The opening day of practice for the Japanese Grand Prix was severely compromised by rain with most opting to save tyres and restrict running to a minimum. Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi ended the afternoon first and third respectively for the Mercedes-powered Force India team, while
for many it was the first time at Suzuka as they looked to get to grips with the 5.807km circuit for the first time.
1 . A. Sutil - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"I've had a lot of experience at this track from 2006 when I was here in Japanese F3 and I really like this circuit. It's a great track with lots of fast and high speed corners and a nice flow. We didn't get the chance to do much driving today unfortunately. It was a really easy session this afternoon - just 10 minutes and my first lap was P1! This morning we did just 14 laps and things went quite well. I was confident we would be back on the pace in Suzuka and at the moment it looks like this: overall we are looking much better than in Singapore. But still nobody really knows the score about the weather and dry set-ups so it will be an interesting weekend for sure."
2 . S. Vettel - Red Bull Renault RB5
“In P1 it was too dry for the extreme wets and by the end, also for the inters, but it was too wet for the dry tyres too. I think the general problem today for all is that teams are short of wet tyres – whatever you use today has to also count as part of your allocation for the weekend, which is why not many cars were running. In P2 there was a lot of water on the circuit at the start, so no-one wanted to take the risk of maybe doing something stupid. Towards the end of the session the rain became lighter, so we went out to check everything was good with the car. The circuit is fun to drive here, even in the wet. Let’s hope for more consistent conditions tomorrow, but I think we have a competitive package whatever the weather, so let’s see.”
3 . V. Liuzzi - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"Today was quite a positive day even though the weather didn't help us. It was a difficult situation and tomorrow it seems like it is going to change again. Overall the car worked very well in the wet weather conditions and also with the intermediate tyre balance and finally in the last five minutes we could try the extreme wet balance too. Everything is responding and working well, although we do know tomorrow could be different if the weather changes, but we are optimistic."
4 . L. Hamilton - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
“This is the best track I’ve ever driven. It’s something very special for me and I had a great time today, even though it was wet. We didn’t do much running – we weren’t supposed to be running this afternoon, but I couldn’t help it: I just had to go out and have a little bit of fun. I’ve heard it’s going to be dry for the race, I’m just looking forward to getting out there in the dry and seeing how fast you can push around here.”
5 . K. Nakajima - Williams Toyota FW31
“Not a great day in terms of weather, but in terms of results it was okay. We didn’t get many laps in, but those we did get gave us a good platform for any potential wet weather running over the weekend. It looks positive, so hopefully we’ll be in the same position tomorrow for qualifying, but in the dry, preferably!”
6 . S. Buemi - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4
“I really liked my first day driving this track, even though it was so wet. It’s a fantastic circuit. Anyway, it’s useful to drive in the rain and we can see from this morning’s session, when everyone went out, that we have quite a quick car in these conditions. We have some new parts so we have to be sure we don’t get any reliability problems and so far it’s been okay on that front.”
7 . F. Alonso - Renault R29
“Today we couldn’t do many laps because of the heavy rain, but we think it will be a dry race so we limited our running. We are happy with the car and there are no problems, but tomorrow we will start the real work and everything will be new once again for everyone.”
8 . J. Trulli - Toyota TF109
"There's not much to say after that. Unfortunately for all our Japanese fans the weather severely limited our running today. I hope we have better weather tomorrow so we can put on a better show for them. The car didn't feel too bad in the wet but it is difficult to comment too much on it because of the conditions."
9 . J. Alguersuari - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4
“It was good to get a feel for the car in the wet and we made progress, even though I wasn’t pushing too hard, but at least we know how the car works on the intermediate and extreme wets. I felt quite comfortable and I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend. I hope we get a dry session tomorrow morning, so we can improve. My first impression of Suzuka is that it’s really nice. You can feel a lot of grip in the fast corners in the wet, so I think it should be amazing in the dry. With the downforce we have and, now on slick tyres, I think everyone’s lap times in the dry will be much quicker than in 2006.”
10 . R. Kubica - BMW Sauber F1.09
“It is really good to be back in Suzuka. The track is amazing to drive on. Unfortunately the weather conditions were far from ideal today as we could not run at all in the dry. In the morning we did a couple of laps on full wet and also intermediate tyres just to check the balance of the car. The weather conditions during the afternoon session were even worse than in the morning, as there was really lots of water on the track.
Preparing for tomorrow will be a bit of a guessing game, as the weather forecast predicts dry conditions for tomorrow.”
11 . K. Raikkonen - Ferrari F60
“The conditions were very difficult today: let’s hope the situation changes for tomorrow and that we will be able to run in the dry. This morning, the track was changing continually, so it was difficult to understand where we were compared to the others. I concentrated mainly on the car, trying to understand its handling and I think the situation is reasonably good. We will have to try everything to defend our third place in the constructors’ classification: it will be difficult because the McLarens are very strong and in Singapore they got a great result, although they have not yet got ahead of us. How was the track after three years away? It’s impossible to compare: the tyres and cars are too different to those from 2006.”
12 . K. Kobayashi - Toyota TF109
"It was important not to make any mistakes because I wanted to complete as many laps as possible, for me and the team. I wasn't pushing 100% due to the wet conditions but still the lap times were pretty good, especially considering I don't have much experience of this track and haven't driven here for six years. The car feels like it has improved a lot since I last drove it in February. It's difficult to judge in the wet but I was really impressed with how much development has been done in that time."
13 . M. Webber - Red Bull Renault RB5
“Today was all about the conditions. We’ve only got a certain amount of wet tyres that we can use during a race weekend, so we can’t just run round in the wet for the sake of it. We have to do what we can in the laps that we have available on those tyres. The start of P2 was very wet and it wouldn’t have been possible to learn a great amount – but we did a few laps at the end of the session to get an idea of where we’re going.”
14 . R. Grosjean - Renault R29
"With the rain today it was not a great free practice, which is a shame. I did my best to complete some laps and to learn the circuit as this is my first time at Suzuka, although in the second session I only completed a few laps. I think we will have to wait for the weather to improve tomorrow to continue with our work.”
15 . G. Fisichella - Ferrari F60
“The day was all about the rain that however should not be a factor on Sunday, which makes everything more complicated. I am pleased with the way the session went this morning, because I quickly had quite a good feeling for the car in the wet and managed to improve with every passing lap, running at the same pace as the best. We hope to improve compared to Singapore, but we know that will be difficult.”
16 . N. Rosberg - Williams Toyota FW31
“Today was just a matter of trying out the tyres in order to get an understanding of where the change over points are and how the inters and full wets are working, degradation-wise. What was clear was that I pretty much destroyed the wets when the track dried out. With the information from both cars, we now have a good understanding of what is going on.”
17 . N. Heidfeld - BMW Sauber F1.09
“Certainly there wasn’t much to learn today. I feel sorry for the many Japanese fans who stayed out in the grandstands despite the nasty weather but didn’t get much to watch.”
18 . H. Kovalainen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
“This morning the track was in a better condition than it was in the afternoon so we decided not to go out in second practice. We think tomorrow and Sunday will be dry so we didn't want to risk any damage to the car in these tricky conditions. We also felt that we wouldn’t benefit at all from doing any additional running. In the morning, it was not so bad – it was drying out quite well so we could also use the Intermediate tyre, which worked well. I like this track, it has some very good corners and the grip level is very high. Obviously, the Japanese make very good Tarmac as this was also the case in Fuji!”
19 . J. Button - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"I feel sorry for the fans at Suzuka today but unfortunately we can't get any useful information in these conditions with so much water on the track. We spent the morning session working on the balance of the car with the wet and intermediate tyres to ensure that we are prepared if the same wet weather does continue over the weekend. It was important to achieve some running and it feels good to be back at Suzuka. This is a great drivers' track so hopefully we'll get some dry running tomorrow."
20 . R. Barrichello - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"As we expected, the rain came to Suzuka today and it led to an unusually quiet opening day of practice. The morning session wasn't too bad but the rain this afternoon was heavy enough to create small rivers on parts of the track and there was nothing to be gained by going out. The limited running makes for a much more interesting and challenging day tomorrow however as getting the right set-up quickly will be very important. Whether it proves to be dry or wet tomorrow, we will need to study the data from today and be focused tomorrow morning to ensure we are well prepared for qualifying."