Ferrari Race Report Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

Fernando Alonso

Japanese GP – Consolidating in the Constructors

Suzuka, 13 October – Earlier this weekend, Fernando Alonso said his main aim was to strengthen the Scuderia’s position in the Constructors’ championship and thanks to the Spaniards fourth place finish this afternoon, aided by an extra point from Felipe’s tenth place, that target was indeed reached: the Scuderia has extended its lead from 1 point to 10 over Mercedes. The Spaniard still has a theoretical chance of taking the Drivers’ crown but it requires levels of optimism not usually found even in the F1 paddock. After Sebastian Vettel won today, he now has a 90 point lead over the Ferrari man, with 100 still to play for in the remaining four rounds. The German’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber finished second, with Romain Grosjean completing the podium trio for Lotus. Having started on the Medium tyres from qualifying, the Ferrari duo ran a two stop strategy, taking on the Hard at each of the stops.

As the lights went out, at the back of the field, Van de Garde and Bianchi crashed out at the first turn, with Felipe still fifth, but Fernando moving up to sixth. Grosjean got the best start off the line from fourth place, running up along the barrier to lead in the Lotus. Behind him came Webber, Vettel and Rosberg ahead of Felipe, as Hamilton dropped down the order after the usual wheel to wheel action at Turn 1, which caused the Mercedes man to have to pit on lap 2.

In fifth place, Felipe was 7.8 behind the leader on lap 5, 1.3 behind fourth placed Rosberg in the Mercedes, with his Ferrari team-mate 0.6 behind him. Coming down the pit straight on lap 6, Fernando was already beginning to look for a way past the Brazilian. The early pit stops began around now, with Vergne bringing the Toro Rosso in on lap 7, followed next time by Button in the McLaren, Bottas in the Williams and Sutil in the Force India. Hamilton retired the Mercedes in the garage. On lap 9, Felipe had closed significantly on Rosberg and had Fernando stuck to his tail. Out in front, Grosjean had over two seconds in hand on Webber, who was 1.9 ahead of Red Bull team-mate Vettel. In fourth, Rosberg trailed the leading trio by 7.2. Hulkenberg in the Sauber and Di Resta in the Force India changed onto the Prime tyre on lap 10.

Webber made his pit stop on lap 11, coming in just before Felipe and Raikkonen. The race leader came in on lap 12, as did Rosberg and Perez, who nearly collided in pit lane, with the Mercedes driver getting a drive-through penalty. Fernando pitted for the Prime on lap 13, with Vettel first and Ricciardo, fifth the only front runners not to have changed tyres yet. The German was on Options but the Australian had started on the Prime. Vettel brought his Red Bull in on lap 14.

Next time round, the order was Grosjean, Webber, Vettel, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Felipe in seventh, followed by his team-mate, with Gutierrez and Raikkonen completing the top ten. At this point one of the best battles was for fourth, as Ricciardo, yet to change tyres tried to fend off Hulkenberg, which had allowed Felipe to close to within 0.8 of the Sauber, while Fernando had drifted to 1.8 behind his team-mate. By lap 19, with Ricciardo slower on old tyres, this quartet was in very close company and, as they came down the straight next time round, the Spaniard got ahead of the Brazilian and Gutierrez and Raikkonen also joined the train. Hulkenberg and Fernando both got past the Australian who came in for another set of Prime on lap 21. The Saubers had been on great form in recent races and Felipe was wheel to wheel with Gutierrez as the Mexican tried to pass and in the confusion, Raikkonen got his Lotus ahead of the Sauber.

Lap 22 and Fernando was right behind fourth placed Hulkenberg. Three laps later Webber came in for another set of Primes from second place, leaving Vettel second, 2.5 behind Grosjean. On lap 28, Felipe made his second pit stop, rejoining ninth and next time round Grosjean pitted, promoting Vettel to the lead and Hulkenberg also came in at this point, rejoining sixth. Fernando was yet to make his second stop and was up to fourth, but he came in on lap 30, as did Gutierrez and Perez. With Raikkonen changing tyres on lap 31, Vettel out in front was the only lead driver not to have made a second stop. Behind him were Webber, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Fernando in fifth, but in sixth place Felipe was given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. He came in to take the penalty on lap 35, rejoining eleventh behind Gutierrez. Vettel finally made his second stop on lap 37, taking on another set of Primes, rejoining third behind Webber and Grosjean. Hulkenberg was 32 seconds adrift of the lead trio in fourth spot and in fifth, Fernando had his mirrors full of Raikkonen’s Lotus.

At the start of lap 41, Vettel dived past Grosjean going into Turn 1, so we now had a Red Bull one-two, but the order was reversed on lap 42 when Webber had to make a third stop, which put him in third place behind Vettel and Grosjean. Having steadily closed on Hulkenberg, Fernando swept past the Sauber to go fourth on lap 46. In the closing stages, Webber’s pursuit of Grosjean provided all the excitement as they battled through backmarkers, the Australian finally making the move on the penultimate lap. As for Felipe, he was back in the points on lap 38, and up to eighth, but on lap 46 he had to start fighting off Rosberg, the Mercedes man passing him a couple of laps later. Then with just one lap remaining, Button on fresher rubber managed to muscle his way past Felipe so that the Brazilian had to settle for the final point on offer.

McLaren Race Report Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

2013 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

 Suzuka Circuit, Sunday October 13

 “Both drivers showed stout character today”

 JENSON BUTTON

MP4-28A-04

Started                   10th

Finished                 9th

Fastest lap             1m35.549s (+0.962s, 6th)

Pitstops                 Three: lap 8 (3.04s), 23 (5.97s) and 40 (2.85s) [Opt-Pri-Pri-Opt]

Points                     60 (9th)

“The first two stints of the race were pretty difficult as I had massive understeer. That was my fault: on the lap-to-grid, it felt like I had too much front-end, so I took some wing out of the car. It was the wrong thing to do – it left me with too much understeer, and I kept locking up the fronts, which destroyed the front tyres.

 “For the third set, we added some front-wing, and the balance came back to me. In the end, the car was really good to drive – especially my final stint on the Option tyre, which was a lot of fun, especially as I was able to chase down and pass a couple of other cars.

 “In the closing laps, I made a great move on Paul [di Resta] around the outside of the chicane. I made the same move on Felipe [Massa] too, but he forced me over the kerb, so I ended up getting him on the straight.

 “So it was an enjoyable end to the race, but a disappointing beginning.”

 SERGIO PEREZ

MP4-28A-01

Started                   11th

Finished                 15th

Fastest lap             1m35.845s (+1.258s, 7th)

Pitstops                 Three: laps 12 (4.47s), 30 (7.42s) and 42 (4.02s – puncture) [Opt-Pri-Pri-Opt]

Points                     23 (13th)

“It was a very unfortunate afternoon for us.

 “I had such bad luck – things just didn’t go our way today. In fact, I think you could say that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

 “We had an incident with Nico [Rosberg] in the pitlane, some of slow pitstops, and then another incident with Nico, which caused me to suffer a puncture – luckily, however, right at the entrance of the pitlane.

 “After a difficult race like this, all we can do is look ahead. In two weeks’ time we’ll start all over again – I’ll be hoping for more luck in New Delhi.”

 MARTIN WHITMARSH

Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

“Today’s race was a tough one for both our drivers, but they both showed stout character in dealing with various adverse occurrences with great determination throughout all 53 laps.

“Jenson made a good start off the line, but through no fault of his own was then embroiled in a first-corner incident, consequently dropping a few places. As a result, he also flat-spotted his tyres, which caused a significant vibration that we elected to curtail by bringing him in for his first tyre stop earlier than we otherwise would have done.

 “We were consequently forced to convert his planned two-stop strategy to a three-stopper, which was a pity, but he drove a truly excellent race thereafter, taking advantage of rubber fresher than that of his rivals in his fourth and final stint to pull off some excellent overtaking manoeuvres and bag a hard-won ninth place by the flag.

 “Checo made an excellent start, moving from P11 on the grid to P8 at the end of lap one, and was able to keep pace with all but the three front-runners throughout his first stint.

 “Unfortunately, his first tyre stop was compromised by the unsafe release of Nico’s Mercedes, causing him [ie, Checo] to emerge behind Esteban’s [Gutierrez] Sauber, behind which he lost a lot of time throughout his second stint, unable to overtake despite making plenty of brave attempts to do so.

 “Then, in his third stint, Checo suffered a left-rear puncture, also ironically in an incident with Nico, which necessitated an extra unscheduled pitstop that put him out of contention for a points-scoring finish. Had that not occurred, he, like Jenson, would have earned some valuable points.

 “From here we go to New Delhi, where we hope to consolidate our fifth place in the Constructors’ World Championship by enjoying what we hope will be a less eventful and more productive afternoon than we did here at Suzuka today.”

Caterham Race Report Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

Header 5

 

2013 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

Suzuka, Japan – 13th October 2013

Caterham F1 Team Partner Information
Caterham Moto Racing Team was unveiled today at Sepang Circuit, contesting Moto2 on Caterham-Suter chassis with Josh Herrin confirmed as the first rider caterh.am/Moto2

Weather
Race: Dry, sunny, air temp 24° / track temp 35° (start), 24° / 34° (lap 26), 23° / 30° (lap 53)

Runplan
Charles Pic
Start on hard tyres
Lap1: drive-through penalty
Lap 17: pitstop 1, medium tyres
Lap 35: pitstop 2, hard tyres
Finished: 18th

Giedo van der Garde
Start on medium tyres
Contact in turn one ends race
DNF

Team Quotes

Charles Pic, car 20, chassis CT03-#6: “I had a good start but we’d already decided to serve the drive-through penalty at the end of lap one to get it out of the way and I was playing catch up from there. My target from there was to pass Chilton and I finished almost 20 seconds clear of him so that’s about as much as we could have hoped for today.

“I was on a set of hards for the first stint and they held up ok, they felt pretty good and I was given the all-clear to push quite early on so aimed to cut the gap as much as I could. We stopped for the first time on lap 17 and did the second stint on new options and my pace was good on them, right up until the second stop on lap 35.

“The final stint was on another set of hards and I came out around 11 seconds behind the Marussia so pushed as hard as I could and had the gap down to eight seconds with 11 laps left. I was gaining on him at about a second a lap and with five laps left I got him and pulled away, finally finishing 18th. I have to say I’m pretty happy about that, bearing in mind the time I lost on the first lap but I just kept pushing. I think it’s a fair result today for the work the whole team put in, and one that shows we never stop fighting.”

Giedo van der Garde, car 21, chassis CT03-#4: “My start was ok but going into turn one I was squeezed between both the Marussia cars and had nowhere to go. I lost my front wing in contact with Bianchi and then the car went straight off and into the wall. It was quite a heavy impact but I’m ok. Obviously that’s disappointing, but it was a racing incident and sometimes these things happen so now we’ll move on to India and push for a better weekend there and for the rest of the season.”

Japanese Grand Prix – A Special Thought

December 31, 2013

Japanese GP - A special thought

Japanese GP – A special thought

Suzuka, 12 October – Stefano Domenicali and Kamui Kobayashi had a very special greeting to give at the meeting organised with the marshals at the Suzuka circuit at the Scuderia Ferrari garage, during a break in the track action. The main recipient of the wishes for a speedy recovery was unfortunately not present at the event for domestic reasons. Hiroshi Honda was the marshal injured in the unfortunate accident that occurred here at Suzuka at the second round of the Asia Pacific Ferrari Challenge series. Kobayashi was a special guest at this two race event held here in April and handed over gifts from Maranello as well as posing for photos with the Scuderia’s Team Principal in a photo to honour Hiroshi.

Ferrari Qualifying Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

Pat Fry

Japanese GP – Pat Fry: “Encouraging signs”

Pat Fry: “It was a really very closely contested qualifying. The performance of the car improved since yesterday, partly because of the work we did to adjust the handling, partly because of the track conditions and the wind, which was particularly strong in the first sector. The positions more or less reflect our expectations, even if the gap to the leaders is smaller and that is an encouraging sign for us. Unfortunately we continue to suffer from a lack of aerodynamic downforce and so we struggle to fight for the top places. Today, we did a lot of work to find the right car configuration and both drivers gave their best. It’s never simple tackling a race starting from these positions, but in Suzuka, as we know, anything can happen. Now we must concentrate on preparing for the race and ensure we are ready to make the most of any opportunity, trying not to make any mistakes. Our pace on a long run, as seen yesterday, means we can be confident about tomorrow, even if we will have to take into account the variables, such as the weather and track conditions, which as we have seen today, partially affected the performance of all the cars”.

McLaren Qualifying Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

2013 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

 Suzuka Circuit, Saturday October 12

 “It’s going to be a tough race – but that’s why we enjoy this sport”

 JENSON BUTTON

MP4-28A-04

FP3

7th                            1m32.869s (+0.816s) 17 laps

 Qualifying

Q1 11th                    1m32.606s (on Primes)

Q2 9th                      1m31.838s (on Options)

Q3 10th overall       1m31.827s (on Options)

 “In Q3 at Suzuka you want to go out and have fun – which is exactly what I did. I couldn’t have gone any quicker. I did three laps in Q2 and Q3 that were almost identical, so I think P10 was as good as our car could get here today. There wasn’t any more time left out on the track, but it was fun trying to find it!

 “Looking forward to tomorrow’s grand prix, I think it’s going to be a different sort of race to those we’ve experienced recently, because the tyre degradation is more reasonable here than it’s been in previous races. Actually, I think both compounds are working well here.

 “I’m really looking forward to the race, and hopefully we’ll be able to make progress and bag a decent haul of points. It’s going to be tough out there though – but that’s why we enjoy this sport.”

 SERGIO PEREZ

MP4-28A-01

FP3

11th                                       1m33.158s (+1.105s) 15 laps

 Qualifying

Q1 14th                    1m32.718s (on Options)

Q2 11th overall*      1m31.989s (on Options)

Q3 –        

 “It was frustrating to miss out on Q3 by the smallest of margins.

 “It was extremely close: my first set of tyres in Q2 were the Options I’d run during Q1 when we’d aborted because of the red flag. That meant my reference for my second Q2 run wasn’t ideal as I didn’t really know where the track was going.

 “Obviously, yesterday we missed out on some useful track time owing to the accident, so this morning was spent trying to recover that time, changing set-up and learning about the track.

 “To miss out by just over tenth wasn’t ideal but, on the other hand, I think we’re in a good position to score points tomorrow.”

 MARTIN WHITMARSH

Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

“Both drivers did a good, solid, professional job in qualifying here today.

 “Checo was unlucky to miss out on going through to Q3 by the narrowest of margins, and as a result he’ll start tomorrow’s grand prix from P11.

 “Jenson got through to Q3 reasonably comfortably – which was why, especially as the upper midfield is so close and competitive these days, he elected to run in Q3 in an effort to improve his grid position for the race. In the end he just failed to do that, but we believe that it was the right decision to give it a go even if hindsight now informs us that the P10 he’d already secured was in fact the best we could have managed here today.

 “Having said that, Jenson loves Suzuka, won brilliantly here two years ago, and invariably races very well here. No-one is expecting him to deliver a repeat victory tomorrow, but you can be well sure that he’ll be putting in his usual measured yet forceful performance in an effort steadily to climb the leaderboard in the cut and thrust of tomorrow’s 53-lap race.

 “Checo, too, will be eager to score as many points as possible tomorrow, and he’s well placed to do just that.”

Force India Qualifying Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

 

Click to Download

2013 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Report

 Paul Di Resta qualified in 12th place for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, while teammate Adrian Sutil was in P17.

 P12      Paul Di Resta  VJM06-04

Q1:      1:32.286         

Q2:      1:31.992

 Paul: “Given where we started yesterday, I think we should be pretty happy with P12. Slowly but surely we’ve made the car more drivable and in qualifying it felt quite good. The overnight efforts of everyone at the track and back at the factory have helped dial the car into the circuit. Compared with yesterday the car feels much more stable and predictable, and that’s allowed us to get within a tenth of making Q3. I’m feeling upbeat about the race because the long runs have looked consistent and we are well placed to fight for points with a free choice on tyre strategy.”

 P17      Adrian Sutil    VJM06-03

Q1:      1:32.890

 Adrian: “It’s not been an easy day. I made a mistake this morning, damaged the car and we had to change the gearbox. I have to say a big ‘thank you’ to the team for getting the car ready in time for qualifying because they had a lot of work to do during the lunch break. In Q1 the car was quite difficult to drive, I didn’t feel comfortable and was missing the grip to be competitive. All I can do now is look forward to the race and hope we have a better day. With the grid penalty [for the gearbox change] I will be starting near the back so I need to try and deliver consistent race pace and hopefully move towards the points.”

 Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

“Suzuka has been quite a challenge for us this year, but the changes we made overnight were a step in the right direction and improved the drivability of the car. An accident for Adrian halfway through FP3 was unfortunate and although the mechanics did a fantastic job of repairing his car, he was on the back foot going into qualifying. On the other side of the garage Paul was in better shape and showed very strong pace in Q1 and Q2. In the end he was unlucky to miss out on a place in Q3, but he’s done enough to be firmly in the battle for points tomorrow. We’re feeling quite optimistic about our race pace and tyre life, and if we get the strategy right we can take the fight to the cars ahead of us.”

Caterham Qualifying Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

Header 5

 

 

2013 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX FP3 & QUALIFYING

Suzuka, Japan – 12th October 2013

Caterham F1 Team Partner information
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Weather
FP3: dry, sunny; min / max track temp 37° (start) – 34° (end), air temp 25° (start) – 24° (end)
Q1: dry, sunny; min / max track temp 36°(start) – 35° (end), air temp 24°

Fastest laps / positions:
FP3: VDG 1.35.473, 19th / PIC 1.35.518, 20th
Q1: PIC 1.34.556, 20th / VDG 1.34.879, 21st

Total laps:
FP3: VDG 20 / PIC 18
Q1: PIC 9 / VDG 9

Runplan

Charles Pic, car #20, chassis CT03-06

FP3
1105 – 1116: Run 1, 6 laps (hard tyres)
Changes: rear brake duct blanking
1128 – 1142: Run 2, 7 laps (hard tyres)
Changes: front wing flap angle
1153 – 1202: Run 3, 5 laps (medium tyres)

Q1
1402 – 1413: Run 1, 5 laps (medium tyres)
Changes: front wing flap angle
1416 – 1418: Run 2, 1 lap (medium tyres)
(out and straight in due to session being red flagged)
1422 – 1429: Run 3, 3 laps (medium tyres)

Giedo van der Garde, car #21, chassis CT03-04

FP3
1106 – 1121: Run 1, 8 laps (hard tyres)
Changes: rear brake duct blanking
1131 – 1144: Run 2, 7 laps (hard tyres)
Changes: front wing flap angle, front / rear ride height
1152 – 1202: Run 3, 5 laps (medium tyres)

Q1
1403 – 1412: Run 1, 5 laps (medium tyres)
Changes: n/a
1416 – 1418: Run 2, 1 lap (medium tyres)
(out and straight in due to session being red flagged)
1422 – 1430: Run 3, 3 laps (medium tyres)

Driver quotes

Charles Pic: “FP3 started with a car that was better balanced from Friday, especially in sector one. However, the traction wasn’t as good but to avoid compromising the aero balance we’d found we worked on the diff and brake balance for run two and it made a small improvement. We stuck to the normal plan and did a second run on the primes and then onto the options, with a bit more front wing for the performance run but I couldn’t feel a big gain in grip on the mediums today, unlike Friday. The car was understeering more, particularly in the high speed sections so we made another couple of changes before quali to deal with that.

“On my first run in qualifying we went out on mediums for three timed laps and the car immediately felt better. We’d made some more changes over lunch and the balance had improved a lot. Run one was ok but with more time to come we opted for a second one lap run at the end of the session. Just as we exited the pit the red flags came out so we came straight back, but had enough time for one more lap. Unfortunately, with the time left in the session when it restarted, we didn’t have enough of a gap on track so even though I was 4/10ths up on the last quick lap, I came up behind another car and couldn’t improve my time which is obviously a shame.

Giedo van der Garde: “We started FP3 with a pretty good balance. I was struggling a bit with entry into turns 11 and 16 and there was a bit of understeer as the tyre wear increased, but not too much to be a concern. For the performance run we made a final change to the ride height and front wing to try and improve the car’s behaviour on entry and it seemed to work a bit. The car balance had improved but we still needed to improve its behaviour in entry to the corners in the low speed turns, so we did that over lunch in preparation for Q1.

“We started quali with a three timed lap run on the medium tyres and I couldn’t really find any real pace. The track was very busy and there wasn’t much clear space, but the car had been quickest on the first lap so we went for one timed lap on run two. Just when I went out the red flags came out at the same time so I had to come back in and that meant we were always going to struggle to get the best out of the tyres when the session was restarted. As soon as it began again we went straight out but the tyres had gone so I couldn’t get everything out of it. Still, there’s a few penalties which will mean we’ll begin the race higher up and with another start tomorrow like I’ve had recently I’m sure we can be back where we want to be on race day.”

Ferrari Practice Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

Felipe Massa

Japanese GP – A great show for the fans

Suzuka, 12 October – Fifth and sixth in this morning’s final free practice for Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, evolved into another fifth, this time for the Brazilian and eighth for the Spaniard in this afternoon’s qualifying session.

Felipe was delighted with his lap, as all drivers are when they feel they have got something right on one of the most challenging circuits in the world. The Brazilian took pole here in 2006 and finished second last year, so his good form, out-qualifying his team-mate for the sixth time this season, is not that surprising.

As for Fernando, he was sanguine about being around three tenths of a second slower than Felipe on an afternoon that didn’t deliver any real surprises. The key thing is that both Ferrari men are sufficiently well placed to aspire to a good points haul tomorrow, as they join forces to try and increase that one point lead over third placed Mercedes in the Constructors’ classification.

Fernando always aims high, so the suggestion from a journalist that if he finishes where he starts tomorrow’s 53 lap race and Vettel wins, he can keep the Drivers’ title race alive for a bit longer, didn’t really register. Suzuka often has some surprises in store, so given the current pace of the F138 over a long run, it could be a profitable afternoon tomorrow for both Ferrari men. It certainly promises to be a great show for the fans.

Today’s qualifying has produced an unusual looking grid in several ways: sure, the front row is all blue, but its Red Bull’s Mark Webber who has waited until Round 15 of the championship to secure his first pole position of the season, with team-mate Sebastian Vettel alongside him. It’s actually the first time this year the Australian has out-performed the German. Lewis Hamilton is third for Mercedes ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. On the outside of Felipe is Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes, while Fernando has the on-form Nico Hulkenberg on his inside in the Sauber.

Although the wind, stronger and coming from a different direction to Friday’s, had a significant effect on the handling of many of the cars today, that’s about all the meteorological surprises expected for the weekend, so tomorrow’s fifteenth round of the World Championship should run from start to finish in the dry. That’s for the best for everyone, on this daunting Suzuka track.

Ferrari Preview Japanese Grand Prix 2013

December 31, 2013

Fernando Alonso

Japanese GP – Keeping the Samurai spirit

Maranello, 8 October – k Formula 1’s final foray to the Far East for 2013 is one of the undoubted highlights of the season, our annual visit to Suzuka circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix. The event has played a significant role in the history of the sport and, because it frequently brought the curtain down on the season, the race here has decided the outcome of the Drivers’ World Championship no fewer than thirteen times. Most of the Japanese GPs have been staged here with the exception of four at the Fuji Speedway and this year will be the twenty fifth time Formula 1 has come to Suzuka.

Originally designed as a test track for Honda cars and motorbikes, the 5.807 kilometres feature every conceivable type of corner and a figure of eight layout. It’s an incredible challenge for the drivers, so why not let them tell us about it? “It’s a fantastic track, for me one of the best of the season,” reckons Felipe Massa. “Spa and Suzuka give me the most driving satisfaction of all and Sector 1 at Suzuka is really wonderful, with one corner after another, changes of direction all the time, as it rises and drops. A real nice track which gives the driver plenty to do and I love going there.

The first sector is the nicest in my opinion with reasonably fast corners with plenty of big changes of direction. In sector 2 you have one quick right handed corner and then the famous hairpin, the slowest turn at the track. Then in the third sector you have a reasonably long straight and the chicane at the end, so put them all together and you have a bit of everything.” Fernando Alonso echoes his team-mates enjoyment of Sector 1. “Suzuka is definitely a very, very nice track to drive, especially the first sector with all the fast Esses,” says the Spaniard. “I’d say it’s a track that definitely needs to be tackled in a very aggressive manner, where aerodynamics is the most important factor, because you have a lot of high speed corners and so the aero has to be perfect to be fast in Suzuka. Then the changeable weather that is a feature at this time of year means it is a very demanding race, not just for the drivers but also for the engineers.”

It’s a sad fact that, at some races, the teams are putting on a show for the TV cameras, with only sparsely populated grandstands, but Suzuka is always a sell-out, where the crowd adds greatly to the atmosphere. “I think Japan has one of the most incredible set of fans in general, and many of them are also cheering for Ferrari,” agrees Felipe. “Even on Thursday when there is no track action, the fans are there in the grandstands opposite the pits, whether it is dry or raining. That’s the most incredible thing about racing in Japan, looking at the excitement and the love the fans have for Formula 1.

The people are fantastic, very well educated I think it’s a lesson in life going to Japan and living among them for a while.” Even if the Suzuka crowd is a knowledgeable one, the purpose of Friday’s two sessions is not always easy to understand. “On Friday, normally we concentrate on testing new components that we bring to every race, although maybe we do a bit less of that at this late stage in the season,” explains Fernando. “The first session is all about aerodynamics and the second we really look into the two types of tyre, the two compounds we have to use over the weekend, assessing their performance over a single lap and also on a long run.”

“The first free practice session allows you to begin to understand how the car is handling and gives you an idea if the set-up is likely to be going in the right direction,” adds Felipe. “You don’t do that many laps in the first session. Then in the second one, you do just a few laps on the new tyres, before pitting to put as much fuel in as you can and start a race simulation. So the second session is a bit more linked to the race, to get a feeling for the car on full tanks, and then on Saturday, you look much more towards the afternoon’s qualifying, with low fuel and so on.”

The circuit is also very challenging for the engineers. The key requirements are plenty of aerodynamic downforce, because although there are many high speed corners, there are very few straight sections and even the main downhill straight past the pits is not that long. The first sector requires a stiffly sprung car to deal with those violent and rapid changes of direction and pretty much the only part of a Formula 1 car that has an easy time here is the brakes, because there is only one heavy braking area, the one before the final chicane. As for the tyres, they too come under a lot of strain with the constant cornering forces, which is why Pirelli will be supplying its two hardest compounds, the Hard and the Medium.

Fernando has won the Japanese Grand Prix twice, the most recent victory coming at Fuji in 2008. “But the nicest memory was in 2006, my only win here in Suzuka, which was also very important in my fight for the World Championship title,” he recalls. “As for Japan itself, I like the culture, where education and discipline feature very strongly and the people are so polite. I am a fan of Samurai culture in particular and that is one of the things that inspires me and makes me happy when I come here.”

Felipe has also been a visitor to the Suzuka podium. “I’ve got good memories of my two second places here, especially the one in 2006 when I started from pole after doing a fantastic lap in qualifying and I came second again last year. I think my driving style suits this rather old style track with all its fast corners.” Apart from the Brazilian’s driving style, the Scuderia Ferrari crew will be hoping it also better suits the F138’s characteristics than the Korean track, so that Fernando and Felipe can keep the title fight alive for some time longer.

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