After setting the pace in the first free practice session at Suzuka, Valtteri Bottas continued at the top of the timesheet in FP2, beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a tenth of a second, with Max Verstappen third for Red Bull Racing, just under two tenths further back.
Bottas’s best time came at the second attempt, with the Finn posting a lap of 1:27.785 after his first run was compromised by a spin at the end of his warm-up lap. Bottas lost control of his car out of the final chicane but survived the incident to eventually edge ahead of team-mate Hamilton.
The championship leader’s first run was compromised by Bottas’ spin and when Hamilton got as clean lap his best time came in at 1:27.885, set on his second run.
Max Verstappen gave Red Bull Racing power unit supplier Honda hope of a good result at its home race by getting closest to the dominant Mercedes drivers with the Dutch driver setting a qualifying simulation lap of 1:28.066 to finish 0.281s off the pace. That time put him seven hundredths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Both Leclerc and team-mate Sebastian Vettel made late improvements in the session with the Monegasque driver jumping from the P6 his first quali run had yielded to fourth place behind Verstappen. Vettel, meanwhile, finished two tenths further back after his second run netted a best time of 1:28.376, some six tenths of a second off Bottas’ pace.
Alex Albon steered the second Red Bull Racing RB15 to sixth place ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz who was almost three tenths quicker than Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez.
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly also made a late jump up the order. Until the final minutes the French driver languished outside the top 10, more than two seconds off the pace. A late run improved things, however, and a time of 1:29.354 vaulted him to ninth place, 1.5s off the pace and just fourth thousandths of a second ahead of 10th-placed Lando Norris of McLaren.
The chequered flag brought the curtain on track action at Suzuka until Sunday morning. Earlier in the day the impending arrival of Typhoon Hagibis led circuit owners Mobilityland and ASN the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) to cancel Saturday’s programme.
Qualifying will now be held at 10am local time on Sunday and in the event that the weather leads to the cancellation of qualifying the grid will be formed on the basis of the FP2 classification.
2019 FIA Formula One Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 33 1:27.785
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 34 1:27.885 0.100
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 24 1:28.066 0.281
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 28 1:28.141 0.356
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 37 1:28.376 0.591
6 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 34 1:28.402 0.617
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren 29 1:29.051 1.266
8 Sergio Perez Racing Point 28 1:29.299 1.514
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 34 1:29.354 1.569
10 Lando Norris McLaren 35 1:29.358 1.573
11 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 29 1:29.477 1.692
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 35 1:29.512 1.727
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 28 1:29.553 1.768
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point 27 1:29.597 1.812
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 33 1:29.651 1.866
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 31 1:29.749 1.964
17 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 30 1:29.859 2.074
18 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 29 1:30.334 2.549
19 Robert Kubica Williams 35 1:30.916 3.131
20 George Russell Williams 36 1:31.071 3.286