Nico Rosberg was again quickest in FP2 for the Japanese Grand Prix, edging out team-mate Lewis Hamilton as Kimi Raikkonen showed encouraging pace for Ferrari.
Championship leader Rosberg was quickest in the opening session by nearly a quarter of a second but saw Hamilton cut that gap to just 0.072s on Friday afternoon as teams carried out qualifying simulations. While Red Bull has taken the fight to Mercedes in the last two races, it was Raikkonen who got close to the top two.
Raikkonen's lap of 1:32.573 left him 0.3s adrift of Rosberg and a quarter of a second off Hamilton, with the Finn then enjoying an advantage of half a second over Max Verstappen in fourth place. Sebastian Vettel was only 0.042s slower than Verstappen in fifth having completed his soft tyre run early, while the Red Bull low fuel laps were hampered by a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) period after Esteban Gutierrez stopped on track.
Gutierrez suffered a turbo problem in the opening sector and had to stop on the exit of the Dunlop corner, causing the VSC to be deployed while his car was cleared. The stoppage came when Daniel Ricciardo was starting his flying lap, leaving the Malaysian Grand Prix winner to abort his run and end the session nearly two seconds off the pace in 12th.
Ricciardo later asked for long run pace comparison, being told team-mate Verstappen and Hamilton were closely matched on the hard compound tyre towards the end of the session.
While Gutierrez's running came to an end after 11 laps, Daniil Kvyat was lucky to also not have an early finish to his session as he spun exiting the final corner. The Toro Rosso demolished the DRS board on the outside of the track but the Russian managed to skilfully catch the car and continue without suffering any damage.
Kevin Magnussen also came close to damaging his Renault after running wide at the Turn 11 hairpin, locking up heavily and going straight on, just managing to stop before he reached the barrier. As drivers had been able to during the first session, Magnussen managed to rejoin the track through the gravel. Raikkonen followed suit at the same corner later in the session, though did not run as wide.
Felipe Nasr suffered a spin at the end of the session as the Sauber driver lost the rear of his car entering Spoon. Unlike Fernando Alonso - who finished FP2 eight quickest behind the two Force Indias - in the morning, Nasr stopped before reaching the barrier and returned to the pits.
|04||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:33.061||29|
|06||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:33.570||37|
|07||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:33.873||35|
|10||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:34.086||33|
|12||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:34.150||29|
|14||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:34.305||27|