Russell leads in wet and possibly decisive Suzuka

Russell leads in wet and possibly decisive Suzuka

The Englishman George Russell (Mercedes) was the fastest this Friday in the free practice day for the Japanese Grand Prix, the eighteenth of the F1 World Championship, which was held on the wet track of the Suzuka circuit, where the Spanish Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Fernando Alonso (Alpine) set the sixth and seventh times, respectively, and the Mexican Sergio Pérez (Red Bull), who just won last Sunday in Singapore, the fourth.

Russell, 24 years old and fourth in the World Championship -with two points more than Sainz, who is fifth-, was the fastest on a day marked by rain, which left the track wet in both sessions and set the best time of the day in the second, in which everyone completed their best lap on the intermediate compound tyre. An essay in which the Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull), outstanding leader of the World Cup -who in Japan will have his second opportunity to leave the revalidation of the title mathematically sentenced-, registered third in the time table and in which the two Mercedes were ordered ahead of the two cars of the Austrian team.

In the fast lap of the day, Russell covered the 5,807 meters of the legendary Japanese track in one minute, 41 seconds and 935 thousandths, 235 less than his teammate and compatriot seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, and eight and a half tenths over Verstappen; winner of eleven of the 17 races played and who, after having wasted his first ‘World Cup ball’, is eager to leave it resolved in Suzuka: a circuit owned by Honda, the Red Bull motorcyclist, with which the Austrian team has just strengthened your links.

Japan completes this weekend a ‘double program’ that started the previous one in Marina Bay, where ‘Czech’, third in the World Cup, with 235 points -106 behind his Dutch teammate and only two behind the Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), who finished the day with the eleventh time – signed, with exhibition, his fourth victory in F1: the second of the season, after Monaco. Red Bull could have celebrated with ‘Mad Max’, but ended up celebrating his Mexican partner in Singapore who, like the Japanese Grand Prix, returned to the calendar after two courses absent, due to the covid-19 pandemic.

The first day of the return to contact with the mythical Japanese track -debuting in 1976, at that time providing a certainly exotic touch to the World Cup- did not serve, on paper, for much. The two tests were carried out on wet asphalt and the weather forecasts indicate that this Saturday it will be shot in the dry, without it being clear that it will rain on Sunday.

In a technical circuit, ‘for a driver’, Alonso, who, after chaining ten races in the points, had to retire for the second time in a row in Singapore -due to a new engine problem in his Alpine-, entertained his passionate followers Japanese with the best time of the first training session, in which the Spanish flag waved; with Sainz signing the second time trial.

The double Asturian world champion (2005 and 2006, with Renault), who next year will be an Aston Martin driver, lapped in one minute, 42 seconds and 248 thousandths, three tenths less than the talented driver from Madrid; and with four tenths over the other Ferrari, Leclerc’s, third in the morning test.

Verstappen finished the first training with the tenth time -more than a second- and ‘Checo’ with the sixth, almost two seconds. In a session that started with precipitation tyres, then changed to intermediates and ended, after it rained again, again with extreme rain tyres, in which the German Mick Schumacher – the son of the seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, whose six victories in Japan are unmatched by anyone, suffered an accident, without major physical consequences, but which left his Haas very damaged.

The son of the ‘Kaiser’, who finished seventh in the first act, did not go out on the track in the second session, which lasted an hour and a half -thirty minutes longer than usual-, so that the tires of the next session could also be tested season. Something that, with the wet track, did not happen.

The second training session, in which Sainz -no stranger to the repeated ‘scares’ and walks through the gravel- was one of the first to go out on the track; and Fernando, one of those who rode the least (he did thirteen laps, ten less than his compatriot and twelve less than ‘Checo’, the most active in the session).

The first to install intermediate tires was Russell (1:44.583), who was rewarded with the best time of the day -two and a half seconds down on the previous one-, on a day in which the Mercedes finished ahead of the Red Bull, with Sainz’s Ferrari sixth -behind the other Haas, that of the Danish Kevin Magnussen- and Leclerc’s, eleventh.

Alonso – who signed two of his 32 victories in F1 in Japan: in 2006, in Suzuka; and two years later in Fuji- he registered seventh in the time table for free practice that will be completed this Saturday, hours before qualifying, which will order the starting line-up for Sunday’s race, scheduled for 53 laps and with a route of 307.4 kilometers.

Verstappen, third this Friday, will mathematically be world champion this Sunday, for the second year in a row, as long as he scores eight points more than Leclerc and six more than ‘Checo’.

There are several combinations (among them being sixth, that the Monegasque does not score and that the Mexican does not improve an eighth place), but the easiest of all to memorize, which has already been repeated several times this year, is that the new idol of the Dutch fans win the race with the fastest lap.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.