|Distance||307,471 km / 191,094 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||4.|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||298||Scuderia Ferrari||10.|
Stefano Domenicali: “The Suzuka weekend began with the sad news of the death of Maria de Villota and our first thoughts are with her. Considering the potential of our car, thanks to the work of the team at the track, we have obtained a result that allows us to stay second in both Championships, in line with our current objectives. With today’s fourth place, Fernando tops the list of the all-time highest number of points scored, proof of his extraordinary talent and something which makes us very proud. Up until the penalty, Felipe was fighting for a top five finish and it’s a shame that the drivethrough affected his race, so that he was not rewarded for all his efforts. Today’s leading trio had a better pace than us, but now it’s important that we do not let up at all: over the final four races, we have an obligation to demonstrate that Ferrari never gives up fighting for the top places”.
Fernando Alonso: “Fourth place was the most I could do today, as the three ahead of me were really out of reach and so, given our starting position and how practice went in general, I am happy. It was an action packed race and even if we suffered with traffic, degradation was more normal than in Korea and we were back to having a good pace. Certainly, we need to find something extra if we want to finish on the podium in the next four races. Today, Mercedes had a few problems and we made up some important points, but we must give it our all, if we want to stay second in the Constructors’ classification, because they are not far behind. I am very proud of having become the driver with the most points in the history of this sport, even if for a few years now, with the change to the points system, you get more. Now I want to celebrate this record and think about the next race in India. This one is already in the past”.
Felipe Massa: “That was a really difficult day, with the drive-through wiping out any chance of having a good race or bringing home more points. When I came down pit lane, I didn’t realise I was going too fast. It’s the first time it’s happened to me and it’s a real shame, because in the first stint of the race, I had a good pace. Having taken the penalty, I was stuck in traffic and the cars that had made a third stop towards the end of the race were able to pass me easily on new tyres. I am disappointed, because I’m sure that without that mistake I could have got a good result. In the remaining races, we must continue to fight and I hope we can be competitive starting right away in India”.
Pat Fry: “The first part of the race was very intense from a strategic point of view, as it was affected by traffic and the decision to bring forward the pit stops, which most of the teams did today. For us, it would have been a pointless risk to stop earlier than planned, because we had based our race on a two stop strategy and it would have therefore been difficult to make it to the end. Our level of degradation was better than last week’s and our race pace meant we could make up places. Today’s performance was definitely affected by traffic and even if the podium was not within our reach, the pace was enough for us to have finished right behind the top three by a smaller margin. Fernando drove a great race, getting a very good start and showing once again just how strong he is in the race. Certainly, we can’t be satisfied with fourth place, but we are pleased about the fact Fernando has taken the lead in the all-time points table. I am very disappointed for Felipe, because he did not deserve to finish down in tenth place at the end of a weekend that had started so well. I think it’s true to say that, without the penalty he would have been able to fight for fifth with Raikkonen and Hulkenberg. For the last four races, we will evaluate if it is worth bringing some improvements to motivate the drivers and teams over the closing stages of this championship”.
8 the number of top ten positions for Felipe Massa out of ten participations in the Japanese Grand Prix. The only times the Brazilian has not seen the chequered flag in this race were in 2002 with Sauber and 2010 with Ferrari. His best result is still second place, something he has achieved twice, in 2006 and 2012.
34 more points scored by Scuderia Ferrari this season when compared to 2012, (from 263 to 297.) The increase is due to the extra 21 points from Massa (from 69 to 90) and 13 from Alonso (from 194 to 207.)
35 the difference between Fernando Alonso’s finishing positions and grid positions this year, without taking into account the retirement in Sepang. Only three times (Bahrain, Monaco and Korea) has the Spaniard finished lower than he started. The biggest step up came in Spa where he made up 7 places from ninth to second.
1571 points scored by Fernando Alonso in 213 Grand Prix starts. The points from today’s fourth place put him in first place in the list of all time points scorers, overtaking Michael Schumacher’s tally of 1566.
While driving for the Scuderia, Alonso has picked up 994 points from 73 Grand Prix starts.
Suzuka, 13 October – Fernando Alonso finished fourth in the Japanese Grand Prix, with Felipe Massa tenth. The result means the Spaniard consolidates his second place in the Drivers’ championship, just as Ferrari does in the Constructors’ where it now has 297 points, ten more than Mercedes.
Alonso got away well, moving from eighth to sixth behind Massa. The two F138s maintained these places up to the first pit stops, when Massa switched to the Hard tyres on lap 11, with Alonso doing the same three laps later.
On lap 20, Fernando passed Felipe on the pit straight. The Spaniard moved up the order further, passing Ricciardo next time round to go fifth. A second stop, again for Hards, came on lap 28 for Felipe and 30 for Fernando. At this points Massa went over the pit lane speed limit, for which he was given a drive-through penalty, which dropped him from sixth to eleventh.
On lap 46, Alonso got passed Hulkenberg to go fourth, where he stayed to the chequered flag. Massa came home in tenth place. The race was won by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.
Fernando Alonso: “Today’s result is more or less what we were expecting, not having had a great pace all weekend, always being between sixth and tenth and even in Q3, I could not do more. Here the long run tests went better in terms of degradation than in Korea and that gives us hope that we can make up ground in the race. Tomorrow, we will give it our best shot, as always, trying to count on our strong points; the start, the strategy and the way we manage tyre degradation. The aim is definitely not just to finish in the first eight to keep the Championship alive, because if Vettel doesn’t win here, he will do it in one of the next races, when the number of combinations that can affect the result will be less. Now we need to pick up points for second place in the Constructors’ Championship and for that we need to finish ahead of Mercedes, who are only one point behind us”.
Felipe Massa: “Managing to put together a perfect lap on this incredible track is always extremely satisfying and it reminded me of my pole here in 2006. Even if it’s a fifth place, it’s still a good starting point for tomorrow. Already yesterday, I could feel the car was well balanced and today we did a good job, managing to get all the potential out of it. More than this was not possible, but I am very happy all the same. Sure, tomorrow’s race will not be easy, because we have some very fast cars ahead of us, but we can be in the game and for that we must concentrate to the maximum on strategy and tyre management. Getting a good result will depend very much on having a strong pace. Last year, I finished second here and this evening I will try and remember how I did it”.
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”.
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.
Suzuka, 12 October – As is usually the case, the outcome of qualifying was decided in the final seconds of the session. Tomorrow, Felipe Massa will start the Japanese Grand Prix from fifth place, having done a 1.31.378, while Fernando Alonso will be three places back thanks to a lap in 1.31.665.
In Q1, both men went out for a first run on Hard tyres, Fernando doing a good 1.32.371 which got him through to the next part. Three minutes before the end, the session was red flagged as Vergne’s car had to be retrieved after a fire. At the restart, Massa went out with a set of Mediums setting the second fastest time of 1.31.994 on his final lap.
In Q2, Alonso used his first set of Medium tyres to go eighth quickest in 1.31.828, while Massa used the Mediums with which he had finished the previous session, before fitting a new set to go sixth in 1.31.668.
In the final session, run entirely on the Medium tyre, Alonso’s first lap was a 1.31.839 and with three minutes remaining the two F138s went out again for the last flying lap of the day, which saw Massa set the fifth fastest time and Alonso the eighth. Pole went to Mark Webber in the Red Bull in a time of 1.30.915.
Suzuka, 12 October – Saturday at Suzuka has begun with a Red Bull at the top of the time sheet and a change in the weather, as the wind has changed direction and the temperature has dropped a few degrees. In the final hour of free practice, Australia’s Mark Webber was quickest in 1.32.053, while behind him came the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton (1.32.187) and Nico Rosberg (1.32.355.) Next up is Romain Grosjean in the Lotus with a 1.32.707 and then come the Ferraris, with Fernando Alonso fifth in 1.32.800, while Felipe Massa is sixth with a 1.32.815. Both men were fine tuning their set-up prior to qualifying, trying to improve the stability of the F138, running both compounds, doing one run on Hards before switching for a final run on the Medium tyre.
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”
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.
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.
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.
Suzuka, 10 October –There is so much enthusiasm for Formula 1 and Ferrari in Japan, that when the two worlds collide, success is guaranteed. That was plain to see last night in Osaka, where Kamui Kobayashi, who from this year has been driving for the Prancing Horse, flying the flag for Maranello in the FIA World Endurance Championship, was the guest at an event for press and fans at the Puma Store. A queue of over 200 people waited outside the shop for ninety minutes before it opened, in order to get the chance to chat with Kamui and get his autograph: the topics were far ranging from his experiences at the wheel of the 458 GT to the chances of him making an F1 comeback, which would definitely please his many supporters. “It’s always nice to be close to the fans,” said Kamui. “You get a great energy off them and I hope they will come in large numbers to Fuji on 20th October when I will be competing in the 6 Hour race, which is an amazing event!”
Suzuka, 10 October – Clearly some of the F1 media thought it was their duty to give Fernando Alonso something to smile about at his usual press meeting, as the first questioner pointed out that if the Ferrari man finishes sixth or higher on Sunday, he will top the list of all time points scorers, overtaking Michael Schumacher. “Yes, that would be important,” said the Spaniard. “There are only a few records I can achieve in Formula 1, as the ones for world championships and race wins would be difficult with Michael. Hopefully I can get the most points record here in Japan and celebrate a bit.”
There is a tacit understanding that this year’s Drivers’ crown is slipping out of reach, but the will to win still burns at the Scuderia. “We will try our best in the remaining races, trying to score as many points as possible. We will try and enjoy the races, attack all the time, as we need to keep pushing to be second in the Constructors’, because there are very few points between us and Mercedes and Lotus is also getting closer.” As to the future, according to the double world champion, it all depends on the car. “For next year, with Kimi, I think we can do a good championship for Ferrari if we have a competitive car, when we will be able to enjoy the season and do very good things. If the car is not competitive, we will have a very similar season to this one.”
Asked why Vettel was so far ahead, Fernando didn’t pull any punches. “They have worked better than the others,” he said of Red Bull. “We were competitive in the first part of the season, winning two Grands Prix out of five. Then we took a step backwards around Silverstone, from which we recovered, but by then, the others had made more progress than us.” The Spaniard also had a thought for his team-mate as the season draws to a close. “It would be nice if Felipe and I can both be on the podium. It would be great to see him there, celebrating a win, because the whole team deserves some happiness and we are very motivated on that aspect.”
Suzuka, 10 October – All sportsmen are born optimists and as Felipe Massa’s time with Ferrari comes to an end, the Brazilian told the media at his regular Thursday press meeting, here in a very hot and humid Suzuka paddock, that he still thinks about winning a race before the end of the year. “It’s a dream but anything is possible,” affirmed the Brazilian. “Anything is possible in this job: how many times have we seen a guy win a race without being in the best car. You never give up hope and I will try to get one more victory.” However, Felipe didn’t feel a win was essential to boost his cv as he talks to other teams about his future. “I think my experience matters more,” he said. “Everyone knows what I can bring to a team, especially at a time when everything will start from zero with new rules and I think I can bring a lot to a team.”
There are still four more rounds before we get to the Paulista’s home race, but the media are already quizzing him about what is bound to be a very emotional weekend. “It’s always very emotional for a Brazilian, but even more so in your last race for Ferrari,” he said. “I hope I can have a great race and a great result, but before then, I hope we can go well in all these last races.”
As to how Felipe will tackle the remaining race, one words sums up his attitude: aggression. “I will take an aggressive approach.” he said. “I did that in the last race, but unfortunately it didn’t pay off as I spun. But you need to take risks and I will keep trying.” As for the 2014 season and the new rule changes, Felipe shares concerns that the need to save fuel could turn races into an “economy run.” “Yes, it could be very frustrating to have to save fuel,” he agreed with the questioner. “Everything will be different, from the way you have to drive, the way you race and manage the car and how you use the fuel. I just hope it can be interesting to watch for the spectators and viewers and that it can also be interesting for the drivers. But we shouldn’t complain about something before we know how it’s going to be.”
Suzuka, 9 October – There’s not a moment’s respite in this frenetic final part of the season. Not only is the team still chasing the championship dream, harder to acheive but still possible after the difficult weekend in Yeongam, but work on the 2014 car is coming more into focus now. That is why the technical organization at Maranello was reinforced back in September by the arrival of James Allison, who as part of the restructuring has taken on the role of Technical Director, while Pat Fry is now Director of Engineering.“James’ arrival is very positive for the team,” said Fry to www.ferrari.com. “There’s a lot of work to do and it’s important to have men of his calibre. James is concentrating on the design of the 2014 car, while I am concentrating on the engineering and organizational aspects, for both the short term and the near future.”2014 will present a lot of engineering challenges, on the race management front, which will definitely be different to what we are used to. The experience factor, in particular for the drivers, could be the decisive factor, as Fry confirms. “It’s true, I think that the races will be rather different next year,” said the Englishman. “There will be a fixed maximum quantity and payload of fuel for the race and various levels of energy, so it’s possible there could be considerable differences between the maximum pace possible and a pace aimed at saving energy and fuel, to the extent that there could be a difference of between one and one and a half seconds per lap in the race. We are looking at what could be the best strategy to be as effective and efficient as possible in using what we will have: it will be important to work out for each track and for every race where and when it’s best to use all the potential and where we should save fuel.”
It’s a very complex job which, in one sense, changes the engineering approach, as one will not always be looking for the maximum in performance terms, rather, looking at the performance that overall is most efficient, also in terms of the driving. “The drivers will also have a lot to learn,” continued Fry. “It’s a real turnaround from what they are used to and it will be up to us engineers to find the best simulations and get the drivers to try them on the simulator. It will fall to them to train much more, before even going out on track for the first time. Clearly, having an experienced driver can be a positive: the quicker they learn certain mechanisms, the more easily they will be able to concentrate on their normal job of developing the car.”
Maranello, 8 October – 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.
The Japanese Grand Prix is linked to many important moments in the history of the Scuderia. The first dates back to the inaugural race and is currently in the news, as the subject, albeit with a bit of cinematic license, of the film “Rush,” from Oscar winning director, Ron Howard. It was in the shadow of Mount Fuji that, in 1976, Niki Lauda lost the Drivers’ title, when he chose to pull out of the race, which was being run in atrociously wet conditions.
The following edition also made the headlines, but this time for tragic reasons: on lap 6, Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari, in only the Canadian’s second race for the Scuderia, flew over the barriers after colliding with Peterson’s Lotus, ending up on top of a group of spectators, who should not have been watching from that spot: two people, a marshal and a photographer, lost their lives and another dozen were injured. The race carried on, but the controversy surrounding the accident was such that the race was off the calendar for a decade.
In 1987, the Japanese Grand Prix was revived with a new setting; Suzuka. The first race held on the track, famous for its figure of eight layout was won by Gerhard Berger in a Ferrari, but a further decade would follow before seeing another Prancing Horse car cross the line first. In 1997, Michael Schumacher took the win, which promoted him into the lead of the Drivers’ classification, just one point ahead of another Villeneuve, the son Jacques, with just one race remaining. Everyone remembers how it ended at Jerez de la Frontera and there’s no need to open up an old wound that still hurts Ferrari fans to this day. However, we do have to record that it was here at Suzuka that over the next two years, first Michael and then his team-mate Irvine, saw the dream of bringing the Drivers’ title back to Maranello evaporate. On both occasions, the Japanese Grand Prix was the last race on the calendar and also on both occasions, it was Mika Hakkinen in the McLaren who came out on top. However, at the third attempt, the spell of Suzuka was broken. On 8th October 2000, not only did Michael win at Suzuka for the third time, but he also managed to complete a journey that had begun five years earlier, when he arrived in Maranello, to the great delight of hundreds of millions of Ferrari fans all over the world. From that day on, for the next four years, Suzuka became the Scuderia’s home turf. In 2000 and 2001, Schumacher arrived at what was one of his favourite tracks (six wins and eight pole positions,) already world champion and he won comfortably. The same happened in 2004. In between, there was a brief hiatus in 2003, which deserves a brief mention. After wins at Monza and Indianapolis, Schumacher needed just a single point to be certain of taking his sixth title, by putting Raikkonen out of the running. However, in qualifying, because of the rain, Michael was only fourteenth and, good for him, team-mate Barrichello took pole. The Brazilian went on to score one of his greatest wins in Red, in front of the aforementioned Raikkonen, who needed to win to still be in with a chance. Nevertheless, Michael managed to come home eighth, despite an unscheduled stop to change the nose in the early stages.
The chapter of bitter disappointments resumed in 2006. Michael came to Suzuka equal on points with Fernando Alonso, but ahead on the number of wins. On the back of wins in Monza and Shanghai it seemed the sensational fightback might deliver an eighth title, in his farewell season, but a valve on the Maranello V8 let go just when things looked most promising, as Michael was back on track in the lead after his second and final pit stop. We come to the last page of pain, written by Fernando last year: the 371 metres of the Japanese Grand Prix that he covered before getting a puncture, after colliding with his future team-mate, Raikkonen, will sit there like so many little stings in the story of the 2012 World Championship.
Finally, a brief statistical recap. The Scuderia has won here seven times, with nine pole positions and on five occasions, one of its drivers has set the fastest race lap. There are a total of 21 podium places. Alonso has won twice, in 2006 and 2008, with a further three podiums and a race fastest lap, while Massa has racked up two second places in 2006 and 2012 as his best results, along with one pole and one fastest race lap.