A number of drivers have complained the track surface at Suzuka is making for challenging conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Lap times started to drop off during the long runs in a sign of high degradation levels, with multiple drivers saying they were sliding through the first sector on race simulations. George Russell was fifth quickest overall but said he was caught out by the way the track was performing on Friday.

“There seems to be a huge amount of tire degradation,” Russell said. “It’s really weird — Suzuka is one of the best tracks in the world to drive, but this year it feels like the tarmac has really broken up and the cars are sliding on top of the surface. It’s giving a bit of a strange feeling to all the drivers out there, and that’s what’s contributing towards that tire degradation.”

Russell’s comments were echoed by multiple drivers, but although teammate Lewis Hamilton was struggling even more, he felt part of his issues were due to car performance rather than the track itself.

“It’s a really bad day, to be honest,” Hamilton said. “Yeah, a real struggle out there. Long way off. Two seconds off in the first session, and over a second in the second. Just working away, trying to fix the car, fix the balance.

“It’s just figuring out what is wrong. We were obviously much closer in the last race, because we (had) only one high-speed corner, but it’s not as high as the speed of the corners here. And our car has more often than not been a little bit weaker in high-speed corners. Places like Silverstone for example –Copse, it’s one of our weaker corners.

“So (it’s) an area where we need to work on getting the car in more of a sweet spot, and not overheat our tires as much. We’ll work on it overnight and try and turn it around for tomorrow. We definitely won’t be winning this weekend.”

Despite the complaints there were few incidents, until just as FP2 was drawing to a close, Pierre Gasly carried a bit too much speed into the second Degner — the final corner before the track passes under itself — and locked up slightly, drifting wide into the gravel. Although he looked to have the Alpine under control, he made contact with the barrier that initially broke the front wing and then caused the left-front corner to fail.

“All good on my side — I’m feeling fine,” Gasly said. “Unfortunately I just locked up and tried to turn and couldn’t make the corner. So not ideal but the guys are going to repair the car all fine for tomorrow and go again.

“I think this morning was better in terms of performance but I didn’t feel good in the car in terms of balance, so we tried quite a few things in the afternoon which unfortunately didn’t bring what we hoped for, but at least it gives us some good direction. So I’m confident that for tomorrow we will put all the learnings from today together from Esteban (Ocon) and myself and try to maximize the package for qualifying.”