Japanese GP: Rosberg pips Hamilton in FP2

Nico Rosberg made it a Suzuka Friday practice double, by getting the better of team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.072, with Kimi Raikkonen best of the rest, keeping the Mercedes honest.

Japanese GP: Rosberg pips Hamilton in FP2
After a Friday double, Nico Rosberg will be hoping to make it three Suzuka poles in a row tomorrow. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

After enjoying a 0.215 gap to team-mate Lewis Hamilton in opening practice, Nico Rosberg's advantage was just 0.072 in the afternoon session, as a 1:32.250 was enough to secure top spot.

Behind the Mercedes, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen kept them honest after their domination of FP1, by ending up just 0.323 down on the fastest time that the W07 set. Max Verstappen split the Ferrari's in fourth, with Sebastian Vettel just 0.042 behind him in fifth.

Force India enjoyed another strong session, with ​Sergio Perez sixth and ​Nico Hulkenberg seventh, reversing their positions from the opening session. Fernando Alonso kept the home crowd content with another promising session for McLaren, in eighth, as Valterri Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jr rounded out the top 10 for Williams and Toro Rosso respectivly.

Daniel Ricciardo was unable to set a fast lap time on the Soft tyre as a virtual safety car spoiled his lap, which left him languishing in 12th place.

Busy opening to session

Free Practice 2 is usually split into running on the hardest tyre available for the first 35-40 minutes and then a switch to the softest available compound to run race-pace simulations. As the weather in Suzuka was dry and clear, if a little cool, the second 90 minutes of practice followed this now rountine format.

Kevin Magnussen was the first to go off track, doing so at the hairpin, and dragging his Renault through the kitty litter, before Daniil Kvyat, minus his octopus from FP1 did a perfect 360 spin on the pit-straight, after running wide on T18 exit.

Rosberg also had an early scare, when he noticed that his Mercedes PU was billowing more smoke from the exhaust than usual, but was reassured by race engineer Tony Ross that everything was ok, and that the oil tanks had just been filled a little too much.

Meanwhile, out on track, Hamilton had the early advantage over the sister W07 Hybrid, before Vettel was the first of the front runners to switch to the Soft tyre for the simulations. He clocked a 1:33.103, to move 0.3 clear of the Mercedes. This lap time indicated that the Ferrari had a tyre delta, the difference between two compounds of around one second from the medium to soft tyre.

As the Mercedes duo geared up for their Qualifying simulation run, it was Rosberg who came out on top, with the 1:32.250 that Hamilton just failed to beat, with his best effort a 1:32.322.

As Ricciardo was going for his run, ​Esteban Gutierrez ​ground to a halt in the Haas ​exiting the Dunlop Curve, a turbo issue was the problem. The place where he stopped was poignant. For as the VSC was deployed to cover the marshals and tractor on track, the vehicle came from the very place where two-years ago, Jules Bianchi had his ultimately fatal crash. Bianchi's legacy is the VSC and to see it in action at that very spot was a very powerful image.

Stopping on the exit of Dunlop, Esteban Gutierrez's Haas brought out a very poignant VSC. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)
Stopping on the exit of Dunlop, Esteban Gutierrez's Haas brought out a very poignant VSC. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

After the VSC had gone in, there was no further major talking points, as drivers simply continued to put their cars through the required simulations.

Japanese Grand Prix - Second Practice times
Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1;32.250
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.072
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.323
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.811
5. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.853
6. Sergio Perez Force India +1.320
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1.623
8. Fernando Alonso McLaren +1.735
9. Valterri Bottas Williams +1.778
10. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +1.836
11. Felipe Massa Williams +1.877
12. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.900
13. Romain Grosjean Haas +1.991
14. Danill Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.055
15. Kevin Magnussen Renault +2.089
16. Jenson Button McLaren

+2.148

17. Esteban Gutierrez Haas +2.393
18. Jolyon Palmer Renault +2.510
19. Felipe Nasr Sauber +2.574
20. Pascal Wehrlein Manor +3.042
21. Esteban Ocon Manor +3.150
22. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +4.068