This is my race preview I wrote for Final Sectors preview ezine, click the Japanese flag at the bottom of the post to read the ezine.
Formula One’s eastern tour get to more familiar territory in the shape of the figure of eight circuit at Suzuka, Japan, for round 15 of the F1 World Championship.
The Japanese Grand Prix has long been a fixture at the business end of the season and has seen for that its fair share of title deciding drama. Sunday, however, should see the title decided in a less dramatic style compared to the days of Senna and Prost with Vettel needing only one point to claim back to back titles.
With the destiny of the driver’s crown all but decided, attention has turned to the fascinating battle for second between, Webber, Button, Hamilton and Alonso. The two McLaren drivers have had drastically different fortunes since Hamilton’s last victory in Germany where Hamilton has failed to step on the podium and Button hasn’t been off it. Fernando Alonso will be hoping his team-mate will be in close proximity with Lewis as the pair once again tangled on track at Singapore two weeks ago. The fourth protagonist vying to be best of the rest is Mark Webber. The second Red Bull driver has been firmly put in the shade this season by his all conquering team-mate, with poor starts being his Achilles heel of late. “I can’t make the starts I did last year for some reason. We will look at them and definitely improve. It is risky to come back through and try to regain positions on track” said Webber.
The midfield battle in the constructor’s championship is still providing ample excitement with five teams still pushing to get ahead of one another. Leading the pack currently are Mercedes and Renault, who both had a less than satisfactory race on the slow, Marina Bay street circuit. Renault in particular, suffered their worst race weekend of the year with both Senna and Petrov bringing their cars home 15th and 17th respectively, two laps down.
Force India are enjoying heady days, sitting 6th in the constructors championship, another strong double points finish in Singapore has cemented them ahead of the chasing duo of Torro Rosso and Sauber. Swiss based squad, Sauber were looking good for the 6th place finish but have slipped out of the points of late and come to Japan armed with updates to get them back into the hunt. Technical director, James Key said, “We will bring a wide ranging aero package for the car, which includes a completely new front wing, new rear wings, new turning vanes and side pod deflectors, new brake ducts and modifications to the floor. This was always planned for Suzuka and, if it all works well, it should give us a reasonable step forward. Obviously we want to bounce back from some recent bad luck.”
Also trying to get into the points are Williams. Pastor Maldonado has finished the last two races agonisingly short of a points paying position, finishing in 11th on both occasions. Williams have suffered their worst ever season this year, so far only amassing five points and with Torro Rosso nineteen points ahead of them, there is little chance of overhauling them for eighth place. On a more positive note for the team, new chief operations engineer, Mark Gillan, has now taken up his post with the team, after shadowing the outgoing Sam Michael in Singapore, he will take his place on the pit wall from Suzuka onwards. Gillan is also optimistic for the remaining races after the team gained much needed insight into the troublesome FW33s issues. “Our levels of understanding regarding the driveability issues of the FW33 have increased significantly since Singapore and we are currently working hard to optimise the set-up and improve the car going into the Japanese GP.”
Pirelli will proved the team’s with their medium (prime) and soft (option) tyres for the race.