Christian Horner admits that Mercedes’ 1-2 finish in FP2 of the Japanese Grand Prix was satisfying because of the number of tyres they used.
In the second of two wet sessions, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were six tenths of a second faster than Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez as Formula 1 returned to Suzuka for the first time since 2019.
When conditions permitted, Red Bull used only one set of intermediate tyres for each driver, whereas Mercedes used three.
According to Red Bull team principal Horner, the Silver Arrows’ constant use of fresh rubber gave them a significant advantage, but it may cause them problems on race day if the race is also wet.
Rain is expected to fall near the Suzuka circuit on Sunday, but there are conflicting reports about when it will fall—it could arrive too late to affect the race.
“This track is very tough on tyres,” Horner told Sky F1. “We only ran one set of inters in that second session, I think Mercedes ran three.”
“Definitely taking those extra sets of tyres, I think particularly in the first sector, there’s a big advantage on a new set here. So today’s times probably aren’t that representative, but they are definitely in the mix, definitely looking competitive.
“I think Ferrari (sixth and seventh behind Kevin Magnussen’s Haas) are perhaps out of position as well, so I think the whole thing will just concertina a bit.
“I think our pace is reasonable – difficult to draw too many conclusions because very quickly you can see the front tyres are going off around here.”
“A lot of the data for the guys to be looking at, but on the whole, a pretty reasonable day.”
When asked about setup, given the unpredictable weather forecast for the weekend, Horner said:
“It’s trying to find that compromise because tomorrow looks dry and maybe Sunday looks wet.”
“So it’s trying to ensure you’ve got it somewhere, a halfway house, that you’ve got a reasonable amount of downforce on the car and you’ve picked a level that’s reasonable for both conditions and the same with the stiffness you choose.
“Those debates will be going on tonight about where you put your favoritism, whether it’s the grid position or the race.”