A generally frustrating day for the Sauber F1 team was underlined by an accident which brought Esteban Gutierrez's afternoon session to a premature end.
The Swiss team, whose future remains the subject of debate in the Suzuka paddock, struggled to pin-point the right set-up on either of its cars through the three hours of practice, and the small amount of progress achieved in the afternoon session was largely due to the continued efforts of Adrian Sutil after Gutierrez went off and hit the barriers inside the first half-hour.
“Unfortunately, I lost the car in turn 13 and, with the speed you get there, it was difficult to avoid an impact,” explained the Mexican, who had managed only nine laps in the session prior to his off, “I am really sorry for the team, and I am sure we will recover for qualifying.
“In the first practice session, we were struggling with the set-up of the car. I think we found a good compromise in the second session, and we will analyse the collected data to get everything ready for tomorrow.”
Head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara confirmed that the accident had probably been the result of driver error.
“Unfortunately, Esteban lost the car in turn 13,” he acknowledged, “On the data, we could not see anything wrong with the car, but we still have to analyse what happened.”
Sutil plugged away to the end of the slightly truncated afternoon session, adding 25 valuable laps to the 19 he achieved before the lunch break, but could lift himself above 17th position as he and the team searched for the right set-up.
“In FP1, we had problems finding a good balance for the car, and the hard tyres didn't work as we had hoped,” he reported, “There was very little grip, which makes it difficult to set a decent lap time.
“For FP2, we made some changes to the set-up of the car, which improved the situation with the hard tyres, but then I struggled with the medium compound. Overall, the balance of the car is just not satisfactory. Our main problems are coming from the power unit, which is disappointing, and, unfortunately, I don't see how we can change that for tomorrow.”
“That was not a good day for us,” Dall'Ara confirmed, “We had issues again with the power unit on Adrian's car, and he had to come into the pits during the first high fuel run in the second free practice because he lost power. We were able to fix the problem by taking oil out....”
The Italian also admitted that the tyre choice for Suzuka had continued to cause problems for the C33.
“In the morning, we had issues with the set-up of the car - we tried to work it out, but we are not quite happy from where we stand at the moment,” Dall'Ara noted, “We struggled to get the hard tyres to work, which has been a problem every time we are allocated the hard compounds, but we were expecting to be in a better position here on this track. What was also disappointing was the fact that the improvement on the medium tyres was not as much as we expected, so there is a lot of work to do.”