Sebastian Vettel beat Red Bull teammate Mark Webber to top spot in an incident-strewn second Formula 1 practice session at Suzuka.
Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso both had moments at the Degners the latter doing well to save a spin without damage while Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado all suffered early exits after accidents.
Perez’s off was the most dramatic: the Mexican clipped the astroturf on the entry to Spoon with his McLaren’s rear right and was pitched sideways into a heavy collision with the barriers.
Williams driver Maldonado also hit the tires this time at Degner, just 12 minutes into the session while Raikkonen lost the rear of his Lotus and ended up beached in the gravel at Dunlop 30 minutes from the session’s end. The Finn still ended the session fourth fastest, as the field collectively switched to long runs for the final third of the afternoon. That put him just behind the lead Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, who was little more than a quarter of a second down on Vettel in third.
Raikkonen’s teammate Romain Grosjean was fifth fastest, fractions ahead of Hamilton, whose best lap on the medium compounds was spoiled when he ran wide exiting the Degners.
Alonso’s spin was one of several lurid moments for the Spaniard, who must finish inside the top eight on Sunday if he is to prevent Vettel from clinching a fourth straight world championship crown this weekend. The Spaniard could only manage 10th at the flag, behind Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Jenson Button.
Esteban Gutierrez beat Jean-Eric Vergne and Sauber team-mate Nico Hulkenberg to 11th, with the trio covered by less than one tenth of a second. Perez was 16th, while Maldonado hung on to 18th despite completing just six laps.
Charles Pic claimed rear-quartet honors, although Jules Bianchi’s morning crash meant he was unable to participate in the session.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m33.852s 35 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m34.020s +0.168s 35 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m34.114s +0.262s 36 4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m34.202s +0.350s 17 5. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m34.411s +0.559s 30 6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m34.442s +0.590s 36 7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m34.473s +0.621s 30 8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m34.698s +0.846s 35 9. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.912s +1.060s 3410. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m35.087s +1.235s 3211. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.089s +1.237s 3612. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m35.109s +1.257s 3413. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.182s +1.330s 3414. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m35.275s +1.423s 3515. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m35.341s +1.489s 2516. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m35.709s +1.857s 817. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m36.136s +2.284s 4118. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m36.722s +2.870s 619. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m37.630s +3.778s 3120. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m37.905s +4.053s 3621. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m38.121s +4.269s 33