Unless the weather again favors the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, a successful Friday has not fooled them into believing the Japanese Grand Prix weekend will go their way.
Russell and teammate Hamilton finished first and second for Mercedes in Friday’s second practice session after dominating the drizzly Suzuka track.
Although there is a chance of more rain on Sunday, Russell and Hamilton downplayed Mercedes’ chances of winning the race on Saturday due to the expected dry conditions for qualifying.
“I believe we will compete as usual for the top six spots. I sincerely don’t know, but I hope we can try for something better,” Russell said.
“FP3 will be a critical session for everyone; we’ll have to wait and see.
“There’s a chance that it might rain on Sunday, but it should be dry tomorrow. Nonetheless, it’s nice to end the day at the top of the timesheet.
Since we were at the bottom of the timesheets in FP1, “we definitely made some improvements.”
Analysis: Verstappen and Red Bull’s genius made Formula One boring.
By Kevin Garside, ’s chief sports correspondent
Red Bull’s separation puts the world in danger. Ferrari and Red Bull went head-to-head in the opening race of the season, with the Ferrari favoring big torque out of corners over straight-line speed.
It seemed the theorists had done their job in those early races when Verstappen and Charles Leclerc dueled with vigor, fostering conditions for closer racing and giving birth to what appeared to be a championship as intense and long-lasting as the one that came before it.
Leclerc won easily at each to take a 43-point lead in the standings. Wow, we thought, a Ferrari victory after 15 years. That’ll work. Verstappen then achieved ten victories in 13 races.
His dominance, a huge source of pride for the Red Bull team, caused a corresponding power surge in homes all over the world as spectators sought solace in a boiling kettle.
With a lead of over 100 points, there is a sense of urgency in Japan to finish it off so that we can at least delude ourselves into thinking that 2023 will bring better times.
Read Kevin Garside’s analysis in full here
“Looking ahead to tomorrow [Saturday], I don’t really know what to expect,” Hamilton continued.
“I really, really have no idea. If it gets dry, I imagine that the Ferraris and Red Bulls will be quick.
“I hope we’re quick, but I hold out hope every week,” the speaker said. On the plus side, we were able to put our tires on today, which made us appear to be moving quickly.
Mercedes’ hopes of taking home the first GP victory of 2022 are merely a diversion from the fact that Max Verstappen, who is currently leading the championship, could win it in Japan with four races remaining.
How to watch Japanese Grand Prix 2022
All times BST
Saturday 8 October
Sunday 9 October
TV: Sky Sports F1 will have on-track action, analysis, and interviews. Sky Sports Main Event will also have some coverage.
Live stream: For current Sky Go customers, watch on the NOW app on their smartphone, tablet, or smart TV (£33.99 per month; £11.98 for a 24-hour pass).
Highlights: On Saturday at 10:15 a.m., Channel 4 will air qualifying highlights. On Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 4 will air GP highlights.
Verstappen had a chance to win last weekend, but a P7 finish made it seem like the inevitable would take longer. This weekend, however, he has a better set of circumstances that would allow him to win the championship again, including a race win with the fastest lap bonus point, regardless of how Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez fare.
There are still additional issues to be resolved, and there are still four Grands Prix to be held: in the US, Mexico, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi.
At the Singapore Grand Prix, McLaren passed Alpine to move up to fourth in the constructor standings, setting up an exciting battle in the remaining five races of 2022.
When the F1 circus moves to Austin next, Haas’ Mick Schumacher will be hoping to build on a disappointing Friday in which he crashed in practice to support his contract extension talks.