First blood to ram­pant Nico Ros­berg in Ja­pan

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

SUZUKA:

Nico Ros­berg gave his wounded team-mate Lewis Hamil­ton plenty to think about by top­ping the timesheets in both prac­tice ses­sions yes­ter­day for this week­end’s Ja­panese Grand Prix.

The Ger­man, who has a 23-point cham­pi­onship lead over Hamil­ton with five races left this year, pipped the triple world cham­pion by two tenths in the morn­ing sun­shine and just 0.072sec un­der cloudy skies in the af­ter­noon.

Ros­berg struck an early psy­cho­log­i­cal blow as he goes for his fourth win in five races, de­spite com­plain­ing of “mon­ster un­der­steer” in the early joust­ing be­tween the two fierce Mercedes ri­vals.

Hamil­ton, by con­trast, has had a tu­mul­tuous few days af­ter a blown en­gine robbed the Bri­ton of vic­tory last week­end.

Af­ter con­tro­ver­sially hint­ing that his Malaysia heart­break was a re­sult of sab­o­tage from within the Mercedes garage, Hamil­ton barked over the ra­dio that his car was “very low on power” in the morn­ing ses­sion.

He im­proved af­ter lunch but was still un­able to sur­pass the pace of Ros­berg, who is in the form of his life. The For­mula One cham­pi­onship leader sur­vived a scare when he emerged from the garage with smoke pour­ing from his ex­haust. No harm was done, how­ever, as Ros­berg set the quick­est lap of 1min 32.250sec. Hamil­ton fol­lowed him out and was quicker in sec­tor one but slower than his team-mate in sec­tor two to clock 1:32.322. Kimi Raikko­nen was third fastest in the sec­ond ses­sion, just three tenths off Ros­berg’s pace with Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen split­ting the Fer­raris in fourth, a shade quicker than Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

ALONSO DRAMA

Force In­dia’s Ser­gio Perez was sixth quick­est, while McLaren’s Fer­nando Alonso clocked the eighth fastest time on en­gine sup­plier Honda’s home cir­cuit. Aus­tralian Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, who prof­ited from Hamil­ton’s mis­for­tune to lead a Red Bull one-two in Malaysia, missed out on his qual­i­fy­ing prac­tice af­ter the vir­tual safety car was ac­ti­vated but went back out for a long run.

Mex­i­can Este­ban Gu­tier­rez climbed out of his Haas af­ter in­form­ing his pit crew sim­ply: “Okay, some­thing broke.”

Ear­lier, Haas team-mate Ro­main Gros­jean smashed his car into the crash bar­ri­ers but avoided turn­ing the air blue af­ter re­cently promis­ing to stop be­ing “an ass­hole in the car”.

In­stead, the French­man stuck to the facts as he backed out of the gravel, re­port­ing: “The brake doesn’t brake.”

In the af­ter­noon, Gros­jean was still mind­ing his p’s and q’s, po­litely telling his team: “I can­not see the pit­board.”

There was drama for Alonso, run­ning Honda’s lat­est en­gine at Suzuka, as the Spa­niard skid­ded off at the devil­ish ‘Spoon’ curve and man­gled his rear wing. The fo­cus now shifts to to­day’s qual­i­fy­ing as Hamil­ton looks to bounce back from a night­mare week and com­plete a hat-trick of Suzuka vic­to­ries. Mercedes blamed Hamil­ton’s third en­gine fail­ure of the year on a bear­ing prob­lem and the Bri­ton is re­vert­ing to the en­gine he used in Sin­ga­pore this week­end. Ros­berg is us­ing the same power unit he ran in Malaysia. — AFP

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