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LIVE COMMENTARY: 2008 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX - FRIDAY PRACTICE
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Friday Practice
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
00:30 Hello and welcome to autosport.com Live, for the 16th round of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship - the Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix at the Fuji Speedway.

Today on autosport.com Live we will be bring you text commentary and updates from the Friday practice sessions. The schedule (GMT) looks like this:

00:30 - 01:00 Setting the scene to ease you into the Formula One weekend.
01:00 - 02:30 Live commentary and updates from the first practice session.
02:30 - 05:00 Continuing track and weather updates and any breaking news from the circuit during the interval.
05:00 - 06:30 Live commentary and updates from the second practice session of the day.
06:30 - 07:00 End of day reaction and round-up, where we go from here, and what to look out for on Saturday.
07:00 Autosport.com Live commentary ends for today.

00:32 Share your views on the race weekend as it happens ...

Can Ferrari string together a trouble-free event and put pressure on McLaren as the title chase hots up? Will Bridgestone's green-grooved tyres add to the interest and spectacle this weekend? Are Scuderia Toro Rosso going to impress yet again?

If you are an autosport.com forum member, you can do this by clicking the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of the page. Join the lively debate and share your hopes and fears for the race weekend while the action takes place on track.

00:35 The weather forecasts all week have been calling for a much drier Japanese Grand Prix weekend than the 2007 event.

The first day of action sets the trend for the weekend, with dry and mainly sunny conditions expected with occasional clouds passing over.

Temperatures will be pleasant, with 22 degrees Celsius in the air, translating into a track temperature of between 35 and 40 degrees later during the second practice session.

Ferrari00:40 Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers' championship by seven points as the race for the 2008 crown reaches its final phase. A measured drive in Singapore saw Hamilton settle for third, while Felipe Massa failed to score following a botched pit stop and subsequent penalty.

Massa looked set to dominate the first-ever night race, setting a crushing pace in qualifying and streaking off into an early lead. Hamilton had no answer in the McLaren and looked on course to spend the evening defending from Raikkonen's Ferrari. The race was turned on its head by the safety car intervention and what looked like being a good points day for Massa turned into a disaster.

Ferrari must now regroup and tackle the final rounds with the aim of finishing one-two in the remaining races. In a season of drama and incident, there are clearly more plot twists available before the championship is finally decided.

Robert Kubica remains third in the series, 20 points behind Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen a further seven points adrift, having failed to score in the last four rounds. Both retain a mathematical chance of taking the title, which could disappear on Sunday, and realistically they have little chance to make up such a big gap in the three remaining races.

Things are also hotting up in the constructors' race with McLaren taking advantage of Ferrari's no-score in Singapore to snatch the lead, by a single point, for the first time since Malaysia back in March. The pair will clearly be fighting right to the wire in Brazil, while BMW-Sauber remain solidly in third.

Renault and Toyota are set to continue their scrap over fourth, with the Toyota team on home soil and looking to hit back at Renault after Alonso's win in Singapore lifted his team five points clear of their rivals. Toro Rosso, Red Bull and Williams will all continue to jostle for position as the season draws to a close.

Nick Heidfeld00:45 Nick Heidfeld arrived at Fuji this week with his immediate future now certain, following the recent announcement that his BMW Sauber team will field an unchanged driver line-up for the 2009 Formula One campaign.

Speaking to a scrum of reporters in the paddock on Thursday, the 31-year-old was in reflective mood, and wasn't shy in expressing the team's goals for the future.

"I would like to make some good overtakings and bring home strong points, but as we want to fight for the championship, I also need to perform well in qualifying, and I think apart from the problem I had mid-season, we can see that in the beginning and especially lately everything is more-or-less back to normal.

"So far the team has managed to achieve the targets we set ourselves a couple of years ago, but with all the huge regulation changes for next year I'm not that confident as I was in the past. If the regulations wouldn't change I would be sure that we could fight for the title - that is our target for next year and I simply hope that we will achieve it."

Following an extremely difficult middle portion of the season, where some surprisingly poor qualifying performances compromised his points tally, Heidfeld has settled back into the groove, qualifying in the top 10 for the last four races - resulting in three top-six finishes at the recent Belgian, Italian and Singapore grands prix.

"Yeah I am quite happy with that actually - despite the problems I had. It would have been quite easy to lose your head after a poor qualifying and say the first corner is all or nothing now. I didn't do that, it paid out and in the points standings it doesn't look that bad."

The 2.835 mile Fuji Speedway boasts the longest straight on any circuit in the championship calendar. Maximum speed on the straight and chassis-handling through the slower sections of the circuit will determine who gets the balance right for the ultimate lap time - a fact not lost on the German.

"It is a nice circuit," said Heidfeld. "First of all I am enjoying to see the sun out and not rainy conditions like last year when it was undriveable at times. We have an extremely long straight here so we need relatively low downforce, but there is still some very tight corners where obviously we will slide around a bit.

"My target is always the same. My aim is always to maximise the potential of the car, to do the best I can lap for lap, qualifying and each race to score the maximum amount of points. The team's target is to fight for the championship and if the car will be capable of doing that, that will also be my goal for next year, but unless I know how strong the car will be we cannot really speak about it."

Robert Kubica00:50 Bridgestone are trying their best to put tyres in the spotlight this weekend, having painted the grooves of every tyre in a striking shade of green to support the FIA's 'Make Cars Green' environmental campaign.

Elsewhere, interest in the rubber stems from the relatively hard selection from Bridgestone's range - the Medium and Soft compounds. When combined with a forecast of low temperatures, down to around 16 Celsius on Sunday, there is concern in the paddock that some teams could struggle with poor grip and graining of the tyres.

On Thursday afternoon, Robert Kubica was asked for his thoughts on tyre temperatures - a factor that has proven decisive in a number of races this season.

"Here in Fuji there is long straight so for sure first sector can be some problems (with tyre temperature), but you have quite a lot of low speed corners where you can heat up the tyres into the right temperature," said Kubica. "It depends a lot on your set-up, it depends a lot on your tyre temperature, the weather overall, asphalt temperature, so it is a lot of question mark and it's difficult to judge before you do some free practice.

"Everybody did have some problems. I think I did have a small problem, like also in Singapore I was not able to keep them (tyres) in the right temperature, and first sector was very poor, but you know I think it's the kind of the game, kind of driver-related to know exactly what is the best for the tyre, where it should be with the temperatures and pressures and also from a feeling wise. I did struggle sometimes but I don't think ... okay, let's put it in this way: I think tyre excuse is good excuse!"

The balance of power between the title rivals looks set to be influenced by the temperature in Fuji. Ferrari have set a dominant race pace at many races this season, yet they fell short of the speed from Hamilton's McLaren when hard rubber was deployed on a cool track - at Hockenheim, for example.

"It's true that Ferrari looks very competitive in the soft tyres, especially in the race pace," said Kubica. "If you compare many races in qualifying they were struggling and then in the race they were just amazing pace so it looks like their tyre wear is much less than our one. We often struggle with soft tyre, with the traction, where it's the overheating tyres, so overall I think that we will not be penailsed here but you know, as I said, you never know."

00:55 There are just five minutes to go before practice gets underway at Fuji speedway. Conditions are dry and sunny with wisps of white cloud in a blue sky.

00:55 Nelson Piquet sits patiently in his Renault, ready to go early when the first session begins.

Meantime Lewis Hamilton is making his way from the weighing area back towards the McLaren garage.

00:56 The track temperature is 29 Celsius as the air hits 22c in bright morning sunshine.

0 min: The practice session is underway.

1 min: As usual, Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil in the Force India cars are the first onto the circuit, joined by Nick Heidfeld in the BMW Sauber.

2 min: More than half the field are already on track as the installation laps begin.

The drivers will use the first lap of the day to check the cars and make sure that all on-board systems are working correctly.

2 min: Heikki Kovalainen and Kazuki Nakajima take the opportunity to practice a start at the end of the pitlane, as they join the track.

4 min: Sebastien Bourdais crosses the start-finish line, as does Jenson Button.

Honda have a tendancy to run a two-lap installation process in the opening stages of practice sessions this season.

5 min: Both Button and Bourdais return to the pits, confirming a two-lap installation run to make sure their cars are running well.

7 min: Sebastian Vettel comes out onto the track for the second time. It is likely that the young German will complete the first timed lap of the day soon.

7 min: Kimi Raikkonen is getting himself ready in the Ferrari. Alongside teammate Massa, Ferrari are the only cars yet to complete a lap - a standard practice for the team that favour a longer run to get their day underway.

8 min: Vettel returns to the pits rather than begin a timed lap, leaving the circuit empty for the meantime.

10 min: Lewis Hamilton is chatting with team boss Ron Dennis at the back of the McLaren garage as his mechanics check over his car.

Hamilton wanders off behind the scenes, suggesting a slow start to the proceedings is in prospect.

12 min: Local hero Kazuki Nakajima stands at the back of the Williams garage, watching the mechanics fettling his car ahead of the first serious laps of the weekend.

13 min: Timo Glock leaves the Toyota garage and joins the racetrack.

Kimi Raikkonen joins him in the Ferrari.

14 min: Raikkonen pits after a single lap on the harder tyre.

15 min: Glock crosses the start-finish line and begins what we hope is the first timed lap of the weekend. The Toyota driver does indeed complete the lap and the time is 1:22.937.

16 min: Glock is using the harder tyre and is continuing on for another lap.

17 min: Jarno Trulli is also out there giving the Toyota team maximum exposure, as his teammate Glock lowers his time to a 1:21.754.

18 min: Trulli's first effort is timed at 1:22.404, as Glock comes round to complete his third timed lap, which is no improvement.

19 min: The slow start to practice continues as the teams sit back and relax while the pair of Toyotas begin to lay rubber on the track surface.

20 min: Jarno Trulli improves to a 1:22.055, but at the same time Glock improves again on his fourth timed lap - 1:21.330.

23 min: Sebastien Bourdais has resumed his running in the Toro Rosso and completes his first timed lap in 1:22.376.

23 min: Glock's fifth timed lap nets no improvement. From the on-board camera he is seen combating corner exit oversteer and is switching the rotary dials on his steering wheel.

Timo's sixth timed lap also produces no improvement and on this green racetrack it is likely that the best performance of the tyre is already behind him on this run of laps.

25 min: Timo Glock finds a minimal improvement on his seventh timed lap of this first run - 1:21.201 is an improvement of a tenth of a second.

Meantime his Toyota teammate Jarno Trulli has lowered his own fastest time, and is now a shade behind Glock, in second position with 1:21.377.

26 min: Nelson Piquet is another early runner on the hard tyre, clocking a 1:21.453 on his first lap. He improves on the second tour with a 1:21.223 to slot in second at the moment.

26 min: Glock's eighth lap lowers the bar under 81 seconds, with a 1:20.883.

29 min: Kimi Raikkonen rejoins the circuit in the Ferrari to start his planned running.

Teammate Massa has arrived in the garage and is beginning to prepare himself for his first outing later in the session.

29 min: Nelson Piquet takes the fastest time away from Timo Glock with a 1:20.559 in the Renault.

Timo Glock is second and still out there on his first run, but has not improved his time in recent laps.

31 min: Sebastien Bourdais goes second to Piquet with a 1:20.774 in the Toro Rosso.

Nelson Piquet lowers the fastest time down to 1:20.347 in the Renault.

31 min: Raikkonen clocks a 1:21.076 for his first timed lap, following a lock-up in the final corner and having passed the Honda of Barrichello during the lap.

Kimi goes on for a much more successful second tour, going to the top of the timesheet in 1:20.043.

32 min: Timo Glock finally returns to the pits at the end of his first run, consisting of 11 timed laps on the harder tyre.

32 min: Raikkonen continues to set the early pace as the Finn improves to a 1:19.985.

34 min: Meantime, more drivers have posted a time on the board as we pass through the half-hour mark. Behind Raikkonen and Piquet, Sebastien Bourdais is third in the Toro Rosso, Glock is fourth, Mark Webber has posted a 1:21.224 to slot into fifth place, with Jarno Trulli in the second Toyota in sixth.

34 min: Raikkonen improves the benchmark once again and 1:19.522 is the time to beat as Lewis Hamilton heads out onto the track.

35 min: Hamilton is just ahead of Raikkonen on the road as he gets his first run of laps underway.

35 min: Nico Rosberg completes his first timed lap of the weekend. The Williams driver clocks a 1:21.313 to go sixth.

36 min: Hamilton, sliding the McLaren around the circuit, clocks a 1:19.791 lap to slot in second quickest at this stage.

37 min: Singapore Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso puts his first mark down on the board. A 1:20.713 puts the Spaniard fifth in the Renault.

39 min: Hamilton puts together a tidier second tour to take the top spot away from Raikkonen with a 1:19.420.

He goes on to brake too late for the first corner, heading off on to the run-off area before continuing on his way.

40 min: Kimi Raikkonen is back on top of the order in 1:19.399 as Hamilton pits his McLaren after that off at turn one.

Felipe Massa is also now on track after a leisurely start to the session for the Brazilian.

42 min: Notably the McLarens and Ferraris have taken over the top spots in the classification relatively early in comparison with other Friday morning practice sessions this season.

Clearly both teams are in championship fighting form very early and a battle royal is shaping up nicely already in the first 40 or so minutes of the opening session, with virtually nothing between the times set by Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton.

43 min: Fernando Alonso moves up to third with a 1:19.780, behind Raikkonen and Hamilton.

45 min: Alonso improves again and is now just over a tenth of a second behind the leading duo, setting a 1:19.530 on his last lap around the circuit.

48 min: Felipe Massa gets himself up to second with a 1:19.404.

Massa has had a few wobbles in his opening few laps as he continues to learn the grip levels on the circuit but is moving up the order as he warms the harder tyres on his machine.

49 min: Behind the leading four, who are flying already up front, Sebastian Vettel is again showing good early pace in the Toro Rosso in fifth place, less than one second away from the benchmark time (set by Raikkonen).

Nelson Piquet is on the same pace as Vettel in sixth place.

50 min: Robert Kubica moves into fifth position in the BMW Sauber with a 1:20.160, dropping Vettel to sixth and Piquet to seventh.

51 min: Massa pits his Ferrari after his first run of the day and heads into the garage to chat with race engineer Rob Smedley about any setup changes that are needed to his Ferrari.

55 min: Smedley leans over the side of the cockpit to chat with his charge Massa in the Ferrari garage. The mechanics have the nose off the Ferrari and are tweaking settings to improve some of the apparent understeer from that first run of laps.

56 min: Down the order there are stories already in progress away from the title fight.

Adrian Sutil is in the garage at the moment, but has put in an excellent 1:20.353 in ninth. Early pacesetter Timo Glock has dropped down to 11th place on a 1:20.823.

Williams drivers Nico Rosberg and local hero Kazuki Nakajima are down the field in 16th and 18th places. Rosberg said yesterday that although he doesn't expect stunning pace from his Williams, he does anticipate fighting for points again this weekend.

59 min: Honda duo Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are now 16th and 17th, but back out on track for another run.

On Thursday Jenson spoke to the media and said he is again expecting to qualify somewhere in the 11th to 15th region, moving well away from the rear of the field.

59 min: Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton have returned to the fray.

Raikkonen is currently lapping slower than his earlier benchmark but Hamilton jumps to the top of the list with a 1:19.062.

59 min: Jenson Button improves to 14th with a 1:20.769, while teammate Barrichello remains in 17th position for the moment.

60 min: Hamilton continues to press on, locking up in the final corner to set a lap four tenths down on his best from the previous tour.

62 min: Mark Webber has moved up the order from 19th to 11th in the Red Bull Renault, and right into what is a very tightly packed midfield zone.

Webber's 1:20.620 is only 0.5 seconds clear of Kazuki Nakajima in 19th place.

63 min: Overhead, the cloud cover has increased in the last half-hour, shrouding the sunshine that was evident at the start of the session.

The track temperature has dipped to 31 Celsius with the loss of the direct sunshine.

63 min: Felipe Massa has resumed his running and improves to a 1:19.288 for second.

64 min: Timo Glock is out for another run in the Toyota TF108, and he is flying in the second sector of the lap, posting the fastest sector time of all so far.

Interestingly, the German pits at the end of the lap, rather than complete that attempt.

66 min: Adrian Sutil is ninth, but set for an improvement on his latest lap.

Very interesting strategies being run by some of the teams currently. Sutil sets two personal best sector times, was poised to move potentially into the top six, but he also pits, preferring not to complete the lap in the Force India.

67 min: As Massa improves his time to a 1:19.063, Hamilton also trims his best with a lap of 1:18.910.

Lewis pits the McLaren as Massa responds with the fastest first sector of the session before backing off the pace.

70 min: Heikki Kovalainen has moved his McLaren up to third quickest, with his pace over three tenths of a second down on his teammate at the moment.

72 min: Nico Rosberg improves in the Williams from 14th to 11th with a time of 1:20.558.

His teammate Kazuki Nakajima is propping up the order in 20th place currently. The Japanese is also out on track for another run but hasn't been able to improve his time in recent laps.

74 min: David Coulthard in 17th place was set for a small improvement in laptime, but on his latest lap the Scot ran very wide onto the extra tarmac area exiting turn five ruining the lap.

David stays out there and continues with this run, as he tries to find laptime improvements in the Red Bull.

76 min: Bridgestone's green tyre striping initiative at least gives an interesting view of tyre wear.

As usual, the teams are favouring the harder tyre for their laps in this session, saving the softer rubber for the improved track conditions in the second period.

The outer pair of groves in the front left tyre are clearly taking the punishment around Fuji's curves, with the green paint quickly wearing from the outside of that tyre.

79 min: A number of cars are now heading out for a final set of laps after a recent lull in proceedings while they mulled over the data from the early running.

80 min: Jenson Button completes a run of laps and enters the pitlane. The Briton continues on down the lane and immediately rejoins the track.

Running down the pitlane without stopping is an important part of the race weekend testing, as the teams work out how much time is lost during a regular pitstop.

81 min: Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton are now heading out for another run.

83 min: The track temperature is climbing once again as the sun breaks through the clouds to give a hazy end to the session.

86 min: Improvements in lap time have been few and far between in the last few minutes.

As we approach the final laps of the morning, Lewis Hamilton is heading the list with a time of 1:18.910, just ahead of Felipe Massa in second. Heikki Kovalainen is third, Kimi Raikkonen is fourth in the second Ferrari, and we have two Renaults in the top six with Fernando Alonso ahead of his teammate Nelson Piquet.

86 min: The drivers are struggling to improve their times in this late running. Hamilton clocked a 1:20.729 on his first attempt of the run and was on for a better time before running wide at the tricky turn 10 chicane.

87 min: 19 of the 20 drivers are out on track in the final three minutes of the session. Mark Webber is the only driver left in the pits.

89 min: Nick Heidfeld spins at turn 10 in the BMW Sauber, but continues on his final run of laps.

The German said yesterday that low downforce would be the set-up to have this weekend for the long straight. But following his first couple of runs this morning, he was heard on the team radio saying that he would like more downforce on the car as it was sliding around a bit too much.

89 min: There is a lack of improvement thought the field as the current grip levels cause heads to be scratched in the pit lane. The cloud cover has been variable in the last hour, causing the track temperature to fluctuate thought the session.

90 min: The session has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

02:31 Kazuki Nakajima improves from 20th to 10th on his final run of the morning with a 1:20.217.

02:32 The cars are heading around to the grid to carry out practice starts.

02:35 With the launch rehearsal complete, the cars tour back to the pit lane to wrap up first practice in Fuji.

02:36 Fernando Alonso is the last driver to bring his car back into the pitlane, leaving the track empty.

02:36 Lewis Hamilton ends the first session of practice on top at the Fuji Speedway. 1:18.910 puts the Briton 0.153 seconds ahead of his championship rival Felipe Massa.

Heikki Kovalainen was third ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in fourth place. Fernando Alonso was fifth with his Renault teammate Nelson Piquet in sixth.

The gap between the top six was 0.833 seconds.

02:37 The round-up and classification for the first session is now available:

Hamilton tops first practice in Japan

03:11 Conditions remain dry, but increasingly cloudy, at the Fuji Speedway. The cloud cover is expected to continue building as we move into the afternoon.

Rain is forecast later on tonight, and we will examine the prospects in detail on the weather reporting page following today's practice sessions.

Meanwhile, the healthy Japanese crowd that is on hand is being entertained by a short spell of support race action in the break between the Formula One sessions. A 30-minute practice session is underway for the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan championship as they gear up for their final pair of races this weekend.

04:30 We move to within 30 minutes of the second practice session, with the skies laden with grey clouds and overcast conditions.

The track temperatures will be a few degrees down on the morning mark. This will test the teams and drivers as they pursue a neutral set-up on the cars for a quick lap around the circuit. The closing minutes of the first session were notable for the lack of improved lap times, suggesting track grip levels had degraded in comparison with the middle part of the session.

Changing weather conditions result in the teams chasing a moving target, and the drivers who have not made changes during the break may find their cars difficult to drive on the first of the afternoon runs. Having said that, there is also a case to be made for sticking with a good baseline set-up and tweaking the car only when necessary.

For the Formula One enthusiasts around the world, however, this change to overcast is good news all the way, as there is likely to be more action on the circuit in the second period, with the teams putting in more laps to keep on top of the balance.

04:55 The second free practice session is now five minutes away at a dry but overcast Fuji Speedway.

04:57 The track temperature has dropped a little due to the cloud cover and is now 29 Celsius with a 21 degree ambient.

04:57 Robert Kubica climbs aboard his BMW Sauber F1.08 in anticipation of the start of the session, as Sebastian Vettel is strapped into his Toro Rosso further down the pitlane.

05:00 Timo Glock sits comfortably inside the cockpit of his Toyota, ready to gather more information for the team during this important practice session.

0 min: The practice session is underway.

1 min: Nick Heidfeld is the first driver to cross the line at the pit exit. The German immediately pulls to the side to practice a start as other drivers file past him and out onto the circuit.

2 min: Fourteen drivers have come out, as Nick Heidfeld crosses the start-finish line to begin his first timed lap of this session.

3 min: Giancarlo Fisichella posts the first laptime, a 1:24.053.

4 min: Jarno Trulli and then Nick Heidfeld beat the Italian's time.

Heidfeld tops the list with a 1:21.147 with Fernando Alonso now second with 1:21.291.

4 min: The Ferrari and McLaren drivers are holding off from running in the early stages of this session while the remainder of the pack are all on track.

5 min: Mark Webber goes fastest, setting a time of 1:20.612, but immediately Sebastien Bourdais breaks the beam with 1:20.389, as Adrian Sutil moves into second place.

5 min: Lewis Hamilton joins the session with a used set of the harder tyres on his car.

6 min: Fernando Alonso is quick on the circuit and set to take the fastest time away from Bourdais ... and he does with a 1:19.951.

7 min: Fernando Alonso leads Sebastien Bourdais in the early stages of this second practice session, with Sebastian Vettel third, Robert Kubica fourth, Adrian Sutil fifth and Mark Webber in sixth position.

7 min: Mark Webber improves to fifth place with a laptime of 1:20.564 in the Red Bull Renault.

8 min: Fernando Alonso returns to the Renault garage after a run of three timed laps.

8 min: The weather conditions continue to provide interest as the sun is once again burning through the clouds at the circuit and the track temperature is up to 31 Celsius.

9 min: Jenson Button and Adrian Sutil also completed a run of five laps in total - three timed laps plus a lap in and out of the pits. They are eighth and seventh respectively.

Mark Webber in fifth place completed six laps on his first run.

11 min: Lewis Hamilton is on top of the pile as the first runs of the session continue. His 1:19.636 is the quickest so far from teammate Kovalainen's 1:19.867.

11 min: Nelson Piquet is 14th in the second Renault. The Brazilian completed four laps in total on his first run, yet was a full eight-tenths of a second slower than teammate Alonso.

12 min: Hamilton has pitted the McLaren and steps out of the car.

13 min: Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima lie 16th and 17th after their first run in the session. Nico completed a six lap run, with his Japanese teammate completing five laps.

Kazuki's performance is very good compared to his teammate, with their times being almost identical.

14 min: Sebastien Bourdais improves to second place during a qualifying-simulation run. His laptime of 1:19.842 is just a couple of tenths of a second slower than current pacesetter Lewis Hamilton.

Bourdais is now back in the pits.

14 min: Kimi Raikkonen slots in fifth with a 1:20.176 with a used set of hard rubber on his Ferrari.

Felipe Massa is fourth with a 1:19.874.

The Ferrari pair are likely to improve their pace as the run of laps continues.

15 min: Renault drivers Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet are both back out on the circuit for their second runs this afternoon.

15 min: Massa does indeed improve and goes quickest so far in 1:19.535.

16 min: Alonso is one of the first to try out the softer tyre today. It will be interesting to see how the Spaniard performs in the next few minutes.

17 min: Alonso was set to move towards the top of the classification, but ran very wide exiting the final corner, taking to the grass.

The lap was lost and Alonso will go again.

18 min: Adrian Sutil shoots to the top of the list with a 1:19.344 set using a fresh set of hard tyres on his Force India.

19 min: Jarno Trulli is the next man to take the top spot as he sets the best time of the day in 1:18.863 on the softer tyre.

20 min: The Williams duo, Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima, are flying and set to move up towards the top of the list.

Nico is using a set of soft tyres and they propel him to fifth with 1:19.354, but immediately Nakajima is quicker and moves into third place with 1:19.244.

23 min: Nakajima appears to be on a new set of the harder tyre, although the green banding makes it much more difficult to identify the different tyre options.

23 min: Sebastian Vettel is currently fastest as the frenetic pace of the second practice session continues. 1:18.761 for the Toro Rosso driver, with Jarno Trulli second in the Toyota.

Timo Glock is third in the second Toyota, with Williams duo Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima fourth and fifth. David Coulthard has recently moved up the order in the Red Bull and is currently sixth.

26 min: Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen are now heading out to challenge the recent flurry of times set on new tyres.

26 min: Hamilton has a new set of the harder tyre on his McLaren.

26 min: Sebastien Bourdais and Nelson Piquet are both on improving laps at the moment, as the sun briefly shines over the circuit.

Bourdais moves into fourth position with a time of 1:19.081, but Nelson Piquet loses time in the final sector on his fresh set of hard tyres, and remains in 11th place.

27 min: Lewis jumps up to second quickest on the harder tyre with a 1:18.763, just two thousandths slower than Vettel's benchmark.

28 min: Hikki Kovalainen also improves his time, clocking a 1:18.914 to go fourth quickest.

30 min: Kimi Raikkonen is the next man to head out. His Ferrari is fitted with a new set of the harder tyre.

32 min: Timo Glock uses the softer tyre to go quickest for Toyota on home turf. The new time to beat is 1:18.383.

32 min: The Honda performance is notable with regard to both drivers being at the foot of the timesheet so far.

Rubens Barrichello is 19th with 1:20.613, and Jenson Button is 20th with 1:20.662.

Honda are clearly focusing on race preparations while the Renault and Toro Rosso drivers for example have been completing very short runs - suggesting that they are setting up for qualifying tomorrow.

This adds unpredictability to the mix, and distorts the classification slightly. Both Hondas may go out a bit lighter later on towards the end of the session when more rubber has been laid on the circuit.

33 min: Kazuki Nakajima uses a new set of soft tyres to good effect, moving up from ninth to seventh position in the Williams with a time of 1:18.930.

35 min: Felipe Massa improves to tenth with a 1:19.205 as he begins a run on the harder tyre.

36 min: The early flurry of action from the midfield teams appears to be over for the moment, leaving the stage clear for the McLarens and Ferraris to complete laps on a relatively clear track.

37 min: Robert Kubica springs up to fifth quickest with the softer tyres on his BMW.

37 min: Kimi Raikkonen continues to lap on his harder tyres and is setting a strong and consistent pace in the low 1:19s.

39 min: Sebastian Vettel is back out on track, with softer tyres again on the Toro Rosso. So far he hasn't been able to improve his laptime on this run, and he remains in second position behind current quickest driver Timo Glock.

42 min: Honda drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello continue to run at race pace on the circuit. Button has jumped ahead of his teammate into 19th position with a 1:20.318, with Barrichello currently in the pits.

They remain in 19th and 20th positions and they have completed 41 laps in the session between them.

43 min: Lewis Hamilton's last flying lap of his recent run was a 1:19.166, similar to Raikkonen's tour of 1:19.158 at the same time. Both have been using harder tyre, although the McLaren clocked more laps during the stint that were away from the ultimate pace.

45 min: Timo Glock is the fastest driver as we pass through the half-way mark in the second practice session for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix. The Toyota driver's time is 1:18.383, with Sebastian Vettel in second place. Lewis Hamilton is the first of the main contenders in third position, Jarno Trulli is fourth in the second Toyota, Robert Kubica is fifth and Kimi Raikkonen is the first Ferrari driver in sixth place.

46 min: Felipe Massa continues to lap on the harder tyre. His latest lap is his best of the session and 1:19.006 puts him ninth in the order.

49 min: Massa pits his machine, takes a practice start and heads back out on to the track.

Lewis Hamilton joins him, now with the softer tyre on the McLaren.

51 min: Fernando Alonso is back out on the circuit with a fresh set of the harder tyres bolted onto the Renault. He is clearly running with a lot of fuel on board and nets no improvement in laptime.

Alonso is 15th in the classification with his teammate Nelson Piquet one place ahead of him in 14th.

Piquet is using the softer tyre and he is called into the pits by his race engineer on the team radio.

52 min: Lewis Hamilton puts together a flying lap on the softer rubber to go second with a 1:18.463.

53 min: Hamilton follows up his first flyer with a 1:19.039, the best grip from the softer rubber having been used up on the first lap.

54 min: The classification resembles what we see typically from Saturday morning practice currently, as some teams work on more of a qualifying-type set-up, whereas other teams such as Renault and Honda seem focused on race performance.

Jenson Button in 19th finally comes back into the pits after a run of more than 11 consecutive laps.

56 min: Hamilton continues his stint with a 1:19.255. A lurid slide out of turn one, laying strips of rubber on the track, costs him further time for a 1:19.613.

57 min: Sebastien Bourdais is quick on the circuit in the Toro Rosso, setting the fastest time of all in the second sector of the lap. Ultimately the Frenchman cannot find the speed in the final sector of the lap and remains in tenth position.

59 min: Kimi Raikkonen imporves to third in 1:18.752 with the softer tyres on his Ferrari.

Teammate Massa rolls out of the garage on similar rubber.

61 min: Raikkonen follows up his lap with a 1:19.320 - a significant drop off in pace from the soft rubber in similar fashion to Hamilton's McLaren.

62 min: Massa clocks a 1:18.617 for third on the softer tyres but backs off after the lap.

62 min: Nelson Piquet has come back out onto the track in the Renault, following changes to the car. Teammate Fernando Alonso joins him on the circuit.

68 min: The drivers continue to hammer out laps around the Fuji circuit as they look at how each of the tyres perform over a longer run of laps.

70 min: Laptime improvements are non-existent in the last few minutes as the teams go about their work preparing for Sunday's Grand Prix.

Gradually, as we move towards the end of the session, more drivers will either bolt on a set of soft tyres, or take out some fuel, and go out for their final runs before the second session is completed.

73 min: Giancarlo Fisichella is on a lap but runs wide exiting turn five, onto the extra tarmac area. The Italian rejoins the track surface entering turn six but is still carrying too much speed and goes wide for a second time towards the outside of the left-hander.

Fisichella has continued on this run of laps, with seemingly no damage to the Force India entry.

73 min: Felipe Massa has set a number of laps in the low 1:19s on his current long run on the softer tyre. His latest tour is a 1:19.029 and he follows that up with the fastest first sector on the next lap before pitting the car.

75 min: Once again Massa trundles through the pits, makes a practice start and heads out again, just as Lewis Hamilton pulls out of the McLaren garage on the softer tyre.

78 min: Hamilton's flying lap to start his next run on the soft tyre is a 1:19.615, including an oversteer moment in the final corner.

79 min: Honda drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello continue in 19th and 20th places. The pair have each completed 36 laps in the session - no doubt gathering a lot of data for the race.

Meantime a bit further up the order the Renault duo Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet are 15th and 14th respectively. Both have just come out onto the track for their final run of the day.

81 min: Heikki Kovalainen is trying a set of the harder tyres. He improves to 1:18.803 for sixth.

81 min: Barrichello pits the Honda, with Button following him in a lap later.

There are under nine minutes remaining in the session - just enough time to possibly take some of the fuel out and go for a quicker time in the final few minutes.

83 min: Felipe Massa takes to the track with a fresh set of soft tyres on the Ferrari.

83 min: Fernando Alonso starts to show some qualifying pace, vaulting up the list from 15th to second place with a laptime of 1:18.426. That time was established using the softer tyre.

His teammate Nelson Piquet is only able to move up slightly, from 14th to 11th with a 1:18.888.

85 min: Massa is on the pace with his soft tyres but loses time finding a way past the Toro Rosso of Bourdais.

86 min: Mark Webber leaps up the list to fifth place with a 1:18.734. He pits after a couple of timed laps.

Both Honda drivers come out for a final run of the day, with just over three minutes remaining.

87 min: Hamilton's late flyer on soft rubber is a 1:19.992, almost half a second off his best from earlier in the session.

88 min: Rubens Barrichello is immediately faster on his 40th lap this afternoon, and he completes the tour with 1:19.258 to move from 20th to 15th position. Barrichello was using the softer tyre.

Button has just started his fast lap and we wait to see what time the Briton can do.

89 min: Kimi Raikkonen does set an improved lap time of 1:18.725 on soft tyres but remains fifth quickest. He follows it up with the best first sector of the session that goes on to be a slower lap of 1:18.974.

90 min: The session has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

06:30 Jenson Button improves in time, but surprisingly remains in 20th place, with a 1:19.999. He did sneak across the line before the flag came out, and will be able to complete this lap for a time if he chooses to do so.

06:31 Button isn't able to improve on his second timed lap of that run and ends the day 20th and last in the Honda.

06:32 The laps back to the pits are another opportunity to test the standard ECU software that may be used as part of a revamp to the safety car regulations for next season.

06:33 Timo Glock ends the afternoon session fastest for Toyota in their home Grand Prix with a time of 1:18.383. The German is clearly pleased to have topped the session for his team, and he waves to the Japanese fans on his slow down lap back to the pitlane.

06:34 Nick Heidfeld ended the day in 19th and he tells reporters that the team is looking over his car to see if they can find a technical problem with the BMW.

06:36 Fernando Alonso was second in the Renault - just 0.043 seconds behind Glock's Toyota. Lewis Hamilton was third, with Felipe Massa fourth - just 0.108 seconds behind Glock's leading pace.

Kimi Raikkonen ended the day fifth in the second Ferrari, with Mark Webber sixth following a rapid late lap in the Red Bull Renault.

Home hero Kazuki Nakajima finished the session seventh for Williams, with Sebastian Vettel eighth, Heikki Kovalainen ninth and Jarno Trulli tenth in the second Toyota.

06:38 The round-up and classification is now available after a busy second session of practice in Japan:

Glock puts Toyota on top at Fuji

06:48 Today's lap times once again point to a close fight between Ferrari and McLaren for the pole and the win in Japan.

Hamilton in the McLaren and both Ferrari drivers set impressive times at different phases of the second session, with the Italian team once again looking quick and consistent during the race runs. Hamilton's single lap speed should keep him right in the fight for pole tomorrow.

The softer tyre looks to be degrading quite a lot with the current track conditions and that may play into Ferrari's hands for the race, given their less aggressive use of the rubber.

With 17 cars of the cars lapping within a second of the best time, a tight qualifying hour can be expected tomorrow.

06:52 Rain is expected in the Fuji area overnight. As ever, autosport.com Live will soon take a detailed look at the prospects for tomorrow.

Look out for the Saturday forecast being published in the next few hours.

Weather Forecasts and Reports

06:54 Fuji delivered a near-perfect weather day for the teams and drivers, as they used three hours of practice to the maximum.

Remarkably, there were very few off-track incidents during the two 90-minute sessions, and the timesheets show that the cars were extremely reliable today, with lots of running for all of the drivers. Most sessions see a driver or two having to wait out a period of time while issues on their cars are sorted - but not today.

Almost 800 laps were completed in the second practice session alone, giving the spectators at the circuit and Formula One enthusiasts worldwide plenty of opportunity to see the cars running for long periods of time - a credit to the teams who spend time meticulously building and preparing the cars ahead of a race weekend.

This morning we saw what many expected - a scrap between McLaren and Ferrari for the top four places, as they battled for supremacy, with the Renaults showing that they will also be a factor this weekend.

The afternoon session displayed much more difference in racing philosophy and how to go about getting the best out of the cars during a race weekend. Some teams went for glory at home, some teams took the fuel out and simulated qualifying runs in readiness for the knockout session on Saturday. Some others spent a lot of time running with a lot of fuel, gathering data for the race on Sunday, only trying for a fast lap towards the end of the session.

The laptimes may have fell away slightly in the middle of the afternoon session, but that was a symptom of the work being carried out for the race. Ultimately, the top ten are covered by under half-a-second. The McLarens and Ferraris will be fighting for the front row in qualifying, and it will be interesting to see how close Fernando Alonso in particular can get to them.

To find out what happens, join us tomorrow from 01:30 GMT as the story of the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix continues.

  OVERVIEW PRACTICE TWO  
Session Length: 90 minutes
 View official live timing
  CURRENT WEATHER
Mainly cloudy High Temp: 22°C / 72°F
Track: Dry
  INFOBOX
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Monday 06 Oct Start GMT
 Japanese Grand Prix Weather 15:00
Friday 10 Oct
 Friday Practice 00:30
Saturday 11 Oct
 Final Practice and Qualifying 01:30
Sunday 12 Oct
 Raceday at Fuji Speedway 00:30
  ABOUT
Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are autosport.com's live commentary team. The dynamic duo have developed an inimitable style and a reputation for fast, accurate and insightful commentary. With unrivaled access to events unfolding at the circuit, they bring you the very latest, as it happens.

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