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GP Week : Issue 32
>>F1Japan and Prix, Fuji Speedway An absolute story of what might have been. Toyota’s weekend ended up being something of a disappointment. When Timo Glock set the fastest time in second practice, most simply put his speed down to a bit of showboating for the local dignitaries at this Toyota-owned circuit. Those who cared to look closer would have seen his long run pace was comparable with the Ferraris and With Vettel having run so well in a Fuji monsoon back in 2007, much was expected of him in the dry. He didn’t disappoint, setting top 10 laps in the opening practice sessions, with Bourdais not far behind him. Both agreed the car felt well-balanced, and in qualifying this was shown with yet another double Q3 showing, as Vettel qualified ninth and Bourdais 10th. As usual, Honda didn’t have much to smile about in Japan. First practice saw the cars 16th and 17th, with those positions switching to 15th and 20th in the afternoon, with Barrichello always the quicker of the two drivers. This was going to be a difficult one. The duo took the penultimate row in final practice and repeated that in qualifying, with Barrichello once again With prior experience of the circuit as 2006 Japanese F3 champion, Adrian Sutil was in inspired form on Friday to set the 12th fastest lap in first practice, slipping slightly in the afternoon but still finishing a highly creditable 16th. Fisichella struggled and spent his time at the bottom of the time sheets. Unfortunately for Sutil and the team, the first qualifying session was incredibly close, Fuji had happy memories for both McLaren drivers from 2007, but 2008 would turn out quite differently. First practice showed the team’s potential as Hamilton took first and Kovalainen third and despite losing out in the second session, the team was optimistic. They had every reason to be as Hamilton swept to pole position by a quarter of a second on Saturday, with Kovalainen third. McLarens. So when he and Trulli qualified eighth and seventh respectively, one had to assume they were running heavy. They were, although Glock never got to realise his potential. Damage picked up on the opening lap eventually forced him off track, and the further breakages to his car saw him retire early on. Trulli held on to the end, taking fifth position. Bourdais got the advantage in the race, and the duo raced well to finish in sixth and seventh positions. Bourdais then had sixth stripped from him with a ridiculous decision that he had somehow been at fault for Massa’s spin. He would eventually be classified 10th, which was a scandal considering the race he had put in and the result he thoroughly deserved from one of his best races in F1. ahead of Button. With a car clearly ill-suited to the circuit, it was always going to be a tough race, and the Honda drivers struggled around to finish 13th and 14th. Barrichello had suffered rear end damage in the opening part of the race, but took the advantage over his team-mate in yet another race the team will want to forget from 2008. Roll on 2009. and with a second covering the field the Force Indias were left 19th and 20th, with Sutil again the quicker. At the start of the race, Sutil made the best of the confusion to leap up to 10th and was racing well and could potentially have been on for a good points haul. But disaster struck as he picked up a puncture, which let go on the straight. Fisichella retired with gearbox issues. It should have been a memorable race for all the right reasons, but when Hamilton out-braked himself into the first turn and was then spun by Massa and picked up a drive-through, his race was run. Off the pace for the rest of the afternoon, he never looked like he could make the time up. Kovalainen found himself third after the first corner craziness, but an engine failure did for his afternoon. 31