By Alex Kapadia
Red Bull racer Sebastian Vettel set the pace during the opening practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix today on both sets of Bridgestone tyres.
The soft tyres took Vettel to the fastest lap of the sinuous Suzuka Circuit during the afternoon session, while earlier in the day he had also set the fastest time with the hard tyre.
Hirohide Hamashima, director of motorsport tyre development for Bridgestone, said that both compounds for the race were looking “strong”, but that wet tyres would also come into play at some point over the weekend.
Hamashima continued: “We saw exciting running today as this year’s cars and drivers tackled the delights of Suzuka, which can certainly catch out the unwary. The circuit surface improved through the day as we would expect. We saw some drivers have issues in the Degner Curve, especially when the circuit was dirtier in the morning.
“There is also a change of track surface here from the more abrasive older tarmac to the smoother, newer tarmac and this presents a good challenge. Overall this was a strong Friday tyre performance at the location where we tested our first Formula 1 tyres.
“Both compounds worked well today. We saw some graining, with a little more on the front than the rear, however nothing of particular concern. Of more concern is the weather as I think that rain is a strong possibility and that would certainly provide additional challenges. If it were to remain dry I think that a new lap record might be on the cards, but it is a game of chance with the weather,” he concluded.