The rule change that ruined practice in Japan, and why Hamilton hates it

An offseason FIA rule change meant only Oscar Piastri and Lewis Hamlton completed flying laps at in FP2 at the 2024 Japanese GP

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The top three at the end of FP2 didn’t suggest too much out of the ordinary – though it would’ve been surprising to see no Red Bull representative, a casual observer wouldn’t have suspected that podium of Oscar Piastri, Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc belied one of the weirder Formula 1 sessions of the past year.

There’s some competition for that: we’ve seen Ferrari-guided drain covers, a CCTV issue in Canada halt practice and (most bizarrely enough) Max Verstappen finish a race off the podium without suffering a major incident, but Suzuka served up something else.

With a fully functioning track, driveable conditions and 19 drivers able to take part, only two completed a hot lap due to light drizzle falling over the circuit for some of the session thanks to an FIA rule change for this season.

Why was there no action in Japanese GP FP2?

Article 30.2.ii of the FIA Sporting Regulations states that on non-sprint weekends, “each driver may use no more than thirteen sets of dry-weather tyres, five sets of intermediate tyres and two sets of wet-weather tyres during a Competition.”

2023 allowed four sets of intermediates and three wets but also included a provision that drivers would get an extra set of intermediates if FP1 or FP2 were declared wet, in return for a used set from earlier in the weekend.

The same option also existed for FP3, but that was scrapped from the 2024 regulations meaning the five intermediate sets that drivers start the weekend with is their lot, regardless of conditions.

So while Sauber, RB and McLaren elected to trawl around Suzuka attempting to dry out the surface, seven drivers opted to call it a day early and didn’t even put a time on the board.

And it’s hard to hold it against them really. With the likelihood of Saturday rain sitting at around 40 percent, those intermediate tyres could end up being a precious commodity if needed in the competitive session of the weekend and their hands have been forced by the rule change.

‘Makes no sense’ – the drivers respond

A Red Bull fan shows their support at the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Clive Mason/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Unfortunately, as in Las Vegas and Montreal (though maybe not Singapore), the biggest losers of the day were the fans.

While early risers in the UK at least got to see an update on Sebastian Vettel’s insect hotels on the TV coverage, fans at Suzuka only got any semblance of flat-out running right at the death thanks to Piastri.

Even that was a double-edged sword as his late time (plus Hamilton and Leclerc following suit) dislodged home hero Yuki Tsunoda from first place and prevented him from topping a practice session for the first time in his F1 career.

“It’s a shame we didn’t get that session. They have changed the tyre rules so no one runs on the intermediate, which doesn’t make sense really,” Hamilton added.

However, Hamilton was at least pleased with Mercedes‘ Friday work overall, praising FP1 was the team’s best session all year.

Meanwhile George Russell raised hopes early in the session when he entered the cockpit of W15 early in the session, but ultimately ended the afternoon as one of those drivers without a time on the leaderboard.

“It’s such a shame for the fans here, people watching at home, or those who have travelled three-quarters of the way around the world to not do any laps – it is pretty annoying,” Russell added.

“I hope the FIA allows all the teams to carry over a set of tyres into FP3 because, ordinarily in FP3, we don’t do many laps – just practising for qualifying.

“So that’d be great for us and the fans. So hopefully common sense prevails there and we can just find a solution for these kinds of conditions because it’s not the first time this has happened and it definitely won’t be the last time.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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