JAPANESE GP – FRIDAY PRACTICE
CAR 1, SEBASTIAN VETTEL
First Practice Session: Position: 3, Best Time: 1:34.768, Laps: 24
Second Practice Session: Position: 1, Best Time: 1:33.852, Laps: 35
“The car balance is decent, but I think we can still improve. Looking after the tyres will be important here, especially during the race. The car works fine at the moment, but we need to make sure we set it up the right way. It’s good to see we are up there today, but it’s not always so important; we need to step up our game for tomorrow, as Mercedes will be strong in qualifying.”
CAR 2, MARK WEBBER
First Practice Session: Position: 4, Best Time: 1:34.787, Laps: 20
Second Practice Session: Position: 2, Best Time: 1:34.020, Laps: 35
“On one lap, it looks pretty tight with the Mercedes and with the Lotus’, but I haven’t had a close look at the times: it doesn’t look too bad. We’ve done a lot of laps today and will now work on tomorrow. The track is a special one and in terms of difficulty, it’s right up there. We have to be very accurate and if you’re not, then you get penalised. We have to find performance tonight, it’s our job to make improvements each day and we have a job to do tonight to find some more tenths.”
From the outside it might seem that all the stress of a race weekend funnels towards the race start, but the truth is that moments of intense pressure strike different team members at different times. Here, Head of Race Strategy Will Courtenay reveals that his highest-pressure moment isn’t the number crunching of Saturday night but is actually the run-up to the first pit stop of the race…
“There’s a lot hinging on that first pit stop. If you get it right and you make a good call then hopefully the rest of your race will be relatively straightforward. If something goes wrong or you make a bad decision then later in the race you might have to further compromise your strategy to get out of a bad situation and that’s never pleasant.
“There’s a lot of stuff going, a lot of variables to consider – how the car is working, tyre wear, track position, traffic etc. You’re trying to take all that into consideration and also the two cars might be having totally different races with one doing well and the other stuck in traffic.
“I’ll have my analysis in front of me. I’ll be talking to the guys back in Milton Keynes as well. They’ll be feeding data to me and from that, within our group, we’ll make a recommendation and hopefully Christian and Adrian OK that. Then we feed that to the engineers so they’re informed well in advance and know what the plan is.
“Strategy is an evolving thing. We start the preparation work before we even get to the country. We update it after Friday practice and again after qualifying. So, while Saturday evening is a busy time for me, probably busier than it is for a lot of the other people in the team, it’s not an intense moment. Sunday’s first pit stop is the real crunch point.”