First blood to rampant Nico Rosberg in Japanese Formula One Grand Prix
The German championship leader beats Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in both practice sessions on Friday at Suzuka
Nico Rosberg gave his wounded teammate Lewis Hamilton plenty to think about by topping the timesheets in both practice sessions on Friday for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The German, who has a 23-point championship lead over Hamilton with five races left this year, pipped the triple world champion by two tenths in the morning sunshine and just 0.072 seconds under cloudy skies in the afternoon.
Rosberg struck a psychological blow in the Formula One title run-in as he chases his fourth win in five races, despite complaining of “monster understeer” in the early jousting between the fierce Mercedes rivals.
“It’s been a case of finding my way today,” said Rosberg. “It looks like we’re ahead of the Ferraris, but it remains to be seen as to where we are compared to the Red Bulls.”
Hamilton has had a tumultuous few days after a blown engine robbed the Briton of victory last weekend in Malaysia.
After controversially hinting that his Malaysia heartbreak was a result of sabotage from within the Mercedes garage, Hamilton barked over the radio that his car was “very low on power” in the morning session.
He improved after lunch but was still unable to match the pace of Rosberg, who is in the form of his life.
“It’s been a really good day with no problems on the car which is great,” said Hamilton, looking to complete a hat-trick of Suzuka wins on Sunday.
“But there’s still some work to be done overnight in order to find more pace.”
Rosberg survived a scare when he emerged from the garage with smoke pouring from his exhaust.
No harm was done, however, as Rosberg set the quickest lap of one minute, 32.250 seconds.
Hamilton followed him out and was quicker in sector one but slower than his teammate in sector two to clock 1:32.322.
Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest in the second session, just three tenths off Rosberg’s pace with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen splitting the Ferraris in fourth, a shade quicker than Sebastian Vettel.
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Force India’s Sergio Perez was sixth quickest, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso clocked the eighth fastest time on engine supplier Honda’s home circuit.