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Page last updated at 06:58 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 07:58 UK

Japan GP practice as it happened


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By Caroline Cheese

0742: You lot have been marvellous. I'm planning a two-sleep strategy ahead of tomorrow's action, which begins at 0300 BST with final practice. I'll let you know how it goes. Ta ta.

0737: Well, that was fun wasn't it? All that rain means that tomorrow's qualifying should be very interesting, if as expected it's dry. The likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel will experience a dry Suzuka for the first time.

0734: A deserved bonus for the long-suffering crowd as the drivers come round to the grid and practice their starts.

0732: And it is indeed the mighty Adrian Sutil who finishes P1. Sebastien Vettel is second, but his fellow title challengers, Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, opted to stay dry and haven't posted a lap. Neither has Heikki Kovalainen, who went quickest in first practice.

Chequered flag
0730: Session over. Unless there are some latecomers, Adrian Sutil will take the headlines in session two.

0727: Jarno Trulli slithers off onto the grass, but does well to get back on the black stuff. Kazuki Nakajima lights up the timing board and goes top with a 1:48.983.

0723: Considering that absolutely nothing happened for most of this session, it has flown by. Only seven minutes remain. Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, Nick Heidfeld the one-two-three. Lewis Hamilton practices his start as he gets to the end of the pit lane.

0720: Fact from BBC commentator David Croft: eight of the 24 Japanese Grands Prix have been rain-affected. This one doesn't look like it will be though: Sunday is forecast to be dry.

0718: Fernando Alonso emerges from the pits and nonchalantly slices eight seconds off the only other time on the board so far, by Jaime Alguersuari.

From albertojb on Twitter: "Re 0656: So, if Renault is looking for an experienced driver, could they be bidding for Barrichello too?"

Jaime Alguersuari on the Toro Rosso radio: "There's a big river going into turn eight, which is quite dangerous. You lose control of all of the car. I was lucky because I was not pushing."

0708: Renault's Romain Grosjean goes for a short spin. Hopefully this will encourage a few more drivers to give it a go. The more cars on the track, the drier it will become.

0704: "The rain is slower but the rivers are longer," a lyrical Jaime Alguersuari radios back to Toro Rosso.

0702: THERE'S A CAR ON THE TRACK! It's Fernando Alonso. Back to Toyota, Howett says they are interested in bringing Robert Kubica to the team, but they expect to have competition from Renault and Sauber, if they are still in F1.

Toyota boss John Howett: "I'm sure we're going to be here next season. We're working flat out on the 2010 car."

0656: Jaime Alguersuari is the picture of boredom in the Toro Rosso garage. I know how he feels. Sorry folks. This is duller than dull.

Renault race engineer Alan Permane on how to replace Fernando Alonso: "It's very difficult. He's a phenomenal talent. He knows the car so well and knows what he wants so well. You need an experienced driver, who can help develop the car."

0651: All you lot just waking up and wondering what happened to Timo Glock, I'm not telling you. That'll teach you for getting up at a reasonable hour. Oh go on then: he's got a sniffle, and Kamui Kobayashi is Japanese.

0647: A wag in one of the garages has sent a paper boat sailing down the river in the pit lane. A spoilsport marshal puts a swift end to the fun by picking it up and putting it in the bin. The Force India mechanics seem particularly amused by all this, and the finger of origami suspicion points to them.

0644: Yep, still raining.

Jenson Button on Twitter: "Would love to go out and do a few laps but F1 cars can't run with this much water on the track, we will all end up in the gravel at turn one!"

0637: Surely they could relax the tyre ruling for situations such as these? V depressing. Maybe Lewis's missus can lead everyone in a sing-song a la Cliff at Wimbledon? On second thoughts...

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt tweeting from Suzuka: "Rain, rain and more rain. Water is welling along the track AND EJ has arrived at BBC HQ in a green camouflage hat and coat and pink trainers."

It's raining
0627: BBC weatherman - and F1 aficionado - Ian Fergusson has emailed with the gloomy news that this weather is going nowhere. Final practice on Saturday is also set to be wet, but qualifying should be dry as well as the race.

0624: Ho-hum. You've got to feel sorry for the poor souls who have tickets for today. Not only are they getting soaked to the skin, they're watching a completely empty track.

0621: Heidfeld says he has forgiven Adrian Sutil after his fellow German took him out of the race in Singapore. "We can laugh about it now. Everything has been sorted. I spoke to him straight after I'd been to see the stewards. Thinks like that shouldn't happen but they will always happen in F1."

0617: I don't care how much they cost, I want some Kazuki cookies. And I want them now. Meanwhile, BMW's Nick Heidfeld reckons rain is forecast for today and tomorrow's final practice session. "It would be very exciting to go into qualifying with your first very dry laps. You would have to guess your set-up a bit."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt at Suzuka: "Re 0604: Ahh Caroline I thought you might like the Kazuki cookies. But I'm not sure they're worth £7."

Jenson Button on Twitter: "Very wet practice session this morning... Spent most of the time finding a balance and making sure we don't damage the wet tyres."

Kovalainen on his McLaren future: "I still think there is a good chance [of staying at McLaren], but of course it might not be the only option."

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen: "It's tough because we don't have enough tyres. If we had more, I'm sure everyone would go out, but everyone is concerned it might rain tomorrow and Sunday - although the forecast doesn't suggest that. It's a great circuit. Even in the wet, the grip was actually pretty good. I look forward to trying it when it's dry."

Lee McKenzie
Lee McKenzie with a Button cushion. But where are the Kazuki cookies?
0604: How strange. Just as I was typing the Nakajima biscuits challenge for Sarah Holt, she was emailing me the following... "News filtered in to BBC HQ during first practice that there were official Jenson Button biscuits on sale in Suzuka. So pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie and I put on our rain-proof investigative journalist hats to find out. We ventured behind the main grandstand to the marketplace which was buzzing with eager fans, despite the soggy weather. There we found the famous Button biscuits on sale for 1,000 yen (£7) as well as Kazuki Nakajima cookies. The Brawn stand was also offering Jenson Union Jack towels (£26) and a Button cushion (£19) but oddly weren't stocking any Rubens Barrichello merchandise."

0600: Et voila. The green light is on. Jaime Alguersuari braves the wet first.

0559: So far this season, BBC Sport's Sarah Holt has refused to go on the Nurburgring rollercoaster and turned down the water slides at the Hungaroring. I'm starting to wonder if she's any sort of journalist at all, but surely she can't turn down this small task? Buy me some Kazuki Nakajima biscuits. That's all.

0557: I can see rivers of water running down the pit lane. This is not good. If you're out there, drop me a text on 81111 or tweet me. I have a feeling it could be a quiet session.

0553: One of my esteemed colleagues has been busy during the break finding out about Kamui Kobayashi, who's filling in for cold-stricken Timo Glock today. He was born on 13 September 1986, making him the the fourth youngest driver on the grid, after Buemi, Alguersuari and Vettel. He was signed up by the Toyota Young Drivers Programme at 14. He finished 16th in GP2 both this season and the one before.

0548: You know how it was drizzling at Suzuka earlier? It's now absolutely chucking it down. Brawn's Rubens Barrichello has already tweeted that they won't be running a lot in the second session. "Rain, rain, rain," he summarises. Brilliant.

0545: I'm back and buzzing - the exact opposite of our publishing system, which appears to have ground to a juddering halt. I'm apologising in advance.

0343: Righto. Time to top up the caffeine levels before we go again at 0530 BST. I very much hope to see you then.

0340: Actually, I tell a lie: I have learnt how to spell the Toyota boss's name, and that you can get strawberry muffins. I'm still baffled as to how the blueberry muffin came to dominate the muffin market though.

0335: Behind H-Kov (that'll never catch on) are: Nakajima, Sutil, Fisichella, Buemi and Hamilton. As for the title contenders, Rubens Barrichello is ninth, Sebastien Vettel 17th and Jenson Button 18th. What have we learnt? Not a lot.

0333: Kazuki Nakajima is pipped at the death by Heikki Kovalainen, who could do with making a point this weekend given that he seems set to lose his seat at McLaren.

Chequered flag
0330: The chequered flag is out. Antonio Liuzzi takes a small detour in his Force India. Still a few drivers on fliers...

0326: Toyota boss John Howett did also reveal that Glock's temperature is over 39C so they thought a day in the wet at Suzuka wasn't the best idea. The poor love. However, Howett is confident Glock will be back in the car on Saturday.

0325: Track drying out, and it's switcheroo time at the top. Hamilton, then Buemi - and now that man, Kazuki Nakajima.

BBC Sport pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "I have news on Timo Glock's "man-flu" claims. I interviewed Timo yesterday and he told me that all the air-conditioning from Singapore and Japan has brought on air-con flu! He was still in good spirits though and will be back in action come Saturday. The Toyota driver has had a very busy week doing PR work and fan events in Tokyo. Watch the live qualifying show on Saturday at 0500 - or the replay at 1300 - to find out more."

Toyota boss John Howett on Kamui Kobayashi's drive: "Very good. He didn't know he was going to drive until 30 or 40 minutes before the session, and he's good. I think he and Trulli are running similar fuel levels. It's too early to say [if we're thinking about him for next year]."

From "Rocky" Richards via text on 81111: "And I am really in Philly in a grubby grey tracksuit having played out my Rocky fantasy (I was a little slower up the steps...) sitting in the Four Seasons enjoying the text coverage!"

0316: Ah. Turns out Sutil's time wasn't unbeatable after all. Imagine that. Heikki Kovalainen is now up top. Of the title contenders, Seb Vettel is ninth, Jenson Button 13th and Rubens Barrichello 18th. Don't read anything into that though.

Text in your views on 81111
From Daw, Scotland, via text on 81111: "Re 0254: Sarah, foreigners aren't expected to know full Japanese etiquette so a simple nod of the head is a nice informal reply."

0312: Woo-hoo. Live text hero Adrian 'Super' Sutil rockets to the top of the leaderboard with a simply unbeatable 1:41.958.

0307: Sorry Dave. Heikki Kovalainen goes top with a 1:42.495, and a nation weeps. Still 22 minutes for Kazuki Nakajima to give the crowds something to cheer. Kamui Kobayashi isn't doing too badly either. He's ninth quickest.

Text in your views on 81111
From Dave via text on 81111: "Hi Cheese, I texted earlier (0146) regarding keeping me up to date with practice. The text was 100% true, I was in a club called Korova . Thankfully I'm safely back at home now (Thursday nights are usually quite quiet in Aberdeen) and I can now enjoy the rest of the Grand Prix practice without any loud music getting in the way!!"

0303: Toro Rosso's frisky Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari tries an overtaking manoeuvre on Giancarlo Fisichella. Fisi says no.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Suzuka: "After the steamy heat, immaculate surroundings and upside-down working hours in Singapore, it's fair to say adjusting to Japan's idiosyncrasies is taking some getting used to. I made my first mistake when the bank rejected my request to withdraw 100 yen - although given that £1 = 142, maybe that hiccup was my fault. BBC HQ is baffled by the heated toilet seats, replete with enough extra spray features to impress Formula 1's technical bods, while deciphering menus and road signs is also confusing. We are all agreed, however, that our hosts are super friendly. I'm still wondering what the proper response is to the bow I receive every time I enter the media centre. Any ideas?"

0254: What is it about the blueberry that makes it such a perfect match for a muffin? You don't see strawberry muffins do you? Or plum muffins? I find it troubling. Track has dried out significantly now, and all 20 cars have put a time on the board. Rock bottom Robert Kubica is more than six seconds off the pace set by Kazuki Nakajima.

0251: As I understand it, Webber and Vettel are confirmed for Red Bull in 2010. Not sure what this mysterious "something else" is you refer to, Paul. Lewis Hamilton still quickest... NO. It's Kazuki Nakajima now. Hang on, I think I know what's going on here.

Text in your views on 81111
From Paul in Nottingham, via text on 81111: "Re 0240: So, Jensen and Nico in Brawns for next year and if Webber does something else, then Red Bull really should make a play for Rubens, awesome!"

0247: And Lewis Hamilton is now P1. Ted Kravitz reports that Williams have a "new double diffuser and new front wing with new endplates and some new brake ducts". Ooh, check them out...

0244: Crikey. Sebastien Vettel slices a whopping two seconds off Fernando Alonso's time. The German, experiencing Suzuka for the first time in an F1 car, is now top with a 1:43.218. Lewis Hamilton is on the charge though.

0240: Right, I've avoided it long enough. Hopefully, you've all been playing fantasy F1 this week following confirmation of Nando's move to Ferrari. This is as far as I got: Ferrari (Alonso, Massa), McLaren (Raikkonen, Hamilton), Brawn (Button, Rosberg), Renault (Kubica, Kovalainen), Williams (Barrichello, Hulkenberg). Feel free to shoot me down.

0236: And Nando promptly sticks his Renault at the top with a 1:46.152. Toyota's Kamui Kobayashi has registered a quick lap, but it's only good enough for 12th.

0235: Fernando Alonso flirts with a wall as he runs onto the grass at the hairpin, but the Spaniard manages to avoid it.

BBC pit-late reporter Ted Kravitz: "I believe Lewis Hamilton is asking Pedro de la Rosa for driving tips around Suzuka. The world champion has come back from his first run and he's now going through the telemetry with De La Rosa."

0231: "On the whole, everything is working," Seb Vettel tells his Red Bull team. "But, yeah, I was struggling for grip so I had to abort the lap." That'll be the rain, I reckon.

0227: Six times on the board now: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Kovalainen, Fisichella and Grosjean.

0226: Some joker on Twitter has just tried to persuade me that Kamui Kobayashi's favourite food is cheese. That's not true. However, this is: he owns a Yorkshire terrier called Alfred.

BBC Sport's pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "I am really pleased that Kamui Kobayashi is getting his chance for Toyota this morning, especially at his home race. He is a great guy and when I spoke to him yesterday he was saying how happy he was to be back in Japan as he has lived in Paris for the last few years. I was asking where his prize Yorkshire terrier Alfred is and he told me he's left him in France with friends. Kamui has had a tough season in GP2 but he can be a pretty quick driver and is the current GP2 Asia champion. I hope he makes the best of this morning."

More from Red Bull team boss Christian Horner: "One thing this season has taught me is 'who knows?' Every weekend someone has popped up and been competitive. We were unfortunate not to finish in second in Singapore. Sebastien has a very narrow chance of winning the championship but he'll still go for it while it's mathematically possible. But our priority is to win the race."

0220: Heikki Kovalainen is the first man to appear on the board with a 1:52.546... he is swiftly beaten by an embarrassing 2.8 seconds by McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

0217: What a very British live text commentary this is. Some more weather chat, this time from Red Bull boss Christian Horner: "The biggest problem we've all got is we're limited on tyres. With rain forecast today and tomorrow, all teams will be looking to preserve tyres. It might well be that the first dry lap the guys get to do is in qualifying."

QuinnsDiscoPnts on Twitter: "Don't feel lonely, there are people like me in every F1 factory... most of them probably following your text commentary!"

Brawn's Rubens Barrichello on Twitter: "Lots of rain here... we are not running a lot in this first session."

0208: Hot news from Renault: they've managed to get some T-shirts printed without the ING logo. Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli is chatting to BBC pit-lane reporter Holly Samos. The Italian reports that his man-flu is getting better, and that he won't be doing much driving this morning.

From Andrew via text on 81111: "Re 0149: I can relate to Lewis Hamilton's computer-game Suzuka-love - I always used to see if I could crash off the bridge onto the track below. Never managed it though."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Suzuka: "Are you all awake then? It feels like a dozy start to the day here too as team BBC woke up in Suzuka surrounded by thick fog and rain, as if things aren't disorientating enough in the far away islands of Japan. The weather has started to lift here. It is 20C and the rain has eased off, not even drizzling I'd say. The medium downforce track with its mix of high and low-speed corners is expected to suit the Red Bulls while the Force Indias are also hopeful of going well here."

0202: BBC 5 Live's Anthony Davidson, like myself, is pondering whether Timo Glock's cold might not be all that bad... Kamui Kobayashi is Japanese. So are Toyota. This Grand Prix is in Japan. You do the math(s).

0200: Green light's on and Sebastien Vettel gets out first for a quick look at the circuit. Plenty of spray as he tip-toes round.

BBC 5 Live's David Croft: "I'm not expecting a huge amount of running. A McLaren team member told me to expect to see a lot of tea drunk in the first 90 minutes."

0153: Elliot, I don't know what you're on about. It's an absolute pleasure to be here. It really is. No, it is. Really. Now then, I have some news for you: Timo Glock has got a "heavy cold and fever"* and won't be in his Toyota today, so Kamui Kobayashi fills in.
* ie man flu

From Elliot via text on 81111: "Caroline, what did you do to get stuck with this duty? Rubens will win in Brazil, so Jenson really needs to beat him here."

0149: I've discovered today that I have something in common with both Lewis Hamilton and Seb Vettel. I've never raced an F1 car at Suzuka. The last two Japanese Grands Prix have been hosted by Fuji - but 2009 sees Suzuka's famous figure-of-eight circuit return. "It feels like I've been waiting my whole life to race at Suzuka," says the ever excitable Hamilton. "I'll be really excited when practice starts on Friday morning. Ever since I was a kid, I've raced Suzuka on computer games - and while it kind of gives you an idea of how the circuit goes, nothing can beat the real thing."

0146: I'm 99% sure that last text is untrue, but hey, I'm in a beggars can't be choosers situation here, and at least it was polite. If you, like anon, find yourself stuck in a nightclub in Aberdeen, please do drop me a text on 81111 or get involved on Twitter.

From anon via text on 81111: "I'm at a nightclub in Aberdeen, please keep me up to date with practice etc. Thanks as always, Cheese."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt tweeting from Suzuka: "Breakfast in Suzuka! We have woken up to thick shrouds of fog and light rain so should be a damp practice."

0137: I say a title 'chase', it's more of a drunken stumble. Anyhoo, first practice for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix begins at 0200 BST, or the much more civilised 10am local time. But what's this? The BBC's Sarah Holt brings news of wet weather…

0130: With Fernando Alonso kicking off the musical chairs this week, Jenson Button's title chase has taken a bit of a back seat over the last few days. Not any more, JB, the heat is on.

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see also
Downpours disrupt Japan practice
02 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix practice results
14 Sep 09 |  Results
Japanese GP practice photos
02 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Toyota target Raikkonen for 2010
02 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso out to emulate Schumacher
01 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari confirm capture of Alonso
30 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Button feels title-fight pressure
01 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Massa to use Ferrari F1 simulator
30 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
McLaren target overtaking Ferrari
30 Sep 09 |  Formula 1

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