Japanese Grand Prix Practice – Ferrari

Japanese GP – Top five separated by half a second
Suzuka, 7 October – Jenson Button went fastest on Friday at Suzuka, the Japanese track that is playing host to the 15th round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Having also come out on top in the first session of free practice, the English driver’s McLaren confirmed that position in the afternoon session (1.31.901), finishing ahead of the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso (1.32.075) and the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel (1.32.095). The other 150° Italia of Felipe Massa was 5th with 1.32.448. As they completed the usual Friday programme, both Ferrari drivers tested the two compounds provided by Pirelli – Medium and Soft – and carried out a long run with full fuel tanks.

The third and final session of free practice will take place tomorrow morning at 11am local time.

Japanese GP – So far so good in Suzuka
A Friday like so many others this season in Suzuka, which today saw the first two free practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix. The 150º Italia cars completed a total of 118 laps (57 with Fernando Alonso and four more for Felipe Massa,) equivalent to 685 kilometres. Work centred mainly on evaluating different aerodynamic configurations and on the performance of the two types of tyre – Soft and Medium – brought to this fascinating circuit by Pirelli.

Fernando Alonso: “This year we have seen all the teams go through so many highs and lows, with the exception of Red Bull, depending on which track we are at, so we should not be too surprised if today it seems that we have done better than in Singapore for example. And then, today is only Friday: it’s happened before that the first day has been like this and then we have not managed to do any better than fifth in qualifying. In fact, I don’t think that things are so different to what they were two weeks ago, especially as our cars are pretty much unchanged. We hope to be able to fight with McLaren and Red Bull, but we know it won’t be easy. What we can say is that the feeling from today is a little bit more encouraging than in previous races. Also, we must bear in mind that the races have been much more open than in the past, when the final result did not differ that much from the grid positions: strategy, tyre degradation and DRS create much more uncertainty and spectacle. For example, I think that here we will see a lot more overtaking than in past years.”

Felipe Massa: “Overall, it was a good day: compared to so many other Fridays this year, the first impressions are better. The car behaved reasonably well, but it’s also true we will not know where we are compared to the others until tomorrow afternoon. We worked a lot on defining the best set-up, learning important things for the rest of the weekend. Tyre degradation seems to be rather significant, which will make the race even more open in terms of strategy: finding the right set-up on the car won’t be the easiest of jobs. Maybe we can fight for a podium finish and it’s a realistic goal. Sure, I always want to be able to fight for the win: it’s true that Red Bull has a significant advantage, but we must continue to believe in ourselves, because in the races, anything can happen.”

Pat Fry: “It is always difficult to evacuate precisely the relative strengths through the field on Friday evening, because we do not know exactly what our main opponents were doing, especially when it comes to the fuel loads they ran during the three hours of free practice. Therefore, it’s better to concentrate on our own efforts and try and prepare as well as possible for the rest of the weekend. We had various different aerodynamic elements to compare and that was the bulk of what we did in the first session. It’s important also when looking to next year, because it means you can go into greater detail when it comes to the correlation between the track and the wind tunnel. This afternoon, tyres were the dominant item during the ninety minutes: this track is very tough on tyres and it will be some challenge to find the right balance on the car, both for qualifying and the race.”

First session Second session
Driver Pos. Time Laps Pos. Time Laps Chassis
F. Alonso 4th 1.34.372 24 2nd 1.32.075 33 291
F. Massa 7th 1.35.585 27 5th 1.32.448 34 290


First session: air 25/27 °C, track 30/35 °C. Partially cloudy.
Second session: air 25 °C, track 33/31 °C. Sunny.

Japanese GP – Expect the unexpected
Suzuka, 7 October – Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both completed well over a Japanese Grand Prix race distance in the three hours of free practice at the spectacular Suzuka circuit today. Even if the season is reaching the end of the road, every moment of track time is still invaluable to Scuderia Ferrari, as it chases its twin objectives of ending the year more stylishly than it began it and cramming in as much work as possible in the light of starting all over again in 2012.

The Spaniard ended the day in an encouraging second place on the time sheet, behind the McLaren of Jenson Button, who was the only man to break the 1m 32s barrier. The Scuderia’s Brazilian driver was fifth fastest this afternoon, separated from his team-mate by just under four tenths of a second and the two Red Bulls of third placed Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in fourth. Felipe’s former team-mate and multiple Suzuka winner Michael Schumacher completed the top six for Mercedes.

In past years, by the time the teams reached Suzuka, the scene was set and, to quote Julius Caesar as he crossed the Rubicon, the die is cast. However, this year the one predictable element of each race has been its unpredictability and yet again that might well prove to be the case this weekend. One can expect the unexpected and as usual, the relative performance of the Pirelli Soft and Medium tyres and how the teams manage their use on Sunday would seem to be the key. But we are getting ahead of the game, because before the race comes one more hour of free practice tomorrow morning, followed by qualifying: if the tyres, combined with DRS and KERS make overtaking a bit more likely on this track where getting ahead of a rival has always been very difficult, Suzuka is still the sort of circuit where having a clear view of the run down to the first right hander is more than useful.