Practice makes perfect – Friday in Japan

Formula One practice at stupidly early hours really takes it out of you! I watched both sessions, with a small nap before FP1, between the sessions, and then a longer sleep afterwards.

The McLarens were fastest in both sessions, with first Hamilton then Button leading. But Vettel was always close behind, and I suspect he will still be on pole come qualifying, especially as his fastest FP2 lap was set under yellow flag conditions.
The first session was almost incident free, apart from a wander by Maldonado across the grass. The Venezuelan hit the kerb rather hard coming back on track, causing an oil spike that was misinterpreted by Williams. The team told him to pull over as a precaution, losing a lot of their session. In the final minute of FP1, Sebastian Vettel went wide at the first Degner, and slid along to hit his car into the wall – not too heavily, mind you.
FP2 was slightly more incident-filled. Tonio Liuzzi was the first driver to go out, after some kind of problem saw him pull over. Rubens Barrichello later lost control before Degner 1 and slammed his car rather more thouroughly than Vettel into the wall. A few minutes later, Pastor Maldonado had to pull over at the same spot with electrical problems, leading to Martin Brundle posting a picture of the two cars parked up side-by-side.
As drivers attempted to get through 130R with their DRS wide open – most successfully completed by the Red Bulls, but also by McLaren – this caused some hair rasing moments. Kamui Kobayashi almost lost control of his car, but somehow got it back into his hands and was able to continue. Bruno Senna also spun off the track and was beached in the gravel, but with his engine still running he was able to get some help from the marshalls and keep going (which I’m sure Renault were relieved about). Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock also suffered problems.

In the news:
Lotus/Renault name change – Tony Fernandes and Dany Bahar were all set to arrange a name change, with Lotus becoming Caterham, and Renault becoming Lotus. This was initially agreed upon by the FOTA members, but now several teams have asked the FIA Commission to look into the issue as they are concerned that it will damage F1’s brand image if teams change names too often. It will also cause confusion in the future, if people look back and see one Lotus team in 2010 and 2011, then another for 2012 and beyond.
Unusual prime/option designation for India – Pirelli have switched the usual harder=prime, softer=option rule around for the inaugural Indian GP. The soft compound has been designated prime, while the hard compound will be the option. This means less wastage for teams, who typically end up returning an unusued set of primes (which Pirelli must destroy) at the end of a weekend. Teams get six sets of prime and five of option, though they always go into qualifying with four sets of each to be used then and in the race, so I am not sure it will help. It had been thought that Pirelli would no longer use the hard tyres, but they are being cautious for this first race. Abu dhabi and Brazil will have soft options and medium primes.

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