Schumacher crashes out of Japanese Grand Prix practice

Oct 5, 2012 15:31 IST

#Formula One   #LifeInTheFastLane   #Mercedes   #Michael Schumacher  

Michael Schumacher crashed out of Japanese Grand Prix practice on Friday, a day after announcing his retirement, while Australian Mark Webber set the pace for Red Bull.

Schumacher, a seven times champion and winner six times at Suzuka, went wide into the Spoon corner and lost control with the car slewing sideways into the tyre wall.

The 43-year-old German removed the steering wheel, extricated himself from the cockpit, patted a marshal on the back and helped tidy up some debris before walking away. He had been fifth fastest in the morning.

Force India's Paul Di Resta had earlier gone off at the same place, a slip that left him without a timed lap in the afternoon session. His team mate Nico Hulkenberg was fourth fastest.

Reuters

Webber's best lap of one minute 32.493 seconds was the quickest of the day after McLaren's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton had led the opening session at one of the classic drivers' tracks.

Button, last year's race winner in Japan but with a five-place grid penalty for Sunday's race after a gearbox change, set a time of 1:34.507 on a sunny morning at the Honda-owned figure of eight circuit.

McLaren will be chasing a fifth successive pole position on Saturday, the team's best run of qualifying form since 1999 when Finland's Mika Hakkinen chalked up five in a row, but Webber showed championship leaders Red Bull would be hard to beat.

The Australian was third fastest in the morning, a position filled by team mate and double world champion Sebastian Vettel in the afternoon.

Vettel, who clinched his second title at Suzuka last year, has won two of the last three Japanese Grands Prix after starting all of them from pole.

Button was seventh after lunch with Hamilton second.

ALONSO RELAXED

Ferrari's championship leader Fernando Alonso, who is 29 points clear of Red Bull's double champion Sebastian Vettel, was 11th and fifth respectively in the sessions.

The Spaniard has been a model of consistency, however, and Friday practice times count for little. He has sounded relaxed in talks with reporters.

"It's a little miracle that we are in first position," he had said of the standings, referring to Ferrari's early season lack of pace.

"Now the car improves... so now we seem to be able to keep the distance with more optimism. We will see what happens from now to the end, if we can fight for the championship.

"If we win it will be a miracle because I don't think we were fast enough to do it... We did 14 more or less perfect races until now. What we cannot do is mistakes now in the last six."

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, was 13th and 14th in the Lotus but had to pit with the team warning him about a possible KERS problem that rendered the car unsafe.

He stepped out gingerly in the pits before gloved mechanics removed the car's battery. The Finn is third overall despite not having won a race yet this year.

Germany's Nico Rosberg, who will have Hamilton joining him at Mercedes next year, slowed and parked up at the side of the track two minutes from the end between turns three and four in the morning.

After an engine change, he was 11th in the afternoon.

Local favourite Kamui Kobayashi was sixth and 13th fastest for Sauber.

Vitaly Petrov's Caterham shed its rear wing at speed in the second session, leaving the Russian shaken and relieved to step out unscathed.

Reuters

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