A return to winning ways?
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Vettel fastest on a day of dramas at Suzuka
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Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Oct 2013   |  7:32 am GMT  |  131 comments

Champion-elect Sebastian Vettel set the pace on the first day of practice at Suzuka today, with Mercedes and Lotus well matched in pursuit and hoping to find a way to spring a surprise on him. Vettel finished ahead of team mate Mark Webber and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen fourth.

Lewis Hamilton was not able to set a representative time as he had to back off on his qualifying simulation and ended up sixth.

Webber was using a replacement chassis this weekend after the accident and fire in Korea last weekend. His replacement at Red Bull next season, Daniel Ricciardo, showed Toro Rosso’s promise with seventh fastest time.

It was a day of drama with a number of accidents and heavy car damage; Jules Bianchi damaged his car at Degner Curve and was unable to take part in FP2. In the afternoon session Pastor Maldonado crashed at Degner 2 and Sergio Perez had a big accident, going off at high speed in Spoon Curve.

These incidents, early in FP2, meant that their team mates Valterri Bottas and Jenson Button had to do the bulk of the tyre evaluation and data gathering work.

The qualifying simulations came early in FP2, with around an hour to go, because teams wanted as much time as possible to analyse the performance of the softer medium tyre over a first stint race simulation.

In the morning session Hamilton and Rosberg had set the pace, while van der Garde also sustained light damage with an off at Degner.

Fernando Alonso had a spin on his medium tyre run at the first Degner Corner after hitting the inside kerb, but he managed not to hit the barriers. He ended up 10th fastest.

Vettel was on a qualifying simulation run at the time and had to abort, he went again and therefore his time was set on the second lap.

Grosjean had a moment on his qualifying simulation, losing the lap, which had looked likely to take him into the top four but, like Alonso, he managed not to hit anything. He was fifth. Based on recent his qualifying, he might be able to challenge for a front row grid slot on Saturday.

Raikkonen went off in the esses during his race simulation and his Lotus car got beached, so he missed the last 35 minutes of the session. It was the second weekend in a row where Raikkonen has had an incident on Friday. Raikkonen had set the fourth fastest lap time to that point on his qualifying simulation, which was encouraging.

Lotus is one of the teams that is hoping to be able to make the medium tyre last long enough for it to be the favoured race tyre, which could give it a performance advantage over others who will need to race the harder tyre. But it looked like the medium was as little as 0.4s to 0.6s per lap faster than the hard and teams will evaluate this evening how that evens out over a 17-20 lap stint.

The long runs showed Red Bull to be very strong again; Vettel did a 14 lap stint on hard tyres with laps in the high 1m38s and low 1m39s, which looked fast. Rosberg’s medium tyre run of 16 laps also had 1m 38s and 1m39s laps, with the tyres looking like they were holding on well at the end, so quite promising.

It should be an interesting race strategically, with different possibilities. The key for Vettel’s rivals will be to qualify ahead of him and try to prevent him making the early break. With the first sector in Suzuka being so well suited to the Red Bull, if he gets away in the lead it will be very hard for his rivals to get close enough to challenge.

JAPANESE GRAND PRIX, Friday

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131 Comments
  1. AlexD says:

    Actually…being a Ferrari fan…I would love for Vettel to win the title this weekend. Enough is enough….I so much more enjoy reading this blog than watch races:-) Had to skip the last 2 as I knew who is going to win and what is the point to watch a race if there is not fight for the lead?Maybe this weekend…if Merc is quick or even takes a pole…then it will be great to watch. Domination is never good….do not convince me otherwise. Most people are here to see the fight for the lead….instead of know for sure who is going to win. Great job by Red Bull….other teams have to come up with something…they are not on Red Bull’s level and seems like they have no clue what to do.

    1. justafan says:

      You never know for sure who’s going to win. Being a Ferrari fan I never skip watching a race always hopeful Ferrari might win.

      1. AlexD says:

        It is not about Ferrari winning, it is about several drivers having a chance to win it. So…on Sunday, Vettel will win again:-)

    2. Joe says:

      If you’re only interested in the winner, you’re missing the majority of the action. There have been fascinating battles all down the field, despite SV romping away at the front.

      1. AlexD says:

        This is secondary…..what matters is the fight for the win.

      2. Sebee says:

        You mean…what matters to you. And remember, there is skill in these wins. Like watching a craftsman do his work.

      3. justafan says:

        Alex, seriously, if Vettel would be driving a Ferrari and winning all the time, would You complain? Certainly not.

      4. Random 79 says:

        For what it’s worth you’re both right.

      5. KARTRACE says:

        No F1 history book would be focusing on what happen down the pack or at the tail.

      6. Neil Barr says:

        History of what? The winners, right? But “history” is everything that happened. And which is more interesting – a dominant victory or a hard-earned expectation-exceeding finish out of the points?

      7. KARTRACE says:

        Well you could fight but may not change that. There was so many people in history of F1 , done wonderful racing, but how many names since 1950′s one could mention ? Only a handful. Yes it was exciting that battle for 4th but I bet you that would be remembered by a very few people in the years to come. There is no integral history. Doesn’t exist. Our memory is also a selective one.

      8. manz says:

        the dude will be the first to switch on @alexD will be the first to switch on tv with hope that something goes wrong with vettel car and will be last to switch off tv with hope that something goes wrong on last lap…..thats the way guys like his thoughts operate…cheers no offence

      9. AlexD says:

        I do not want to prove any point. I do not do it as a principle, I literally lost interest. It is not my obligation to watch F1….it is an entertainment. I was surprised to even notice that I completely forgot that there is a race last week….this made me understood that I am not so much into it anymore. I like everything around the sport….admire Newey for his achievements and really enjoyed the article JA had about him. These are very interesting things, very inspirational….but it is a waste of time to see how Vettel will lead ever lap of the race. Just my opinion. People must fight for wins…people must give their everything to win…and if there is no fight for the win…it is no longer what I like. Hamilton, Alonso – they all gave up. Yes, they will race…yes, they will do what they can…but it is so much different as if they still could fight and win the title. Just think about 2007 or 2008 where up until the very last lap you did not know who will win. This was F1 I love!

      10. KRB says:

        Haha, how very Ricky Bobby of ya there! Everything’s made good by tagging a “no offence”, or “with all due respect” on the end.

        “It’s in the Geneva Convention!”

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af-Id_fuXFA

      11. DEANO says:

        Manz, I totally agree, I think if more fans would focus on the racing and not so much on who wins, they just might find themselves enjoying F1 more. Imagine how the drivers of the second, or third tier teams must feel, drivers that drive for Marussia and Caterham must realize that their chances of winning are very slight, but they try in each race to finish as high up as they can. I think its takes as much mental concentration, or perhaps more to keep their attitude positive, then it does f or the top teams and their respective drivers. I’ve said before in previous posts, I’m lucky that I have no favorite team or driver, I just enjoy watching all the teams and drivers compete.

      12. Dante says:

        +1.
        Well said.

      13. jakobusvdl says:

        +2
        There has been lots to enjoy about F1 over the past few seasons – changes in teams, tyres and DRS , Force India and Lotus getting faster, McLaren getting slower,, Williams flash of form lsd year, lots of racing through the field. I thought it was getting better not worse

      14. manz says:

        how can one blame single team and singel driver for making this sport boring and pushinng them move away from F1……we gotta appreciate the team(REDBULL) for doing such a refine job with their car and vettel for errorless drive…but on the other hand lets really hope that ferrari and mercedes do some awesome job next year and make redbull life tough….plus raace is not all about vettel and his leads ..hez on intervals most of the time..lolz…theres so much more

    3. Simmo says:

      As a Ferrari fan, I agree.

      I’m fed up of the modesty talk by Vettel and Red Bull, saying that they might not win the championship, and that anything could happen.

      1. KARTRACE says:

        We must not blame them, RBR. I am blaming SF, LDM for a very questionable leadership. I do not want even to mention Domenicali who is doing God knows what. It’s a very poor projection of the team with the most glorious history in Motor racing. If I was one of them I doubt I would sleep at all.

      2. tim says:

        I feel your pain. Hope they’re not headed down that same path they did in the years between Scheckter and Schumacher. Surely they’re aware of it – they’ve brought Byrne out of retirement – but where is the Todt and the Brawn in the equation.

      3. KARTRACE says:

        Come on, did you for get Raikkonen ?

    4. Nick says:

      Korean Grand Prix had some great action down the order….plsu 2 Safety Cars, which brought it life in the closing stages

      Thats why I watch the races, not just to see who wins. I often see the results on here before I see the race, but still watch it because there is still racing going on.

      I do often wonder what the comments would be like if it was Alonso winnning the last few years, whether people would be complaining about him dominating or whether it just be gushing about how perfect and fantastic he is…

      1. AlexD says:

        To be clear. I do not think that fans of Vettel complain, not I think fans of Alonso would complain if it was him winning. It is always like this. My point is different – Red Bull is so much better than the rest of the field that there is no interest in watch it. You just can’t fight Red Bull. We see the same pattern for several years now – they start with a good car and after the summer break their car is absolutely exceptional. It is not me being bitter…I know it is not easy to produce a car like this. Red Bull are just like Ferrari in early 2000s – they fight on and off track. The fact that Pirelli reverted to 2012 spec tyres is exactly showing you who is the power team today. Red Bull manages to achieve what they want on and off track as well.

      2. Tealeaf says:

        Typical bringing the Newey car comment in to take a dig at Seb…

      3. Nick says:

        It was more just a general comment than directed at your view.

        I’m just over hearing everyone complain about Vettel and his winning. You pretty much hit the nail on the head, Red Bull is just on a level above everyone else. McLaren probably could’ve kept them honest if they had just evolved last years car like everyone else instead of taking the risk they did…but its all academic.

        Red Bull are driven to succeed, and they seem to explore every avenue and they also do what any team who wants to win do, they push the rules as far as they can to do it…..like everyone else does.

        Hopefully 2014 will see everyone taking points off each other with completely new cars, but just because the championship is wrapped up doesn’t mean there is nothing worth watching in the up coming races….there always is.

      4. justafan says:

        Alex, you probably missed Silverstone so you don’t know that the 2013 tyres were dangerous and the change was made on safety grounds.

    5. Sasidharan says:

      Exactly!. I am not watching anything this weekend, Only read reports from this website after the weekend.

    6. Rob says:

      As frustrating as the domination can be, I thought the Korea GP broadcaster did an amazing job following the battles near the front. Vettel got virtually no air time. For me, as long as there is interesting racing going on amongst the characters on the grid, I find it to be a satisfying viewing experience. Getting to watch Hulkenberg defend in Korea was extremely captivating.

    7. SteveS says:

      I record all the Far East races and watch them later, usually I already know who won and who came second, third, fourth etc before I watch the race. Of course I’m a fan of the sport and not of any one driver or team. No doubt if I watched F1 just to see Ferrari win, I’d be pretty fed up as well.

  2. Elie says:

    Great to see Kimi on it.. I think he’s thrown all the rules out and going for it as he doesn’t have any hope for the drivers championship the last 2 races, he just wants a top quali and I think he might still go ok on Sat.

    I hope Alonsos mind games of “he’s no quicker than Felipe ” aren’t playing on the Finn– oh Fernando he was quicker than you both today.. Good luck !

    1. Adiel says:

      Why would Fernando say a thing like Massa is quicker then Kimi when clearly anyone could see the performance of Massa over the past couple of years has been way below par. Makes you wonder whats going on in Fernando’s head. Dont think Kimi gives a damn what Fernando is saying personaly.

      1. Random 79 says:

        The fact that Kimi doesn’t give a damn what Fernando is saying personally is what is going through Fernando’s head.

      2. Fireman says:

        Precisely :D

      3. Rob says:

        +1 Alonso is really going to struggle with someone who is immune to high-school-level mind games…

      4. Wes says:

        ROFLMAO!

      5. Kirk says:

        Agree and if the next year he doesn’t defeat Kimi as many expect, he will implode, no matter what happen, Kimi will still doing his job.

      6. Yago says:

        Kimi is not faster than Felipe. And for all the people like you who think otherwise, that’s going to be proved next year. Another thing is consistency, and all the other factors that contribute to racecraft. As well as going around problems. But Kimi’s maximum speed, this is qualifying, is not grater than Felipe’s.

    2. Rob Newman says:

      Mind games or not, it could be true. As usual, the British media has twisted what Alonso exactly said. I think he said something like ‘in terms of speed, Felipe is not any slower’. But Kimi may have certainly improved.

      As you may know I am not an Alonso fan, I am just trying to improve my image here :)

      1. Harrison Vrbanjac says:

        Well Alonso says a lot and often for a reason.

      2. Elie says:

        1. It’s not true–that’s why Ferrari aren’t keeping Massa in the first place- he’s consistently inconsistent.
        2. Mind games or not – Any way you look at it.. Fernando is very wrong- few people could do what Raikkonen did over the last few years. And No one else can do what Kimi did at this very circuit in 2005.! You just don’t downplay your future team mate in any way shape or form. Because when he beats him- Fernando will look like a complete idiot

      3. Jimbob says:

        I’m pretty confident that FA is right… I think Kimi is awesome and possibly the most consistent race driver out there but Felipe is probably quicker when he gets it together, he just doesn’t get it together very often anymore in quali and is hopeless in races. In terms of outright pace on a good day though I’d bet that Fernando is right.

      4. AlexD says:

        Actually….I would love Kimi to smash Alonso….it is just this will not happen, I really think Alonso is better overall.

      5. Fireman says:

        Well, little birds tell that Alonso might not stick around for 2014 at Ferrari.

        Maybe he really is on his way out?

      6. Elie says:

        Sure is starting to like it @ Fireman.. In fact we’re almost at the point of taking bets now aren’t we.I think it’s looking very much like Button and Alonso isn’t it..

      7. Joel says:

        You may be right, time will tell.
        I also have a feeling that something is cooking at Ferrari…

      8. bearforce says:

        Kimmi and Hulkenburg at Ferrari 2014.

      9. Yago says:

        Massa has been very consistent in qualifying this year! That’s what Alonso is referring to, he is talking about pure pace. Same thing Hamilton does always say when he speaks about Alonso. Most people say “Alonso is the most complete driver”. But Hamilton says “Alonso’s pure speed is amazing”. Pure speed is what Hamilton really respects, and Alonso’s pure speed is incredible. Don’t understimate his pure speed, don’t listen to all that people saying Alonso is a bad qualifier, he is not the fastest bla bla bla. If you do, as a Kimi fan, next year you are going to be very surprised! And by the way have a hard time. If you accept Kimi is going to be against a mega fast driver (not just complete, good race craft, etc) you will enjoy next year, and will se it as an amazing challenge for your favourite driver. Qualifying is going to be very difficult for Kimi next year, let’s see how he copes. But I repeat, is better for you to accept the inmense challenge Kimi is going to be against!

        One thing is for sure, we are going to have fun!

    3. JR says:

      Please try to read the complete answer from Alonso, maybe then you would understand his point, basically that Ferrari needs to built a good car for 2014 in order to fight for the championships, regardless how good their driver line up is. Of course is easier to take the silly headline “Kimi is no quicker than Felipe ” (words that Alonso never said) and start blaming Alonso of playing mind games.

      1. Elie says:

        Fernando Alonso has been telling Ferrari and the whole world to build a better car since. 2011. The whole world knows this and most people with any mental fortitude can see this is just a way of deflecting from his status within the team.! Unfortunately some people need a complete picture drawn and verbalised before they understand others.

        Also if that’s all he’s saying why not just say it.??? Why does this fool mention Felope Massa or Kimi Raikkonen or Fuzzy the beat or whoever?. He’s been quoted at several sources at saying this and yet people like you still want to defend him !!. If he was half decent he would say ..”both Felipe and I have worked tirelessly over many months and the car is still not quite where the team want – at the very top. I hope a great driver like Kimi can bring some fresh ideas coupled with James Allison from Lotus to help”.. Instead he always shoots from a negative position attacking anyone that poses any semblance of a threat to his position and I truly believe despite his great driving his unrivalled arrogance and negativity is wearing thin with the team and he should just f/off.

      2. JR says:

        Your last line makes any dabate completely useless.

      3. Basil says:

        I really like Alonso, but I cannot disagree with you here.

      4. gpfan says:

        Bit harsh, don’t you think?

        Oh well. Time will tell how things round out.

        Imagine if Kubica had rally results to match
        Kimi. I think Massa would have been gone at
        least a season ago, and we’d be discussing a
        different Ferrari line-up.

      5. deancassady says:

        just like it is.
        but elie, I like grosjean, this weekend.
        It should be a Kimi circuit; I’m going all in with a Lotus 1-2!
        rock on

      6. Elie says:

        Yep Dean.. Grosjean just had a good quali but I think a webber might win this one.

        I’m a bit disappointed in Kimi -p9 again.! I’m sure he will fight . But I just don’t see him getting a podium. He just does not seem to be finding the sweet spot. His fastest time in q2 on the hards was very, very impressive though .

  3. Richardd says:

    It seems if Mercedes get their team strategy in order, they might take the fight to Red Bull

    1. Grant H says:

      Im not so confifent that will happen, the teams are unlikely to bring big updates to these final races, unless vet gets qually wrong I cant see this playing out any other way

    2. Martin says:

      Hi Richard,

      What do you mean by team strategy?

      Car set up and the choice of wing levels?
      When to change from plan A on the pit stops?

      Are you suggesting that Mercedes needs to go off the perfect maximum race time to gain track position/pressure Red Bull, at some point?

      1. Yago says:

        Well Hamilton compromised his race pace to qualify higher the order, taking a gamble on set up compared to Rosberg. So in a way they are trying different things, although this one maybe is more of a Hamilton particular approach. Although he did not do a good qualifying, he was able to start ahead of Grosjean, so it was an interesting move. Then in the race we know what happened…

    3. deancassady says:

      merc is in the weeds.
      they’ve mismanaged and inherently underestimated what RB has been doing within the team to maximize results; that is being withdrawn, and in 2015, McLaren Honda will win the constructors with Ross Brawn driving the Honda side.

  4. goferet says:

    So Red Bull are in the drivers seat after today’s running so I guess it will all boil down to qualifying.

    Yes, the rivals have to do all they can to keep Sebi away from pole, if not that, they should at least wish for a uncharacteristic Vettel mistake in Q3.

    It’s either this or game, set and match considering Mercedes have been told they’re about 3 tenths off Red Bull race pace.

    It was an encouraging day for Ferrari for it looks like they will be able to fight at the front but at this moment in time, it appears like Massa is the more comfortable of the two pilots.

    Lotus’ medium tyre gambles would always work if they were able to qualify just behind the Red Bull but this is usually not the case.

    However, after Kimi’s retirement, I guess he’s a safe bet for a P2 finish just like Korea >>> reminds me of Vettel in 2011 who would crash in practice only to win the race.

    Unlike the new dad Grosjean, Maldonado and Perez, they’re never far from the heart of the party though Perez’s shunts are getting worryingly more scary.

    1. AlexD says:

      sorry….how this was a good day for Ferrari? :-)

      1. goferet says:

        @ AlexD

        It was a good day for Ferrari because Massa’s long run pace was matching Red Bull as confirmed by Massa’s engineer over the team radio.

      2. AlexD says:

        Did he really say so? I thought they said they are ok for whoever they are racing….but who are they racing? Lotus, mercedes and red bull not in their reach….alonso said it was a disaster day…

      3. deancassady says:

        I’d love to see a Massa victory.

      4. goferet says:

        @ AlexD

        This is what Smedley said to Massa.

        Smedley, “OK, the pace is pretty good,
        for the cars we’ll be with on Sunday,
        pace is pretty good”

      5. AlexD says:

        But how did you conclude it was about red bull? Who are they racing on sunday?

    2. deancassady says:

      Grosjean is out of jail and nearing the end of probation; he’s been the only one close enough to challenge Vettel, and I expect this weekend will continue that trend.
      Take note, because with the settling down of Grosjean, he is emerging into the type of racer that Boullier has always been treating him as.
      I’ve been predicting a Grosjean victory, for several races, prior to the end of this year, though I didn’t think it would be in Japan; but it just might.
      Hoping for a Kimi victory.

  5. Mocho_Pikuain says:

    This is the big drama of the day: Maria de Villota has been found dead in a hotel in Sevilla. R.I.P.

    1. Leah O'Dwyer says:

      Agreed, RIP Maria. This is so incredibly sad.

  6. Harshad says:

    Kimi in the last two races going into this weekend;
    Venue Practice Race
    Singapore not 100% (health issues) P13 to P3
    Korea Crash in FP1 P9 to P2
    Japan Error in FP2 ?

    Looks like a podium to me! because, Lotus is the only team that improved nearly 1.2 Sec on Mediums compared to their times on Hard Compounds. That’s a massive improvement, all the teams largely improved about 0.4s to 0.6s…

    As far as race strategy surely Lotus will 2 stopper and mostly looks like Medium-Medium-Hard.
    Mercedes/RBR will do similar…so this may end a race on pure pace between these 3 teams.

    1. Elie says:

      Kimi may also have spare set of boots for quali

      1. TJ says:

        All teams get 3 sets of each compound at the beginning of qualifying which are to be used how they chose in qualifying and the race so Kimi beaching his car and getting less running in FP2 makes no difference to tyre situation.

      2. KRB says:

        At the beginning of each race weekend, each driver gets 6 prime, 5 option, 4 intermediate, and 3 wet-weather tires.

        1 set of primes is returned after FP1, and 1 set each of primes and options after FP2, and again another set of each (prime and option) after FP3.

        http://tinyurl.com/F1-tire-regs

        So everyone has to give in another prime and option after FP3 tomorrow, so everyone should have at least 3 sets of untouched primes and options.

      3. deancassady says:

        not necessarily, but saving a set of unused mediums, going into the race could be the difference to the top step.

      4. Glennb says:

        Why woułd Kimi get more tyres than the rest for quali?

    2. Richard says:

      Don’t know the fuel loads, do we?

      1. Harshad says:

        Fuel Loads? The timing difference on 2 set of tyres was on fastest lap before long runs began.

        Lotus improved 1.2 for both the cars (1 sec for GRO with a mistake!), the others improved only 0.4/0.6….

  7. Seifenkistler says:

    Looked as if they were forming an (un)holy alliance against Vettel. Obviously all other teams agreed that 6-7 drivers have to be sacrified to cause a lot of savety cars to stop Vettel at the race. The winner doesn’t really matter, except it is a redbull.

    1. KRB says:

      I re-read this 3x, and I still have no idea what it means!

      1. Sasidharan says:

        LOL!

      2. Random 79 says:

        I think I know.

        Race start: Vettel screams away. So someone volunteers to have a crash, brings out the safety car (or the fire jeep), field closes up.

        Restart: Vettel screams away. So someone volunteers to have a crash, brings out the safety car, field closes up again.

        Rinse and repeat until Vettel wins by only ten seconds instead of fifty seconds.

        Before you ask no, I can’t see it happening either…

      3. Martin says:

        You could modify it a bit. Race cruises along until Vettel has completed his second stop and is leading. Someone, probably a Lotus stops early to ensure Seb has to do ~23 laps on the final set.

        Late in the race a car mysteriously spins with a locked transmission. The car is in the middle of the track, undamaged, but cannot move. Safety car called. The chasing car has been pushing to keep within 20 seconds of Seb – a realistic goal. This means that Vettel cannot stop for new tyres without losing track position. All the other teams come in for a set of mediums. The two second a lap time advantage of near near mediums vs old hards means that Seb does not get the fastest lap…

      4. Random 79 says:

        Seb not get the fastest lap??? We can’t have that! ;)

    2. Ruse says:

      @KRB I agree, what does it mean?! :-)

      Oh the intrigue..

      1. CYeo says:

        Will one of LDM’s presentation knives be proffered up to serve as the ceremonial instrument.

        That’s all we need eh? A vicious tyre slasher prowling around the pit.

    3. Seifenkistler says:

      I never had english at school, so it may be confusing.

      It looked as if they were training how to cause savety cars without the marshals recognizing it as an Anti-Vettel alliance.

      But now i feel sad about the joke because i hadn’t read about the dead of Maria before, nor did i hear it at radio :(

      1. KRB says:

        Haha, ok now I get it … even if such an alliance was even formed, I wouldn’t put much faith in them knowing how and when to execute!

        As big as the gap is in terms of car performance between RBR and the rest, there’s an equally big gap in terms of team strategy and overall team execution.

  8. DK says:

    I hope Webber is on fire this weekend to challenge Vettel this Sunday, not his car …

    Come on Webber!

    1. Random 79 says:

      I just finished watching Webber’s second Top Gear interview again.

      Maybe they should put them both in a Liana, $5 on Webber :)

      1. Martin says:

        I suspect the Liana over its twelve year life has been gaining faster tyres as previous generations become unavailable.

      2. Random 79 says:

        Possibly (although they’d still be normal road tyres), but I strongly suspect that over its twelve year life it has also been gaining a slower engine and gearbox ;)

    2. Wild Man says:

      He has been on fire in the last two races.

    3. KRB says:

      Well, he has a new gearbox and engine in his car this weekend, to go along with the brand new chassis.

      New engines – VET, WEB, GRO, HAM, PIC, VDG, BIA, CHI

      All those above on their 7th new engine, except for HAM who’s on his 8th.

      New gearboxes – WEB, HAM, DIR, BIA

  9. Dale says:

    Vettel to win then! Hope I’m wrong.

  10. Warren G says:

    “Champion-elect Sebastian Vettel”

    As a Ferrari supporter, this was a very painful sentence to read, lol. The reality of being the bridesmaid yet again is sinking in and I much prefer the fantasy world of Denial that I was in earlier.

    Ah well.

    1. KRB says:

      Perhaps Mercedes will take the bridesmaid role from Ferrari this year. Though in the current regulations era (’09-’13) they’ve been the 3rd best team pretty much, only McLaren fumbles handing them 2nd last year.

      But if you mean Alonso as bridesmaid in the WDC, then he looks good for that! If so, he’ll be a 3x runner-up, same as Mansell and Graham Hill.

    2. deancassady says:

      come on?!? something catastophic would have to happen

  11. Marcelo Leal says:

    This comment from Hamilton in his BBC column is interesting:

    “This week, I was watching one of Sebastian Vettel’s on-board laps from a year or so ago and it was fascinating. His line was interesting, to say the least, in the Esses – certainly not the one I would have chosen – and he was still so rapid through that sector”.

    Yes, he thinks is just the car… let’s see how this qualifying will go!

    1. SteveS says:

      Perhaps Hamilton should consider learning Vettels line through the Esses then, if his ego will allow it.

      1. Yago says:

        Better first wait untill Vettel has an average car and does those lines. Then decide if learning Vettels lines is worth it…

      2. SteveS says:

        Yes, let’s all pretend weally weally hard that Vettel has never driven an average or below average car car. Ah, that feels so nice.

      3. KRB says:

        But did he use the same lines while driving the average/below-average car? I guess we wouldn’t be able to tell at Suzuka, b/c it was Fuji for both ’07 and ’08, when he was with STR.

        I think Vettel’s different lines are more to do with getting the best out of the RB9′s EBD. Always seems to me that Vettel would go in very deep at tight corners, and then turn tightly … do a V instead a U (i.e. hugging the corner).

        Would be interesting to know if the onboard footage was from 2011 or 2012.

    2. Martin says:

      I recall Peter Windsor rating Vettel through the esses in 2009 – which is well before any exhaust blowing techniques coming in.

      Darren Heath in having to track drivers through his camera has noted who the smooth drivers are as it helps him keep them in the frame. Vettel was one who was good in Darren’s opinion and Hamilton wasn’t mentioned. Heath mentioned the Austin esses as another example. He’s only one opinion, but he spends a lot of time trackside having to observe cars to get good shots.

      1. KRB says:

        Odd about the Austin Esses, as that was the main area where Hamilton was catching up Vettel in the race last year.

        Fast corners like the Suzuka esses are more dependent on strong aero over the blown-exhaust benefit, and RBR’s had the best aero since 2009, so not really surprising that he would look smoother through there.

        Would be interesting to know if Vettel’s line through the Esses is different now compared to 2009.

      2. Martin says:

        I don’t know when in the weekend Heath was stationed near the esses at Austin. Being a succession of high energy corners, in a race the esses are an area where a driver may look to conserve the tyres and in the race the Red Bull and Vettel was slower than the McLaren and Hamilton so Vettel could well have realised that he needed to find ways of conserving the tyres in the faster corners.

        I don’t think your downforce argument stacks up – car balance and driver technique are what is relevant here. With sector time differences of 0.3 of a second it is not increased speed that you are going to see. Lines, car attitude and throttle are the things that Windsor and Heath are seeing and hearing.

        This isn’t an area where the discussion is likely to be completely objective. Windsor and Heath will have their own biases, even if it just little details they have picked up about drivers from engineers. Windsor as a journalist has made a point in his career of studying driving techniques. I haven’t read much of his stuff in the last ten years, but it is something that he puts much more effort into than most journalists – I doubt James Allen has the time to stand track side for example. Heath’s primary job is being track side. So my own biases include the information here – two people who know more about the subject than anyone contributing to this site reckon Vettel stands out in terms of technique. Looking at it on the TV I don’t see anything to counter that.

      3. KRB says:

        On all your factors you’ve listed, the RB9 is clearly better than all the other cars. Yet in the race in Japan, for S1, we have:

        N. ROSBERG 33.732
        M. WEBBER 33.842
        J. BUTTON 34.039
        D. RICCIARDO 34.085
        S. VETTEL 34.164

        And this from Mr. Windsor from qualifying this weekend, watching trackside at the esses:

        “Here, I’d like to say ‘chapeau’ to Mark Webber. He consistently – from Friday onwards – found exactly the right balance between short-term, up-the-hill pace and perfection by T6. This was classic Webber, back where he used to beat Seb on equal terms … [it's] just a lovely section of medium-speed road with blind entries. Lewis similarly threaded the needle – and so, but to a slightly lesser extent, did Seb Vettel, Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas, although Jenson seemed to want a little more from Ts 4 and 5 than they were ever going to give him. Perhaps that’s why he later described his laps as “fun”. I also liked Lewis’ “feel” for the wind change on Saturday at Suzuka. Trust him immediately to use this to his advantage; trust some others to use it as some sort of explanation as to why they were less-than-perfect.”

        http://bit.ly/1cc5flL

    3. Spinodontosaurus says:

      Hmm it can only have been his 2012 or 2011 pole lap that was watched, which makes Hamilton’s comment interesting.

      In 2012 most drivers had their second runs compromised by Raikkonen’s spin at Spoon, and Vettel was 2 tenths up on his own previous 1st sector time – the same time that Hamilton probably watched.

      In 2011 Vettel was actually 2 tenths slower through sector 1 than Webber, and ironically both Mclarens were also faster.

      It’s sector 2 and 3 that have been the key to Vettel’s last two pole positions here.

      Either way, Hamilton indirectly admitted that at least one driver had a better approach to sector 1 than he did, prior to his Vettel comment:
      “You learn a lot from the different drivers you race with. My old team-mate Jenson Button had a different technique from me through there when we were at McLaren.

      I would use my aggressive style and he would have a slightly different approach and I am going to adapt some of the approach he had and combine it with my own style this year to try to make my overall performance better.”

  12. Richard says:

    Nah I’m not getting up early for this one either.

    1. Miha Bevc says:

      And I’m getting up to hopefully see 3rd Grand Chelem in a row.
      First one in history?

  13. Giorgio says:

    As a SV Fan, anyway his title is secured, I’d like to see him starting race from the end or from the pit lein (e.g. due to fuel lack after qualy) that would be much fascinating, but alas, scarce to expect that.. :) of course scenario 2005 Kimi at this track he would not be able to repeat, as would nobody!

    1. Phil Glass says:

      As an FA and Ferrari fan, I readily acknowledge that that drive was one of the greatest. Lap record also of 1.31.1. No one will come close to that this w/end.
      ALO did rather well on that occassion too, to convince Michael that it was time for a change at the top.

  14. deancassady says:

    Japan, many of the personalities here, paying attention, love Suzuka, like Montreal and of course, SPA, for similar reasons, this race circuit grades the drivers, separating the pure bud from the shake.
    So the top drivers should rise to the surface like cream.
    Unfortunately, the Vettel-Red Bull package looks extremely competitive, yet, Vettel’s run of issue-free races suggests, by probability, that he could have a mechanical, or otherwise issue; we can only hope that he has a challenge which makes it more difficult to compete.
    Though boring have the domination at the front, students of this absurd spectacle, whether they are cheering or booing, must by now, realize, IN ADDITION TO THE GREAT MACHINERY, Vettel is driving as well as any champion before him, and has earned the respect of a four time world champion, and an era-dominating one at that, the modern V8 formula has been owned by the Vettel-Red Bull packaging.
    Sweet Suzuka:
    No other race track like it. It’s dangerous. It mixes it up. It has variable weather. Great, fanatical, yet restrained fans cram into to it, like a subway in Tokyo!
    Besides the Wunderkind, trends at the front looks, as follows, to me:
    Big John rising: he has learned from the best, but learning a bit of self-restraint and calming, has propelled Grosjean into victory contention; I believe that it is just a matter of time, for a victory this season, and he is looking good in Japan. Ideally, he either takes off from pole and does a Vettel, or hounds and pressures him into a mistake (wouldn’t that be novel, and interesting!)
    Kimi looks good for a podium, look for him to make the smae kind of capitalization for any Vettel mistakes, the way he pounced on the Grosjean error in Korea.
    Mercedes wallow in their entire weekend package, and are trending towards mediocrity in end standing results. A double Lotus podium will really spice up the constructors championship for the best of the rest. Lewis seems as if he may have given up the ghost a bit; so maybe this is a weekend where Rosberg can get the better of him. He’d better get it now, while he still has a chance to.
    I expect Mercedes to peeter out or crash out by the end of the race.
    It is sad about the declining success of Ferrari, and the spiteful barrage of propaganda coming from the Alonso Media Corporation; someone above mentioned the three little birds telling him that Alonso won’t be driving Red next year, and the patterns support this possibility; but if he goes, who will be team mate of Kimi? I’d say the Hulk has earned his shot at the big time; and there is no better benchmark than Kimi.
    Webber could be anywhere, but his trend towards mechanical failure is even more pervasive than Vettel’s mechanical reliability, but maybe he’ll get to have everything work, then he’ll be a threat to challenge for the top step.

    I’m hoping for a Lotus one-two, and I won’t mind which driver is on the top step (too much).

    1. Brad says:

      Good post, I alwasy enjoy your view, as I’ve said before…

    2. Chrisralph says:

      Just filling in my tips now. Pretty sure it will be a Lotus 2-3 after SV, want to back RG for 2 but fear that Lotus might pull team orders. Then I reckon its MW, FA, LH, NR, DR, FA, AS.

      Just four points behind the leader in our 58-punter comp so this is critical. Was 4 points ahead after SIN. So at least the lead is changing in our arena…
      Go GRO!

  15. Sebee says:

    Quade,

    Yeah man, I trust the teams to use the tires properly. Even after the blow outs, they are more than happy to take risks and use the tires outside of spec or recommendation.

    http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns26551.html

    1. KRB says:

      I’d like to know who is doing the over-heating. Wouldn’t think that Mercedes would be doing it, but y’never know.

  16. Sebee says:

    WOW! I hope Toto doesn’t have to eat his words in 2014. Something tells me he should not be providing this much motivation for Ferrari and Renault, as a…you know…Mercedes employee.

    >
    Mercedes’ Toto Wolff, however, is excited.

    “A month ago I was in Maranello and saw their engine factory and thought: ‘German engineering ingenuity against Italian improvisation and French laissez-faire’.”

    1. KRB says:

      Link please!

      First rule of sports is to never give a quote or anything that can be pinned up on another team’s locker room door, that will act as motivation for them.

      Of course I hope the Mercedes engine is a monster. For Pastor, of course! ;-)

      FOR PASTOR!!!

      1. Sebee says:

        Here you go.

        http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns26556.html

        So you’re the one who had that Pastor fan kit flown into Canada. One thing is certain, you won’t bump into anyone else who is wearing it! :-)

      2. Alexander Supertramp says:

        People are hard on Pastor, he’s a fast driver and he’s been growing as a racer. I would love for Williams to take a leap to the front next year.

  17. Michael Kielty says:

    Is that picture at the head of this post from the new F1 game?

  18. Vyaname says:

    Q: Why does Adrian Newey race 2 or 3 times a year?

    A: He doesn’t get the simulator time at RBR. Every time he tries to get in, he’s told to move to the designers office.

    Q: Why does Newey need the simulator or track experience?

    A: How else is he going to drive SEB’s car from the pit wall Sundays?

    1. Sebee says:

      A yearned win
      Ad yea winner
      Earned ya win
      Dear aery win
      Need rain way

      Think about it. :-)

  19. Xman says:

    Looking at the driver market, Mclaren needs a better driver pairing. Alonso will not jump ship before he can see if ferrari are off the pace next year due to callibration dificulties or The Big Question about the engine power and fuel technology will be an indication to Alonsos next move.

    If the ferrari Turbo engine is down on power or fuel effeciency, it will be easy to expect the order to stay reletively the same. With Mclaren left wide open with the unthinkable move from LH. And the pady / ross swap going on currently, an Alonso Honda Ross alingment may work to give Mclaren the winning formula they have been missing for over a decade. There are still a few moons to pass before this puzzle comes together. Considering past actions and reputations,

    Alonso will not flinch moving if ferrari is not delivering technicaly

    Ross also has moved from one top team to another. A mclaren move is not unlikely.

    Ferrari have a history of not using their resources effectively enough with the regulation of the day.

    In any case – its going to be an interesting year to come.

  20. Carlos Marques says:

    It’s easy when you’re (probably) not using the same rule book as everyone else:

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2013/10/red-bull-f1-traction-control/

  21. MSCUDERIA says:

    WOW! I hope Toto doesn’t have to eat his words in 2014. Something tells me he should not be providing this much motivation for Ferrari and Renault, as a…you know…Mercedes employee.

    >
    Mercedes’ Toto Wolff, however, is excited.

    “A month ago I was in Maranello and saw their engine factory and thought: ‘German engineering ingenuity against Italian improvisation and French laissez-faire’.”

    Hi James !
    Would LOVe to have your opinion on that! do you think it was meant to be some kind of joke or he was being serious ?
    is it possible that he somehow knows where the others are compared to mercedes ?
    if true, and knowing that some of the people on the paddock place the mercedes unit in front of others come the start of the season,i fear Ferrari wil have a hard time… AGAIN

    thanks for answering :)

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