Mark Webber topped a tight free practice two session in Suzuka in a race that is pivotal to the 2012 championship.
Webber beat Lewis Hamilton to the top spot whilst his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel finished the session third, to demonstrate that Red Bull could be set to dominate the closing races of the season. Nico Hulkenberg finished the session fourth for Force India, but teammate Paul di Resta failed to set a time having crashed causing the session to be red flagged early on.
The incident packed session saw many drivers struggle to control their cars. Michael Schumacher went off at the same corner as di Resta, in an almost identical accident, but was not injured. Both of the Caterham drivers and Sauber drivers had off track excursions along with a number of other drivers including Felipe Massa.
Ferrari were slightly off the pace with Fernando Alonso only managing fifth but he was still within one second of Webber. Romain Grosjean was sixth behind Alonso and FP1 leader Jenson Button finished seventh in the second McLaren. The tight top eight was completed by Bruno Senna for Williams, all drivers in the top eight were within a second of Webber’s time.
Massa finished the session in ninth whilst Schumacher finished tenth in the Mercedes, despite his crash, his teammate Nico Rosberg was 11th. Despite their incidents Sauber finished the session 12th and 13th ahead of Raikkonen who had suffered a KERS issue. The unreliability of the Lotus is beginning to hamper Raikkonen’s chance of winning the drivers championship, and the decision to not run the new rear wing device as it was deemed to offer no advantage will not help either.
Webber will be happy to have topped the session and will hope that this form will continue for the rest of the weekend as he hopes to get his chances of a championship back on track, however unlikely this is.
Red Bull and McLaren are likely to battle for pole position tomorrow, but with all the teams relatively close together it is set to be an interesting qualifying session.