la Rosa the previous version - are the only two other cars to have set a time other than Lewis Hamilton, but they're over 4.5 seconds off the pace.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Although overshadowed by the Schumacher news, Hamilton was still very much the centre of attention as he revealed why he had decided to leave the team with which he has grown up for one struggling for competitiveness. 'Lots of people have opinions about whether it is good or bad, at the end of the day I had to do what I felt was right for me,' he said. 'Through my whole life I have always been a risk taker, someone who did not take the easy route, I have always made it harder for myself. I am going from a top team, I could have stayed, it would have been very, very easy to stay. (But) to stay and do the easier thing didn't really suit me. I wanted something different and the challenge and make a car that isn't competitive into a winner.'"

  109. 0222: 

    Yes he is. Lewis Hamilton clocks 1:37.435 to go quickest of all. That compares to a 1:33.634 which his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button clocked to top the timesheets in this session at Suzuka last year.

  110. 0218: 

    Lewis Hamilton - who will be dressed in a different shade of silver next season - has just headed out on track in his McLaren. The 2008 world champion has crossed the line to start a flying lap - will he be the first to set a timed lap this morning?

  111. 0214: 

    It seems McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh cut it fine to get to the track on time for this weekend's running. The 54-year-old says he only landed in Tokyo at 0450 local time, four hours before this session started. Top effort.

  112. 0210: 

    Everyone has completed at least one installation lap, all on the harder compound tyres, but no one has crossed the line to set a timed lap at a gloriously sunny Suzuka. There's barely a cloud in the sky. Lovely.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "The Japanese Grand Prix weekend has been full of incident before a car had even turned a wheel. Even before people arrived at Suzuka, the F1 world was abuzz with Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes and McLaren's decision to replace him with Sauber's Sergio Perez. Then, early on Thursday afternoon, even that news was topped by Michael Schumacher's decision to announce his retirement. Having not come to a conclusion on his future for months, Schumacher's hand was forced by his team's decision to sign Hamilton. 'There is if anything relief,' he said. 'If I wanted to stay I had options to stay but I didn't feel like it.' As for his future, he said it was unclear, and for now he was concentrating "100%" on the last six races of his career."

  114. 0205: 

    Michael Schumacher could be forgiven for thinking he had been given the boot early when his pass failed to work on the electronic barriers when he arrived at Suzuka this morning. The German had to step over the barrier where he was met by a pack of autograph hunters eager to get his signature while he can.

    Out on track, the German certainly isn't hanging around. He puts a wheel on the grass on his installation lap, sending the rear of that Mercedes wagging, but the seven-time world champion grabs the slide and avoids disaster.

  115. 0200: 

    Jean-Eric Vergne is the first man out on track in his Toro Rosso as first practice gets under way.

  116. 0155: 

    The pit lane opens for business at 0200 BST, with 90 minutes of action in store. Ben Edwards is in the BBC Radio 5 live commentary box alongside BBC F1 commentary box producer Tony Dodgins while Gary Anderson and Jennie Gow are patrolling the pit lane.

  117. 0153: 

    A big shout out to all of you sacrificing your beauty sleep to join me for coverage of first practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

    I've got an array of sugary goods alongside a giant mug of coffee. What are you tucking into this morning? Get involved using the #bbcf1 hashtag on Twitter or text 81111 (UK only)

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "It takes the best part of a day to get there from western Europe, and that journey generally involves cars, planes and trains, but it is a trip everyone in Formula 1 makes with a light heart because the Japanese Grand Prix is the very essense of motor racing. Suzuka is 3.61 miles of the toughest test of a racing driver anywhere on the planet. There is no such thing as an ordinary day there - the track is narrow, fast and dangerous and the drivers love it, just as they know it will bite hard at the smallest of mistakes. Three days of thrilling action start here."

  119. 0148: 

    Welcome, one and all, to our coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix at the iconic figure-of-eight Suzuka circuit. Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are all fighting for the title, while Hamilton has been the talk of the town after confirming his switch to Mercedes as our very own Eddie Jordan reported last month.

    But Schumacher stole the limelight back by announcing his retirement and faces an uphill battle at the track where he secured Ferrari's first title in 21 years in 2000 after picking up a 10-place grid penalty for smashing into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne in Singapore.

  120. 0145: 

    It's the end of another era. Michael Schumacher, the seven-time world champion with 91 race wins, 155 podiums, 68 pole positions, 77 fastest laps and 301 race starts, will retire at the end of the season.

    The German called time on a glittering career in the Suzuka paddock on Thursday afternoon, signalling the end of a three-year stint at Mercedes that failed to yield a single victory. With six races remaining, can Schumacher secure the win he so dearly craves?

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Formula 1 World Championship 2014

Position Driver Team Pts
1 Germany N Rosberg Mercedes 220
2 Great Britain L Hamilton Mercedes 191
3 Australia D Ricciardo Red Bull 156
4 Spain F Alonso Ferrari 119
5 Finland V Bottas Williams 110
6 Germany S Vettel Red Bull 98
7 Germany N Hulkenberg Force India 69
8 Great Britain J Button McLaren 66
9 Denmark K Magnussen McLaren 45
10 Brazil F Massa Williams 40
11 Finland K Raikkonen Ferrari 39
12 Mexico S Perez Force India 31
13 France J Vergne Toro Rosso 11
14 France R Grosjean Lotus 8
15 Russia D Kvyat Toro Rosso 7
16 France J Bianchi Marussia 2
17 Germany A Sutil Sauber 0
18 Sweden M Ericsson Caterham 0
19 Venezuela P Maldonado Lotus 0
20 Mexico E Gutierrez Sauber 0
21 Great Britain M Chilton Marussia 0
23 A Lotterer Caterham 0


After 44 of 44 laps
Position Driver Team

Race completed

1 Australia D Ricciardo Red Bull
2 Germany N Rosberg Mercedes
3 Finland V Bottas Williams
4 Finland K Raikkonen Ferrari
5 Germany S Vettel Red Bull
6 Denmark K Magnussen McLaren
7 Great Britain J Button McLaren
8 Spain F Alonso Ferrari
9 Mexico S Perez Force India
10 Russia D Kvyat Toro Rosso
11 Germany N Hulkenberg Force India
12 France J Vergne Toro Rosso
13 Brazil F Massa Williams
14 Germany A Sutil Sauber
15 Mexico E Gutierrez Sauber
16 Great Britain M Chilton Marussia
17 Sweden M Ericsson Caterham
18 France J Bianchi (ret.) Marussia
19 Great Britain L Hamilton (ret.) Mercedes
20 France R Grosjean (ret.) Lotus
21 Venezuela P Maldonado (ret.) Lotus
22 A Lotterer (ret.) Caterham