There's a certain charm about Suzuka. The old-school, figure-of-eight circuit consists of technical, fast-flowing bends. Drivers are constantly on the limit here. This track is unforgiving--drivers have to be brave to get on the throttle and tackle the curves. But make a mistake and you end up in the gravel trap rather than the tarmac run-off area where you can carry on racing. It's also challenging for the engineers to find the right balance.
Demanding curves such as the 'S' Curves, the Spoon Curve, the 130 R, the Casio Chicane and the Degner One make this circuit a favorite not only among drivers, but among fans as well.
So, what will the race weekend bring, and how will we fare with our predictions?
1. Romain Grosjean will out-qualify Kimi Raikkonen. Grosjean is quick but has often been reckless. Things are registering in his head much better, and as a result are polishing his racing skills. When Grosjean gets it right, he can beat his teammate.
2. It's going to be a Sebastian Vettel whitewash. We have the same sentiment as Mercedes: We fear that the German can win every remaining round. With four straight wins and the unmatched performance of the RB9, it's hard to see otherwise. Suzuka is a high-downforce track with medium- to high-speed corners, which is the car's strength. What else is there to say? At least we have a good chance of scoring a point with this prediction.
3. Fernando Alonso and Raikkonen will complete the podium. Sebastian can win the title here if Fernando finishes no higher than 8th. Frankly, we don't see that happening and want to delay the inevitable as long as possible. Alonso and Raikkonen's skills always shine on tracks like Suzuka. They'll find the extra speed in tomorrow's race.
4. The Mercedes duo will be in the points, as will Nico Hulkenberg. It has been the RBR-Mercedes show come Saturday, but Mercedes's performance on Sunday has been hit-or-miss, thanks to the tires. This prediction will be hit-or-miss as well. The track suits the silver arrows, but we think they'll struggle with the black round stuff. They'll qualify high, but their performance will drop.
As for Nico Hulkenberg, he's on form. And we want his point tally to continue.
5. At least three drivers will spin off. There are a number of rookies on the grid. The technicality of Suzuka will get the better of them.
Catch the race tomorrow at 2pm (Philippine time).
Photo from Infiniti Red Bull Racing
|JPN||Free Practice One||Free Practice Two|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Time||Driver (Team)||Time|
|1||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:34.157||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:33.852|
|2||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:34.487||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:34.020|
|3||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:34.768||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:34.114|
|4||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:34.787||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:34.202|
|5||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:35.126||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:34.411|
|6||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:35.154||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:34.442|
|7||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:35.179||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:34.473|
|8||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:35.364||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:34.698|
|9||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:35.450||J. Button (McLaren)||1:34.912|
|10||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:35.635||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:35.087|
|11||J. Button (McLaren)||1:35.868||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:35.089|
|12||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:35.900||J. Verge (Toro Rosso)||1:35.109|
|13||J. Verge (Toro Rosso)||1:36.066||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:35.182|
|14||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:36.165||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:35.275|
|15||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:36.178||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:35.341|
|16||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:36.340||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:35.709|
|17||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:36.399||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:36.136|
|18||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:36.760||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:36.722|
|19||H. Kovalainen (Caterham)||1:37.595||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:37.630|
|20||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:37.629||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:37.905|
|21||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:38.025||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:38.121|
|22||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:38.763||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||No Time|