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Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Oct 2013   |  5:09 pm GMT  |  99 comments

This year’s Japanese Grand Prix could be the title decider, as it was in 2011. If Sebastian Vettel wins the race with Fernando Alonso ninth or lower then Vettel is champion. Vettel needs only 49 points from the remaining five races to guarantee the title; that is assuming Alonso wins all the remaining races but the Ferrari does not have the pace to do that.

The Suzuka circuit has a special place in the drivers’ hearts, along with Spa Francorchamps, as it provides a great driving challenge with its high speed corners and the first sector of the lap in particular is special, with a series of fast, winding curves through which there is only one really fast line.

Race strategy has been the decisive factor at Suzuka on many occasions. This year it will be interesting to see whether Lotus, which was the second fastest car in Korea last weekend, can favour the softer and faster of the two tyre compounds in the race and get them to last long enough to make a competitive strategy out of it. Most runners will be forced to run the majority of the race on the hard tyre to make a two stop work.

Despite DRS, Suzuka is still a tricky track on which to overtake, even though there are places like the chicane after the famous 130R corner, where we do see passing.


Track characteristics

Suzuka – 5.807 kilometres. Race distance – 53 laps = 307.471 kilometres. 18 corners in total. High speed, figure of 8 – a real drivers’ favourite

Aerodynamic setup – HIgh downforce. Top speed 324km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 312km/h without.

Full throttle – 70% of the lap time (ave/high). Total fuel needed for race distance – 148 kilos (ave/high). Fuel consumption – 2.73 kg per lap (ave/high)

Time spent braking: 10% of lap (low). Number of brake zones – 9. Brake wear- Light. Not a tough race on brakes.

Total time needed for pit stop: 20.8 seconds (ave)

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.385 seconds (high)


Form Guide

The Japanese Grand Prix is the 15th round of the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.

Last year Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was chasing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and had clawed back the gap to 29 points before Suzuka.

This year he needs to win the race with Alonso finishing ninth or lower in order to clinch his fourth consecutive world title.

Vettel’s record at Suzuka is excellent; in the last four seasons he has been on pole four times and has won the race three times.

As far as other drivers’ form at Suzuka is concerned; Fernando Alonso won once (he also won at Fuji), while Jenson Button won in 2011. Kimi Raikkonen won a classic race in 2005, overtaking for the lead on the last lap. Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji in 2007.

Weather Forecast

Being coastal, Suzuka is always likely to get sudden rain showers, sometimes heavy. Last year’s race, in contrast, was held in very hot conditions. The forecast for this weekend however is thunderstorms and rain on Friday, giving way to warm sunny weather for Saturday and Sunday, with forecasts of up to 27 degrees. If it stays warm the tyre degradation will be more severe.


Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Suzuka: Medium (white markings) and hard (orange markings).

Pirelli is taking no chances on a circuit similar to Silverstone in terms of loadings, bringing the hardest tyres in the range.

Last year Pirelli brought the soft and hard tyres to Suzuka and they comfortably managed two stops, helped by a safety car period at the start of the race. The 2013 hard tyre is the same as last year’s and the medium is very similar to last year’s soft, so a similar pattern is expected this year.

The main interest will revolve around whether some teams can race with two stints on the mediums and one on the hard tyres to take advantage of the better pace of the mediums. If they can make the mediums last, this will be a competitive strategy.

The performance gap between the soft and hard tyres is likely to be around a 0.6 seconds to 0.8 seconds per lap.

Suzuka presents a great challenge for the tyres, with loadings in excess of 800 kilos on the tyre through some of the corners.

With the first sector of the lap featuring a series of high energy corners putting lateral load into the tyres, warm up is not much of a problem at Suzuka.


Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last year with hard and soft tyres, simulations showed that two stops would be faster than three stops by 10 seconds. Most people did two stops, thanks to a safety car on the opening lap after an accident at the start.

Worth noting is that last year with the same hard tyres, Webber was able to make it to the finish on a set of tyres he took on lap 26.

A classic two stop is to pit for the first time around lap 16/17 and then a second time around lap 36/37.

Meanwhile teams will remember what happened with Ferrari’s strategy for Felipe Massa last year. The Brazilian finished second having started 10th on the grid. Massa had a set of new soft tyres to start the race with and two new sets of hards available and his strategy was based on making maximum use of these. Thanks to his strong start he found himself racing Button and Kobayashi for second place and his new soft tyres gave him a tactical advantage in the opening stint, as he could run a couple of laps longer than Button and Kobayashi.

Thermal degradation will be the limiting factor, particularly on the front tyres and that will dictate strategy. Teams will react to degradation once it kicks in and make stops. As with Singapore and Korea, a safety car can make the difference for teams that are marginal on the tyres.

A Safety Car will always help drivers who are making one less stop. With the likelihood of a Safety Car reasonably high, there is always the argument for building in flexibility to the strategy to have the chance of making two stops work.


Chance of a Safety Car

The chance of a Safety Car at Suzuka is quite high: 60% with 0.6 Safety Cars per race. As accidents at Suzuka tend to be at high speed there is often wreckage to be cleared away. There has been at least one Safety Car in five of the last six races at Suzuka and we have seen one in each of the last four years.


Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As far as 2013 starts are concerned here is a table with indications of drivers who have gained or lost places at the start.

Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start.

Gained:

+25 Van der Garde*****


+21 Maldonado


+19 Di Resta


+18 Perez


+15 Massa


********
+11 Sutil***

/*********
+10 Alonso


+9 Button


+8 Gutierrez


+4 Vettel


+3 Hulkenberg**

+2 Pic


Lost

:
-1 Chilton
-3 Bottas
-3 Raikkonen

*******
-4 Bianchi******

-8 Ricciardo



-9 Hamilton


-10 Rosberg

-11 Grosjean
-15 Webber*


-17 Vergne ****


*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia
** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia *** Sutil suffered puncture from contact with Massa in Bahrain ****Vergne retired following collision. *****Van der Garde and Maldonado made contact in Monaco. ******Bianchi started from pit lane in Monaco after stalling *******Raikkonen crashed into Perez at the first corner at Monza ********Massa spun at hairpin in Korea *********Sutil had collision in Korea

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there have been some amazing performances; we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds this year.

The table below shows the fastest single stop by teams in the recent Korean Grand Prix.

1. Ferrari 22.208s
2. Mercedes 22.251s
3. Lotus 22.519s
4. Red Bull 22.587s
5. McLaren 22.901s
6. Sauber 23.096s
7. Marussia 22.097s
8. Toro Rosso 23.194s
9. Williams 23.470s
10. Force India 23.814s
11. Caterham 23.987s


The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading teams’ strategists, from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan and from Pirelli

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99 Comments
  1. Glennb says:

    Hopefully this tyre pairing will give Mercedes a performance boost and give some challenge to RBR/VET.
    Hopefully Mark’s car doesn’t catch fire again, they must be running out of cars by now ;)
    Maybe Goferet knows if anyone has suffered car fires 3 meetings on the bounce?
    Seb really needs bringing back to earth so I hope maybe HAM pulls pole off.
    I love the Suzuka race and can’t wait.

    1. goferet says:

      @ Glennb

      Lol… Am pretty sure that has never happened but since Webber is the unluckiest driver ever, you can never bet against him.

      1. Tealeaf says:

        Well you’re wrong, how many times has Webber had a win snatched from him due to technical problems or bad luck? Don’t say Turkey 2010 he was in the process of losing the lead anyway. Just 5 of many example from Vettel: Bahrain 2010, Hungary 2010, Korea 2010, Valencia 2012, Silverstone 2013. In fact Vettel ran into problem after problem in 2010 hence why Webber even had a sniff of the title, if Seb didn’t have all them bad luck that year the title would have been like 2011 and of course 2013, Webber isn’t overly unlucky he’s just not nearly as good a driver as Vettel, the least you can do is admit that.

      2. Glennb says:

        Calm down Seb. Goferet was just having fun. It’s what we do.
        If it helps, Mark is not nearly as good a driver as Seb, no one is. I hope you can now find some inner peace friend.

      3. chris green says:

        unluckiest?
        probably chris amon
        Races 108 (96 starts)
        Championships 0
        Wins 0
        Podiums 11
        Career points 83
        Pole positions 5
        Fastest laps 3

      4. R says:

        Unluckiest driver ever to be given 4 years in the best car on the grid in which he has done diddly-squat with.
        I don’t get how having the greatest job on the planet, the best resources in which to do the bestest job and gazzillions of dollars to do it all with makes so many peoples heart bleed for him.
        Maybe its just because he is so far out of his depth.

    2. Juzh says:

      Why would it give advantage to mercs?

  2. Doug says:

    6. Sauber 23.096s
    7. Marussia 22.097s
    8. Toro Rosso 23.194s

    Er…shouldn’t Marussia be 23.097?

  3. Lucas Wilson says:

    I definitely think that he will not win the title at Suzuka. Alonso is normaly pretty good at…not crashing.

    Although that said, I want Vettel to win as soon as possible. This championship has been a farce if i’m honest, in some areas it could probably give 2004 or 2011 a run for their money.

    1. Rod says:

      I don’t know if a farce, but certainly annoying. And interestingly enough, Bernie hasn’t been called to respond for it. It was his idea to have Pirelli make those worthless tyres. As an idea, it’s right there in worthlessness with the shortcut one. I would love to see hard tyres that last the race, or maybe 2 races, an see who can drift the car better and all that good old stuff.
      Guess will have to cross my old fingers hoping for a better 2014…

      1. chris green says:

        if any driver has a delamination at suzuka it’s going to be very messy.

  4. Valentino from montreal says:

    As a Gran Turismo fanatic on the Playstation ,
    there is no better than the Suzuka race track ..
    It’s high-speeds, technical cornering and braking zones makes it every racer’s dream racing track …

    Suzuka is F1′s crown Jewel , NOT MONACO ..

    Not a surprise it’s Schumacher’s all-time favourite , and also Vettel’s …

    1. AlexD says:

      How many kilos do you lose after a race?

      1. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

        Nice one.

        I’d hazard a guess at an increase in 0.1 kg as you can eat a pack of Salt and Vinegar McCoys over a number of laps from the run from Spoon to 130R.

        Accelerator held on with thumb on the right hand stick, crisps in with left, just remember to lick those fingers before flicking the left stick through 130R to avoid a sticky controller and a horrific accident (that is if damage is turned on) ;)

    2. Wade Parmino says:

      I’d rate Suzuka the second best track in the world after Spa.

      1. Martin says:

        Are you limiting that to F1 tracks?

        The argument against Spa is that in the dry Eau Rouge and Blanchimont are now flat – so Phouon i the only really quick challenge in an F1 car. Suzuka has every corner up to the bridge and Spoon on its list. 130R has joined Eau Rouge and Blanchimont as only being significant in an overtaking context.

        Spa is a bit more attractive than Suzuka as a site, forests vs fairground, and that was a big problem with Turkey. Drivers loved the everything up to turn 8, but the venue had no heritage, so fans gave it little credit. Being designed by Tilke it tends to be obligatory for fans to hate it.

        Turkey had another advantage over Spa and Suzuka as it is better for passing. When Eau Rouge was a significant corner, the downforce demands meant that following closely enough to pass was very difficult. The races just prior to DRS tended to processional and followed downforce order when dry.

        What drivers enjoy and what make great races can be very different – e.g. Monaco. Fast tracks can be a great spectacle, but the results can be predictable.

    3. Horoldo says:

      F1 should race on Trial Mountain next year :)

    4. SPYKE (canuck) says:

      Suzuka on Xbox F-1 2013 has a flow that only Spa can match every corner just feels right

  5. goferet says:

    This weekend will be all about can Vettel wrap up the championship at his favourite track and if he doesn’t, that will seem like a win for Alonso as that will mean he lives to fight another day so yup, no pressure Samurai.

    For sure, Suzuka is a unique venue as it has a very nice atmosphere not seen at other locations e.g. Not only are the fans very polite (so no booing here) but they also wave with both hands and oddly enough are usually seen seated in the grandstands well after the race is over.

    Anyway, I think Vettel’s rivals have their first true opportunity to ruin his party this weekend for despite Vettel’s previous form, it appears one of his rivals may steal the victory this weekend.

    You see, Vettel has never won 5 back to back races plus it’s really difficult to the point of impossible for a driver/team to win those back to back races that do not have a week’s break in between.

    Furthermore after Mercedes’ strong performance in the middle sector at Korea, the team is optimist that Suzuka will suit their car as just like the second sector at Korea, Suzuka is made up mainly medium and high speed corners.

    On the topic of safety cars, I read that due to Suzuka nature i.e. difficult to overtake, the drivers do tend to take risks at the start and thus why Suzuka has more first lap incidents than anywhere else.

    P.s.

    When Vettel wins his 4th title, he would have done so at an age younger than Prost was when he got his first F1 race win.

    1. radohc says:

      “Vettel has never won 5 back to back races”
      stats are only there to be broken

      1. goferet says:

        @ radohc

        touché

      2. Horoldo says:

        Yeah, Last year a Newey car hadn’t won three titles on the trot!!

    2. Juzh says:

      Red bull ran zero wing in korea compared to merc/lotus/ferrari, but were still almost as fast in S2. Watch them bolt on their max DF wing this weekend and run away with it.

    3. Ronnie says:

      “Vettel has never won 5 back to back races”
      That gives VET another reason to try harder. I’m dreaming for him 7 consecutive wins, for he tends to do well on the tracks of Japan, India, and Abu Dhabi. Well, he’s not bad in Texas either :-)

    4. Grant H says:

      Ref S2 korea merc being quickest

      Was it the case that merc were running slightly more wing than RB, Rb was fastest in S1 during qually, therefore it is possible RB was not as optimised for high to med speed corners,

    5. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

      I think the nature of turn 1 can lead to some accidents, especially as it is fast in then tightens, almost giving a double braking/double concertina effect where it is easy to run wide when tapped.

      The Red Bull will be mighty here, especially through sector 1, so hope Seb doesn’t qualify on the front row and at least has to race for it.

      With the harder tyres it may all be about the early undercut to make places, a Lotus/Kimi speciality if he can qualify like Grosjean can recently.

    6. Tealeaf says:

      Yes yes yes Mercedes might win at Suzuka due to the nature of the track being twisty and lot of corners that require a car with great front end and that the tyre choices with the harder compounds will also play into the hands of Merc but then will Lotus, Vettel and Ferrari just lay down and let Mercedes take the win? Unlikely and how long will Hamilton’s tyres last if he needs to push for the whole race? He was let off the hook at Hungary due to Vettel being stuck behind Button and breaking his front wing and also Grosjean had race winning pace but couldn’t overtake due to Lotus’s lack of top speed on a difficult track to overtake, will Hamilton will if he gets to the first corner first? Likely, would Hamillton hold on to Vettel if he is behind the champion? Unlikely, will he out pace the Lotus? Maybe, who’s most likely to win the race? Vettel.

  6. goferet says:

    Some Suzuka stats:

    Been racing since 1987

    i) Schumi 6 wins, Vettel 3 wins, Berger + Senna + Damon + Mika = 2 wins

    ii) Mclaren 8 wins, Ferrari 7 wins, Benetton + Red Bull = 3 wins

    iii) The back to back winners are Mika, Schumi & Vettel

    iv) Alonso is the only driver to have won at both Suzuka & Fuji

    v) Damon & Jenson are the only Brits to have won at Suzuka

    vi) Berger & Schumi are the only drivers to have been victorious in two different teams

    vii) Schumi is the only pilot with more than 1 win for Ferrari likewise, Mika & Senna are the only drivers with more than 1 win for Mclaren

    viii) No driver has won the race for two different manufacturers e.g. Renault & Ferrari. Also, no driver has won for two different private teams e.g. Williams & Mclaren.

    1. Valentino from montreal says:

      Thank for those stats -

      ( the name : “Schumi” ) appears very often in your stats : ))

      1. goferet says:

        @ Valentino from montreal

        No doubt, Schumi turned the sport on it’s head as we know it and that’s why he holds all the records.

    2. RodgerT says:

      How can Berger & Schumi won for two different teams but nobody has won with two different manufacturers. How does that work?

      1. goferet says:

        @ RodgerT

        Well manufacturers in F1 refers to teams that are also a major car brand such as Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Toyota

        And so Schumi and Berger both won for Ferrari then won for a private team too.

      2. gpfan says:

        By “manufacturers”, ‘goferet’ was referring to producers of road cars, as opposed to the F1 constructors whose prime business is that of building racing cars.

  7. goferet says:

    Food for thought

    Word in the paddock is that seeing as Vettel is soon to equal Fangio and Schumi as the only pilots to have ever won 4 back to back titles, perhaps this means he will also join them as the only drivers with 5 titles to their name.

    Now what the paddock wants to find out is whether Vettel can repeat his good run by equaling Schumi’s unprecedented 5 back to back titles in 2014.

    Yes, if the wonder kid is able to achieve that monumental achievement in 2014, perhaps that could be a sign that Vettel has it in him to equal Schumi’s 7 titles, maybe even beating them >>> But if Vettel doesn’t do it in 2014 ~ well you know the rest…

    1. Sebee says:

      I am sorry to correct you goferet, but Vettel is not about to equal Fangio or Schumi as quality of Vettel’s 4 is quite unique. In fact Vettel is about to set a big record himself.

      No other WDC has ever won 4 straight after winning first. Vettel is alone in that distinction. Fangio won his fist, then 2 year pause to the next 4. Schumi won two then 4 year pause to his 5 run. Vettel is the only one to go from 1st WDC to 3rd WDC in a row, and now the only one to go from 1st WDC to 4th WDC in a row. No other WDC has ever done more than repeat the year after. Vettel was first to threepeet, now fourpeet. :-)

      We really should not look at total WDCs for Prost, Fangio, Schumi, Vettel just yet until Vettel is finished driving like the other three are.

      1. Sebee says:

        Forgive, that’s three-peat, and four-peat.

      2. ferggsa says:

        Agree with waiting until SV’s career is older to compare, he is on the way to beat them all, but again, 4 straight WDC have to do more with RedBull’s speed, teamwork and reliability than SV

        What if Fangio had started racing at a slim, fit 20s instead of fat 40s
        What if Schumi or Alonso (or any other driver except for SV and LH) had started their careers at a constant top team instead of a class B car

  8. Miha Bevc says:

    If it is not the last race of the year, it would be nice if Seb could wrap up the the title in Suzuka. But I can’t see Fernando finishing 9th or lower…

    1. Rob Newman says:

      You are not the only person who wants this on Sunday ;)

      1. Sebee says:

        I want to go back to Suzuka. That’s what I would like on Sunday.

        Wake up early, eat some nice Japanese breakfast, get on the Bullet, head over to the track on the secondary, see that giant ferris wheel. Oh baby! That would be so nice. Drinking Pocari Sweat(mmm…uniquely tasty) while hanging out by the overpass trying to get a picture where there is an F1 car under the bridge and over the bridge.

        Is this still the only track that crosses itself?

      2. TGS says:

        Haha, Pocari Sweat! Used to live in Japan and that made laugh out loud. I can hear the convenience store clerk now as I enter 7/11… Irrashaimasse!!!

      3. Phil Too says:

        I want it too.
        I want Seb to wrap it up, and get another Grand Chelem (or whatever it is).

    2. Phil Glass says:

      Is there any chance however remote that Seb’s transfer driver could take him from his hotel to Fuji by mistake, instead of Suzuka?
      or could he miss the race cos he got stuck in the lift and the hotel network crashed followed by a power cut
      or maybe he overslept [yes past one in the afternoon]
      or even … well I guess not

  9. Harshad says:

    I don’t think there will be high degradation on this track, so two stopper for all the teams!
    It’s just what combination they run…
    Med-Med-Hard or
    Med-Hard-Med

  10. MickeyRSA says:

    Hoping for a Lotus to win, preferably Raikkonen! Vettel won’t win his title just yet!!

    1. Phil Glass says:

      Alonso and Kimi are both 9/1 to win this one.

      Gotta a strange optimism about Fernando’s chances here.

      I just hope he qualifies a long way from Perez. He couldn’t do his usual rocket start in Korea cos others decided to get in his way :) Here hoping Rosberg and Webber keep to one side of the start grid!

    2. Harshad says:

      Lotus won’t win in Japan!
      The tyre compound says it all.

      Most of the teams, read Ferrari/Mercedes/Toro Rosso/Mclaren(lately) go well on Mediums and Hard compound tyres combine that with the fact that Lotus struggle in Qualifying, victory seems difficult.

      Perhaps, in India or Abu Dhabi with the soft and medium compound (like in Korea/Singapore) we can hope for Lotus win,if RBR has an off day.

  11. Hi James,

    Thank you for the website and tweets etc, it’s great stuff.

    I wanted to make a point about the state of f1 right now, the other day I watched Senna vs Prost as a Japanese race from 88 on the f1 channel, and it made me sad for the sport as it stands.

    There was no hitting delta laps, or protection of tyres etc to the level we see now and was so existing to watch. These days the drivers are cruising round at 5-6 seconds off the true potential of the cars pace and races decided on paper by Thursday as long as nothing goes wrong!!

    I don’t blame Vettel or Red Bull for being top, they’ve engineered the best car and exploited the loop holes to the maximum, however this is racing – I drive for economy every day at work and would like a sunday of true speed and pushing!!

    Thanks again

    1. James Allen says:

      Let me ask you another question

      As there was no radio on the TV coverage then and the drivers didn’t complain about the limitations so much then, do you think it’s possible that they were no flat out in the 1988 turbo cars all the time, but it’s just that the audience didn’t know about it? Compare the depth and detail of coverage now in F1 to then.

      I know what you mean about protecting tyres etc at some races where they are marginal, like Korea. But if you speak to Prost, Mansell etc about those days, the key was knowing when to push and when to conserve….

      1. JF says:

        Perception is reality.

        My understanding was that prost/senna era and before, they had to try and conserve everything, tires, engines, gearboxes, fuel, those cars were grenades on wheels, but only had to last one race. I very much doubt they were near to 100% all the time.

      2. Martin says:

        +1

        The closest F1 has got to flat out all the way was the previous decade during the refuelling era. Due to the fuel weight penalty, stopping first was almost always a disadvantage, so the tyres had to favour race pace over qualifying – something that often hurt Ferrari at Monaco.

        Even then there was a time gap between qualifying and the fastest laps in the race.

      3. Nick says:

        Well perhaps there is to much information now? get rid of team radio and let the drivers race more on instinct and experience, without race engineers giving them constant updates on tyre wear or whatever else, this could be one way to mix things up a little.

      4. Mark says:

        If it was down to me I’d allow car to pit radio but ban pit to car radio. Allow the pit to talk to the driver if he’s picked up a penalty or in case of emergency, or in the pits.

        Apart from that I’d leave the drivers to it.

      5. Sebee says:

        100% agreed with James.

        Hot Dogs anyone? Don’t ask how they make it. Just enjoy it, if you dare!

        We’re just too involved, informed and opinionated.

        My appreciation for 1988 era is to see those cars with drivers exposed and primative controlls. At Maranello I saw Lauda/Villeneuve era Ferrari inside and I thought…wow…those guys had no fear of any sort to drive this monstrosity. Just seeing that gated shifter gave me a shiver. Go ahead, shift that at 280km/hr while racing. I say, no thanks…paddle me up, power me up ECU! :-)

      6. Bart says:

        James, it would be fascinating to learn more about how ex-drivers compare the old days F1 with the modern era. Any chance?
        There are so many people grumbling about how f1 changed and how it was fascinating when drivers could go flat-out.
        But I can’t stop thinking that, after all, in the old days materials (tyres, mechanical parts etc) were the same if not even more fragile, and “nursing” must have been a very important factor.
        Cheers, Bart

      7. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

        “the key was knowing when to push and when to conserve….”

        I wish Horner would learn to conserve his adjectives glorifying Seb, save a few for next year when the cars hopefully will be more closely matched!

        Prost was a master conserver, as was Senna – but never on a qually lap as Alonso had to in his car on supersofts at Korea.

        I used to love it when the drivers fuel readouts were negative while doing the final laps.
        ..spin, so that means Pironi is going to win, in the tunnel, is that Pironi stationary! It is! My goodness! The third leader in two laps. He must have run out of petrol… And so has de Cesaris, and there is Derek Daly coasting to a standstill…this is unbelievable!!
        (from when Murray must have been about 60 or so!)

      8. Mark says:

        James, one thing I have noticed a lot recently is marbles. I know Alonso has brought them up recently twice.

        I don’t mind the tyres being engineered to degrade so much. I’d like to see the cars racing harder and have long thought that these days there are far too many marbles off line.

        I’d love to see racing where more of the track was available to use right now if you go offline you pick up so much rubbish on your tyres that your performance in the next few corners is so poor that you’d likely just lose the position back again.

        I’d love to see an article from the JA on F1 tech people about marbles and how they might be reduced (if indeed they are a bigger issue these days and I’m not just wearing rose tinted goggles)

    2. Quercus says:

      In the good old days there was an excess of power over downforce. That’s why it looked like the drivers were almost always at 10/10ths. As a consequence the cars were sliding around all the time — drifting round corners — which is something we only see on wet tracks today.

      The regulations need to change so that downforce is reduced, the cars are not as glued to the track and we can see some real driving skill again.

      1. iceman says:

        Grip versus power, it’s such a simple equation isn’t it. Yet the FIA have been unwilling or unable to do anything about it.

        On the power side, the political wind seems to be blowing towards less power rather than more. And the grip… well the real problem there is obviously aero, but I guess the teams’ gigantic investment in that area makes it difficult to push through drastic cuts. So they end up messing around with dodgy tyres instead.

        Someone needs to bite the bullet and either put hundreds of aero engineers out of work, or stick two fingers up to the green and safety lobbies with a 1200bhp engine formula.

    3. JD says:

      It’s a great point to bring up 1988. That season featured small displacement turbo engines that were limited on boost and fuel as well. There was a single tire supplier. No mandatory pit stops meant that the drivers who could conserve their single set of tires for the race distance and drive as efficiently as possible (not flat out) would usually prevail. I’m sure fans were bored to tears back then.

  12. Rob Newman says:

    I have noticed Red Bull doesn’t rush their pit stops especially with Vettel. As there is no prize for fastest pit stops, I think that is a good strategy.

    1. AlexD says:

      Actually….Red Bull can allow themselves to have a coffee stop and still win.

    2. Anne says:

      Rules have been changed this season about speed when making a stop. It was done in the middle of the season when a cameraman was hit by a tyre from Webber´s car. So all the drivers must slow down while going into the pitlane.

  13. dren says:

    I don’t expect Vettel to trounce the field here as much as he has in the last two races. I expect Button to finish 4th or 5th. Kimi will find his way to the podium.

    1. Grant H says:

      Agree vet p1, cant see button p4 / p5 too many faster cars ahead mercs/ferrari/lotus/rb maybe even saubers looking faster at moment

    2. Tealeaf says:

      Why’s that? I thought Suzuka is 1 of the 4 of Seb’s most dominant tracks, with the other 3 being Korea, India and Valencia of course.

  14. NomNomNom says:

    I’ll tell you how the race will play out James. Sebastian Vettel will take the lead and cruise in a dominant car and we’ll all hear about how great he is, at doing what he is supposed to do in the dominant car. Isn’t it all so exciting?

    Horner will bleat on about how this guy is one of the all time best. Maybe Sebastian will return the favor and praise Horner for once, despite ignoring his team order publicly? Every F1 site will crow about this 4th championship, and I do understand it all. Horner will still make a point that it isn’t over yet and that they are so nervous still, in what I feel is more about pleasuring himself than giving fans actual feedback. Is it intelligent reading or just cannon fodder that teams spew to tweak the masses?

    I am starting to think (and this is not a reference to your blog which I have followed since inception and like) that I would appreciate an actual site that didn’t stand to gain anything from F1 either directly or indirectly. I’d love to hear that opinion, purely as a viewer. Is it really that exciting? Is this guy in the fastest car really better than anyone else? Is the drivers championship the title that defines the season, or is it incresingly the constructors that tells the true story? If you gave a tennis player the best racket, he might not win every match but over a calendar year he’d win the most more than likely. I think I’ll call that truly independent site Reality.

  15. radohc says:

    hard to overtake… heh. remember last race of Kamui here? it looked dead easy

  16. Oz Geeza says:

    The Japanise flag of the rising Sun may
    give Alonso a rising hope after this weekend
    F1 race at Suzuka.
    A thought,last week in Korea the Ferrari
    were the quickest in stright line by some
    good margins,for Alonso is now or never he
    may do a Nigel Mansell way and keep the
    title alive.

  17. steven says:

    James, what do you think about Robert Kubica new helmet: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.553127574756012.1073741879.141551212580319&type=1
    Is this F1 helmet?

  18. Lawrence says:

    James(or anyone else), is it possible that Vettel’s qualifying advantage over Webber’s has been largely due to Vettel being lighter than Webber? According to the ESPN website Vettel is 58kg and Webber 75kg. I am no engineer but Webber being heavier than Vettel has to have a detrimental effect on Webber’s lap-times presuming the cars are the same weight.

    1. SteveS says:

      No. Every car + driver weighs exactly the same amount. As much as people seem to hate the thought, Vettel is simply an outstandingly good qualifier.

    2. James Allen says:

      No because they build the cars underweight and then get to the minimum weight with the driver plus ballast

      Vettel has a small advantage from being able to run the ballast lower but how much is hard to quantify, maybe 1/10th or just under

      1. David Pullen says:

        Or maybe Vettel has larger Kers batteries and heatsinks as part of that ballast, food for thought.

      2. Miha Bevc says:

        Ballast is added to the floor, you want to add weight as low as possible.

      3. Martin says:

        Out of interest James, have you ever asked an F1 team the lap time benefit of lowering the centre of gravity?

        I don’t know what units the F1 teams would use, for example, kg or Newtons for weight transfer, but if a 10 kg lighter driver, gives 3 kg less weight transfer to the outside tyres in a corner with 3G of lateral acceleration (assumptions on effective track width of the car and the CoG of a driver in a car), then the downforce car the car weight and aerodynamics will be slightly more effective. Plucking random numbers, there might be 400 kg transferred to the outside tyres and 1000 kg of downforce (car mass and aero) with the tyre coefficient of friction being 1.2 (to get 1200 kg to get 3 times 400 kg and 3G acceleration).

        With the heavier driver there would be 403 kg and 1003 kg of downforce. With the tyres again giving 1.2, you get 2.9866 g acceleration.

        From there the ratio of the forces is the square of the velocity difference. So SQRT of 3/2.9866 gives 1.0022 times the corner speed.

        Not having a racing car simulator, I don’t know how 0.2 per cent in 3G corner translates over a lap (I suspect Mark Gillan’s 130 km/h corner is a fair bit less than 3G), but linearly it is 0.2 of second over a 100 second lap.

        I believe my calculation process is okay, but all my numbers will be wrong.

        Cheers,
        Martin

    3. Grant H says:

      I just think vet is quicker in terms of ultimate pace, also the car is well set up for his driving style,

      Its interesting that when vettel was not happy with car eg parts of 2010 / early 2012 webber seemed to be nearly as fast, not sure if we can read much into that though

    4. JD says:

      I don’t think there is a correlation between drivers weight and pace in 2013.

      Red Bull driver weights
      Source; espn
      Vettel, 58 kg
      Webber, 75 kg
      Head to head qualy: Vettel 14 – Webber 0

      Sauber driver weights
      Source: sauberf1team.com
      Hulkenberg, 74 kg
      Gutiérrez, 61 kg
      Head to head qualy: Hulkenberg 13 – Gutiérrez 1

      1. BigHaydo says:

        That might have more to do with Gutierrez being a rookie driver and one of the lesser additions to the 2013 grid… If his first race was anything to go by, he appeared out of his depth: from the grandstand I can’t recall him hitting the same piece of tarmac twice at turn 1!

      2. JD says:

        So in other words, there is not a correlation between driver weight and pace. Hulk is superior to Gutierrez, just like Vettel is superior to Webber.

      3. BigHaydo says:

        Not quite: I meant that Gutierrez is a product rushed to F1 before prematurely, and that Webber is a seasoned campaigner that has been quicker than all but one of his teammates, and thereby not a valid means of comparison.

  19. an interesting point is that this years medium is last years soft. if the compounds are not exactly the same then can we expect more problems and far higher rates of degradation?

    i would not like to bet the sheep station on not having some more failures!

  20. Marcelo Leal says:

    James I have a quick question for you…
    As everyone is talking about the RBR’s car, and Vettel, etc, many F1′ fans and drivers’ fans discuss who is the best driver today.
    I’m sure you should discuss this with your F1 friends and more important in the paddock (engineers, even other drivers should discuss this).

    I think many should say Hamilton, many others Alonso or Vettel, and many others Kimi. Fair enough..

    But, and about the quickest guy on the grid?

    What I do hear (and read) seems to be a common sense that people involved in F1 think that LH would be on pole if everyone had the same car. That is true? I mean, from your experience going around, that is the real perception from the F1 professionals, or even in that aspect there is no common sense?

    Thanks!
    ps.: If you want to give your personal opinion, would be a plus. ;-)

    1. James Allen says:

      No I think everyone feels that it would be close with Vettel. Don’t underestimate him.

      1. GRLap says:

        Why don’t we find out? My dream is to have FOM bring 20, equally-prepared Ralt RT4 cosworths (formula Atlantic) to one of the Grand Prix, give ‘em to the Boys and see what happens.

      2. Robert N says:

        We all fantasize about that at some stage or other, don’t we? ;) And we all dream that our favourite driver would win!

        But in a way this is what makes F1 great and special, these endless discussions about who is the fastest/best driver out there. It is what distinguishes F1 from any other sport.

    2. Kiran says:

      Depends on whose driving style does that “same car” suit!

  21. Martin says:

    Hi James,

    Your claim “A Safety Car will always help drivers who are making one less stop” is wrong. Depending on the windows to stop, a safety car can be too early to take advantage of, requiring too many laps on a set of tyres. At the end of the race, when a fewer-stopping driver presumably has track position, a safety car can erode a gap, and especially if it allows the greater-stopping driver to make a final stop, it allows fresh tyres to be brought up to temperature in a more controlled manner, with the leading driver having removed the new-tyre grip from his tyres. A five second margin could become 0.8 at a restart.

    There are plenty of occasions when a safety car can help, but there are few general rules. Teams will continually evaluate whether a safety car pit stop window is open based on what they think other teams will do and in what position they will come out in and how easy it is to pass on a given track. At Singapore, where passing was difficult, track position was useful. In Germnay those who stopped were able to pass relatively easily.

  22. John T says:

    Suzuka and Bathurst. Drooool….
    On a different note, James are RB still nursing rebuilt gearboxes or have they been able to move to new ones?

    1. BRad says:

      I know. Doesn’t get much better. I have the couch and remote reserved for this weekend. Who sent the f1 car around Bathurst a few years back? Coultart?

      1. John T says:

        Or was it Button? Pretty sure it was a McLaren.
        There was footage on YouTube. Might go search for it.
        As for the racing, I think the timing is almost perfect. F1 starts just as Bathurst finishes. Who says daylight saving is bad?

      2. BRad says:

        You’re right. It was during the Vodafone sponsorship of triple 8 racing.

        Thinking about putting 2 TVs together ;-). Rare event. The Great race has a great support act in Suzuka .

  23. Eric Weinraub says:

    I always commemorate watching Suzuka by rewatching my recorded copy of Schuey’s and Hakkinen’s famous 2000 duel for Ferrari’s first Driver’s WC in 20 years. That was probably the last truly thrilling race there in a very long time.

    1. Miha Bevc says:

      2005? Kimi overtakes for the lead in the last lap?

      1. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

        Yeah, 2005, Kimi, plus that race had Alonso’s mighty pass round Schumacher on the outside of 130R.

    2. Lucas Wilson says:

      A brilliant race (as most title battle races are:2007, 2008, 2010, 2012). Murray’s commentary made the whole thing better :-)

  24. zx6dude says:

    I hope I’m wrong but after looking a FP1 and 2 I can’t help but feel this will be Vettel + the rest of the field once again. It looks like Vettel will win by some margin and the rest will squabble for the remaining places…
    Vettel is really quick and in top form with a very good car, an ominous combination for the other drivers. I don’t like Vettel but give credit where it is due: it is definitely not just the car like some people claim. I fully expect 2 races in one: Vettel on is own trying to get fastest laps and the others trying to get the rest of the points.

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