Russell was 0.235s quicker than teammate Hamilton to lead a Mercedes 1-2 in FP2 and conclude a wet day of running as F1 returned to Japan for the first time since 2019.

The Mercedes pair appeared to be in a league of their own in the rain and ended up nearly a second clear of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. 

 

Is Hamilton No Longer the Best Wet Weather Driver?

But with conditions set to dry out for qualifying on Saturday, neither Hamilton or Russell are getting carried away. 

“We got through a bit of running, but I think it’s going to be dry for the rest of the weekend,” said seven-time world champion Hamilton after FP2. 

He added: “If we get it to the dry I imagine the Ferraris and Red Bulls will be quite quick. But I really have no idea. I hope that we’re fast but that’s a hope that continues to be the case each week.” 

Mercedes have struggled with tyre warm up issues this season but seemed to have no problems on the abrasive Suzuka asphalt, something that pleased Hamilton. 

“There’s always things to be taken from it,” he explained. 

“Some of the stuff with set-up, some of the stuff with tyre wear, tyre temperatures and the balance that we’re moving around between sessions. 

“So there’s definitely things to take from it and there’s data on downforce loads and what wing level everyone else is on. 

“On the positive side we were able to switch our tyres on today so we didn’t look slow, so that’s good.”

FP2 pacesetter Russell echoed his teammate’s verdict and is expecting Mercedes to fall back after a competitive start. 

“It’s probably not going to be that representative for this weekend but definitely good learning for the future,” said Russell. “It could be wet on Sunday but it looks pretty dry tomorrow. 

“Nevertheless, it’s always nice to end the day top of the timesheets and definitely made some improvements from FP1 as we were at the bottom of the timesheets. Not a bad afternoon.”

Asked what he thinks is possible in qualifying, Russell replied: “To be honest, no idea because we think it’s going to be dry tomorrow. 

"I think we’ll be fighting as always, for the top six positions. I hope we can have a shot at something better but I truly don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see. 

“FP3 will be a crucial session for everybody and trying to fight for a good position.”