Friday activities have concluded for the Japanese weekend, with Max Verstappen leading both sessions. Behind them were the Ferraris, which took turns in the two sessions, and Lando Norris, who confirmed McLaren’s significant improvement. The qualifying simulation saw relatively small time gaps, thanks in part to a notable evolution of the track. Immediately after, the teams focused on race pace simulation in preparation for the Japanese Grand Prix, a crucial aspect that requires careful planning to avoid stressing the tires on a challenging circuit like Suzuka. Let’s now see how some of the cars in the top positions performed.
The New Ferrari Floor Seems to Bring Improvements
The main observations for this race weekend are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull. The former introduced new features in the floor, while the latter aimed to confirm that the Singapore weekend was an isolated case. The qualifying and race pace simulation of the (almost) three-time world champion shows that Red Bull remains the reference point. As usual, their attack lap times are considerably low, as was confirmed at Suzuka. However, the degradation shown by their car, the RB19, suggests it also suffers in this aspect. Unfortunately, the data collected is not very reliable because Verstappen’s simulation was done on the prototype tires brought by Pirelli for this weekend. Sergio Perez, on the other hand, struggled in both sessions and faced difficulties in the race pace simulation on the Japanese track.
As mentioned earlier, the second observation is Ferrari, which introduced the last major update of the season. The innovations in the floor seem to be working, as Charles Leclerc felt an improvement in the car’s behavior, confirming the new specification. This is also visible in the race pace simulation during the second free practice session at Suzuka, with both Ferrari cars openly competing with Mercedes and McLaren. Nevertheless, there is still some tire degradation when comparing the times with those of Serio Perez, 0.2 seconds versus 0.15 seconds for the Mexican with the same tire compound. Most likely, the optimal setup is still missing, and all the data will be studied on the Italian side to find the right window in the simulator at Maranello. McLaren confirms its strengths on circuits with medium-to-high load, but the simulation on the red tires did not provide an ideal reference to determine their positioning. Good work was also done by George Russell, who continues his positive momentum and highlights the car’s load characteristics.
Medium tire race pace affected by traffic
In the graph above, we can see the average lap times held by the examined drivers during their simulation. As mentioned earlier, Verstappen confirmed that the RB19 is still the reference, possibly aided by the prototype tires. We will see how this gap changes during tomorrow’s FP3 session. Charles Leclerc’s average time is also affected, but in this case, by the traffic encountered in the final phase of the simulation.