Sebastian Vettel assumed his now customary place at the head of the timesheets at the end of day one at Suzuka, heading a Red Bull
1-2 in preparation for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The German enjoyed a relatively trouble-free session – something that could not be said for some of his front-running rivals – and ended the second 90-minute outing of the day with nearly two-tenths in hand over RBR team-mate Mark Webber. However, had he not been held up on what appeared to be a better lap, Vettel could have potentially enjoyed a bigger margin over his rivals.
Webber, who was also delayed on his quickest run, was similarly a tenth quicker than the next man up, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, as Red Bull
turned the tables on its main qualifying rival after Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton
had put the Silver Arrows in front in FP1. Hamilton, who suffered a brief moment at the Degners on what would have been his fastest lap, was only sixth fastest, behind the two Lotus drivers.
Kimi Raikkonen took fourth spot for the Enstone team, despite burying his E21 in the gravel at the Dunlop Curve while looking to up the pace late in the session. The Finn, who leaves for Ferrari
at season's end, was 0.35secs off the benchmark time, but still a couple of tenths up on team-mate Romain Grosjean.
Behind Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo put in a strong showing for Toro Rosso, breaking into the top ten as the Italian team looks to take the fight to a resurgent Sauber in the middle of the constructors' championship. The Australian's performance was enough to see off both Ferraris and Jenson Button's McLaren, with the Briton splitting the two scarlet cars in ninth spot.
Alonso's attempts to move up the order were interrupted by a lurid moment at the first Degner, the result of clattering the inside kerb, which required every ounce of the Spaniard's innate skill to keep the car out of the barriers.
Others were not so lucky, with both Pastor Maldonado
– who also lost a wheel in FP1 - and Sergio Perez having their sessions curtailed by early accidents, while Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil
could have come off worse after vaulting the kerbs at the final chicane. Jules Bianchi
was already ruled out of the session after damaging his car in an FP1 accident at Degner. Maldonado managed just six laps in the afternoon before being added to the list of casualties at Degner, while Perez made heavy side-on contact with the barriers at Spoon after putting a wheel off the tarmac.
Esteban Gutierrez claimed eleventh spot in the order after finding perhaps the biggest gain on the session, putting the Sauber driver ahead of STR's Jean-Eric Vergne, team-mate Nico Hulkenberg
and the two Force Indias.