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Red Bull’s Mark Webber led the way as Formula 1 practice continued at Suzuka on Friday afternoon. The Australian edged out Lewis Hamilton and team-mate Sebastian Vettel in an energetic session which featured accidents for Paul di Resta, Michael Schumacher and Vitaly Petrov. Championship leader Fernando Alonso was fifth.
On a warm and bright day ahead of this weekend’s 15th round of the 2012 season, Jenson Button had led the opening period and a McLaren one-two. This afternoon, drivers experimented with the Soft compound tyres and heavy fuel loads.
Mercedes experienced a dramatic time. Firstly, Nico Rosberg’s engine was changed after he encountered an oil pressure issue at the end of the first session. For Schumacher, new suspension was fitted, but this turned out to be a waste of time as the seven-time World Champion – who announced his retirement yesterday – dropped a wheel into the dirt and crashed at Spoon Curve. This was a carbon copy of di Resta’s incident, which had come just five minutes into the session and ruled the Scot out of action for the rest of the afternoon. Spoon also proved a tricky location for Heikki Kovalainen, whose Caterham spun on its out-lap from the pits.
At Lotus, the Enstone team had hoped that Japan could revitalise Kimi Räikkönen’s championship bid as he prepares to race ‘Double DRS’ for the first time. Not only was there a problem with the device, but also with his KERS which forced the Finn to watch from the garage for no less than 35 minutes. Williams also hit trouble as Pastor Maldonado picked up a huge flat-spot on his right-front tyre, which was seen to smoke heavily in a very unusual manner.
At the sharp end, Webber’s quickest Soft tyre run delivered a leading lap time of 1:32.493 to leave Hamilton two tenths of a second slower. With Vettel and Alonso both inside the top five, fourth position was taken by the ever-impressive Nico Hülkenberg of Force India. Romain Grosjean beat Button to sixth spot as Bruno Senna, Felipe Massa and the crashed Schumacher rounded out the top ten.
Caterham are in need of an 11th place finish to re-take tenth position from Marussia in the Constructors’ Championship. After two off-track moments for Kovalainen, things only worsened as the chequered flag flew. Petrov lost his rear wing on the approach to rapid Turn 1, thankfully coming to rest in the gravel trap before hitting the barriers. Formula 1 governing body the FIA is likely to desire an explanation from the team.
Evening sunshine continues to glow on Suzuka, which is the only figure-of-eight track on the calendar. No rain is expected over the race weekend.
Suzuka’s final practice will commence at 11am local time (BST +8) on Saturday and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
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|1.||M. Webber||Red Bull||01:32.493||34|
|3.||S. Vettel||Red Bull||01:32.836||37|
|4.||N. Hulkenberg||Force India||01:32.987||30|
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|2012 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix|
|9 Oct '12||Williams still pushing for double points finishes|
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|9 Oct '12||Grosjean making extra effort to avoid crashes|
|9 Oct '12||Schumacher hoping to see more Korean fans|
|15 May||Video of the Day: Alonso, Webber on careers|
|6 May||Watson: Red Bull has shown weakness|
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|29 Apr||Video of the Day: Team building at Red Bull|
|22 May||Latest F1 photos: Wednesday in Monaco|
|22 May||Hamilton, Sutil relationship remains frosty|
|22 May||Sutil: We need the final piece of the puzzle|
|22 May||Hamilton certain of progress with tyres|
|More Mark Webber photos|