Suzuka, 11 October – The pre-weekend forecast had been for storms and a wet track today, but it seems the weather gods have decided to celebrate 25 years of Formula 1 racing at Suzuka with glorious weather, accompanied by temperatures and humidity levels usually associated with summer. The forecast for the rest of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend is good, therefore all today’s data gathered from a total of just over 563 kilometres completed by the two F138s will be relevant and useful when it comes to preparations for qualifying and the race.
However, the 49 laps completed by Felipe Massa and the 48 by Fernando Alonso lacked something in terms of pace, so that is the priority for the engineers tonight. Felipe ended up eighth fastest, two places ahead of Fernando. But Friday’s times can be hard to interpret and on a long track, that can be even more difficult as it’s not always easy to recover from incidents like Fernando’s harmless spin this afternoon, just when he should have been getting an indication of his outright performance on the softer tyres, but having two cars in one piece after three hours around this daunting and demanding circuit is already a positive, when several drivers went off the track.
There are few surprises at the top of this afternoon’s time sheet, as the reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel was quickest, the only man to break the 1m 34s barrier, ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber. Third was the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg followed by the two Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, with Lewis Hamilton rounding off the top six for Mercedes.
Japanese GP – A sad Friday in Suzuka
Fernando Alonso: “It’s hard to talk about Maria de Villota right now, as I had only just taken my helmet off, when I was told about her death and at the moment, I still can’t believe it and need a while to stop and think about it. Of course, it’s very sad news for the world of motorsport as Maria was loved by everyone. Now, all we can do is pray for her and for her family. Back to the track, we were not as competitive as we wanted to be and now we must try and improve, putting together a series of changes that we already have in mind. Luckily, when I spun I didn’t ruin the tyres: we also managed to use them on the long run with a full fuel load, even if we definitely lost a few extra tenths from the first lap. We hope to get a clean lap tomorrow and to be ahead of those cars, such as the Toro Rossos and the McLarens that we cannot have in front of us, as happened today”.
Felipe Massa: “Today, we did all we could and managed to get through all our programme. It’s hard to know how to rate today because it’s only Friday and there are a lot of cars that are very competitive. From tomorrow, I hope to have a faster car, which will allow us to fight with those ahead of us. We will definitely do our best in preparing for qualifying, but above all for Sunday’s race. It’s always nice to be at Suzuka on this fantastic track, which is one of the best we race on”.
Pat Fry: “It was a demanding day of testing in which, once again, we tried to optimise the set-up of the cars to adapt them as well as possible to the characteristics of the track. At Suzuka, one move in the wrong direction carries a heavier price than at other tracks and so it’s necessary to come up with a configuration that gives the drivers as much confidence as possible in all three sectors. In the first free practice session, with Felipe we did a few aero tests, an area in which we are trying to improve, to be as competitive as possible when tackling the final races of the season. With Fernando’s F138, in the morning, we worked on set-up, making a few changes to give the car more grip. In the afternoon, with both drivers we concentrated on the usual comparison between the two compounds brought here by Pirelli: the performance gap between the Hard and Medium does not seem excessive, but we will try and understand more about their wear characteristics, taking into account the fact that usually, the degradation is particularly significant. We didn’t manage any quick laps on a low fuel load and so I don’t think the final Friday time sheet is particularly representative. Now we must be cautious, trying to reduce the gap to our closest rivals, while also not underestimating what those behind could do. This evening we will pay maximum attention to all the data we have gathered and assess every possibility for improving. In order to tackle what is a difficult track for the drivers as well as the engineers, it’s absolutely vital to get the car as well balanced as possible”.
Japanese GP – A promising Friday
Suzuka, 11 October – A busy day of testing in Suzuka with the afternoon session also run in the dry, contrary to what had been expected yesterday. Felipe Massa was eighth fastest in 1.34.698, while Fernando Alonso finished tenth in 1.35.087, his time set on the Hard tyre. Plenty of race simulation data was gathered from both F138s from runs on different fuel loads, using both types of tyre available this weekend.
The first 30 minutes saw several off-track excursions. Alonso and Massa both began on the Hard compound, setting the sixth and seventh fastest times. The Spaniard’s first four laps were affected by yellow flags and he posted a 1.35.087, while Felipe did a 1.35.117.
With an hour to go, the two F138s went out on Medium tyres and a low fuel load to do the first qualifying simulation. Alonso didn’t manage to set a quick time as he went off at the Degner 1 corner, while Massa was eighth.
After that, the work switched to race simulation, with Massa doing many laps on the Medium tyre and Fernando running mainly the Hards, doing a long run with a heavy fuel load. Overall, Massa and Alonso did 35 and 32 laps respectively. Sebastian Vettel was fastest for Red Bull in a time of 1.33.852.
Japanese GP – Looking at the figures
Suzuka, 11 October – Just four days on from the Korean Grand Prix, the Formula 1 World Championship is back on track at the Japanese Suzuka circuit, for the fifteenth round of the season. First at the end of the opening free practice session was Lewis Hamilton with a 1.34.157 in the Mercedes, followed by his team-mate Nico Rosberg (1.34.487) and the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel (1.34.768.) Only 28 thousandths of a second separated the two Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, fifth and sixth respectively in 1.35.126 and 1.35.154. The Brazilian driver worked on an evaluation of different aerodynamic configurations, while his team-mate concentrated on set-up work. Both men ran just one set of the Hard tyres, brought here by Pirelli along with the Medium.