The pilots love coming the Japan and racing. The fans are fantastic and the conditions are always testing. Here's what the pilots thought after their first session in the racetrack...
"Today was a survival day because of the wind. There were a lot of pylon hits and people crossing the safety line. So I went out there to try and learn the track so I gave it a lot of respect, which meant I was a little bit slower. For me, I feel like I'm in a good place and we can start to refine it tomorrow. Our goal is to be close to the front in Qualifying. We did that in Abu Dhabi and in Cannes. We'll try to do that here and that sets you up for a nice Race Day."
"It was alright out there; it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, it was smooth. Our objective was to fly cleanly and we did that with some good times and no penalties. It's been a busy day with four flights. I'm pretty tired and my body is already a bit sore, but there's not much experimenting on this track and everyone knows what they're doing. We've done some minor tweaks to the plane, no modifications as such, just tidying it up a bit."
"It was good in the track. It is very similar to last year, as we know already, but it was windy and that made it good for training. The track is a little bit faster than last year, and it's not easy at all and it's technical. I feel a lot of expectation but not pressure. I like pressure, I normally perform better – so give me the pressure."
"It was very windy but not gusty – well, a little bit gusty, but I felt comfortable in the racetrack. I think just about everyone got a little bit of a penalty starting to find their optimum lines. It feels good, and it is like drifting, because with the drifting wind you have to anticipate what the wind is doing with you 200 metres later. It's kind of fun. The track is almost the same as last year and I have a good pace now, so the goal is to fly consistently from run to run. The Japanese fans are really genuine – they wait at the hotel, they are already waiting at the Race Airport when we arrive. So you feel a little bit like a rock star here. All of us pilots love it in Japan, and a big part of that is the fans. It's always fun to get in really close touch with the fans. That's half of why we do it."
"I've just landed and have not checked my data yet, but it felt OK, apart from the first run where I got lost after the horizontal turn and then I saw the gate too low. In the second run it was good. I like the track here, it's technical and one of my favourites and I did enjoy the flight."
"It's a little bit more challenging because of the wind, but again it's the same old thing, we have to find a second somewhere. I believe the wind is going to shift tomorrow and then it will probably shift back on Sunday. It suits my style, maybe if it gets a little bit uglier, it might suit us. The problem with the wind is there are some places, like the chicane where the wind is really pushing you towards the pylon and you've got to be tight to it, because you're setting up your turn for the next gate. All the manoeuvres together are a chain, and if you break the chain you won't be able to put it back together."
"Wow! The flight in Free Practice 1 was quite surprising for me. I figured out a lot of the difficulties in this track with the wind plus the different references I've had to figure out from my cockpit. Altogether my flight has been difficult and no good time today. But it's always better to get those difficulties out of the way on Friday and be ready for Saturday and Sunday. I will put my thoughts on the next two Free Practice sessions and Qualifying tomorrow and we will be better. My goal for Qualifying is to be in the middle of the top half of the timesheet – of course I wouldn't say no to finishing top!"
"We had the first test of the new winglets and they handle fine. There's not a huge amount of difference between these and the old ones. I'm going to go through the figures now and see if they've given us an advantage – we kind of know where they might work better in some places and where they might not be as good as others, but we'll see what the data says. The track was good, it was bumpy and a lot of crosswind out there. I was able to get round there reasonably quickly. And we're looking forward to tomorrow even with the wind going the completely opposite direction."
"It was a difficult day because the conditions are very demanding. There is a lot of wind and a lot of turbulence in the track. I was over the safety line due to the wind pushing me, so I only had one valid time. It was good training because of those difficult conditions so there were lots of lessons to be learned and tomorrow we will have a better day."
François Le Vot
"It was very pleasant in the track for me today; the wind was manageable. I have been thinking intensively about the track and it went well. Now I hope it will continue this way. I was comfortable despite the conditions, which helped a lot. Because my goal is to be as clean as possible, and it worked – it was a good day."
"There was lot of flying today with four flights and we're just trying to catch up as we need time in the raceplane, because we haven't flown since France. It was good to get into the track, which is similar to last year's track, but there was crosswind at almost every gate, which made it testing for a first session."
"The conditions were difficult and that's what works for us. If the track is easy and not many technical points, then our plane is not the fastest, but when the conditions are getting difficult it's when we can put down some good times and that's what happens. I'm never tired and always super excited to race. It will be an intense and condensed weekend and we're looking forward, but the weather will calm down, which is bad for us. It's a technical track and that's what we like."
"It's really windy and to be honest, we had to test flights and it wasn't as bumpy as I thought. It was calm and I thought it would be nice in the track. But it was windy and bumpy and you could see me being blown off my lines. It's really too much for me and I felt I was a passenger in the plane and the wind was the pilot."
"The track was great and it's challenging. The wind was really strong out there, but the good thing was there was very little turbulence so you can see the pylons bending completely to the right and the plane moving sideways. I'm happy with my net times. I tried different tactics to so we can collect data. The forecast said the wind will drop, but shift 180 degrees, so you never know what might happen."
The pilots will be flying FP 2 and 3 tomorrow before Qualifying, catch all the action HERE.