The Scuderia Ferrari team are looking ahead at the Japanese Grand Prix with a sense of optimism after Fernando Alonso’s excellent fourth place finish last time out in Singapore. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen also showed good pace around the street circuit but was out of luck during the race and could only finish eighth.
Looking back at the weekend in Singapore, Ferrari Technical Director James Allison believes the lack of dependency on engine power and the extra reliance on mechanical grip the Singapore track needed gave the team an advantage, especially as that area the team had been working on back in the factory.
“In Singapore, I think Mercedes probably had a bit more pace in hand, so that brought the front of the grid a bit closer together than normal,” said Allison. “Also, it’s a track where the engine has a smaller effect compared with nearly all of the other tracks this year, so that provided another opportunity for the field to close up a bit.
“And finally, the nature of the corners at Singapore is also sensitive to the amount of mechanical grip that you can get from your package. That’s certainly an area where Ferrari has been working recently and it allowed us to have a rather better weekend.”
Looking ahead now to Suzuka, Allison believes that to be strong around the Japanese track requires a good package, and although the reliance on engines is not as severe as it is on other circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, the Ferrari engine is still not as strong as it could be and it could be a defining factor about how the teams’ weekend progresses.
“Suzuka is a track where the importance of having horsepower is just a little bit less than the average for the year, so while power is not super important here, it’s not unimportant either,” said Allison. “But it’s a track where a good handling chassis with a high amount of downforce is rewarded very strongly. Cars which score well on both those points will of course be right up at the front. But it gives some space to prosper to a car which is sweet handling and reasonable on downforce.
“Suzuka is one of the all-time great circuits, with some of the most challenging corners, one of the biggest tests of the car in the whole year, because it doesn’t just ask of the car that it can go well in the fast “S” complex in the first sector of the track, but there are also slow corners, long straights and all manner of ways to reveal the weakness of either the car or the driver. A team that comes back from Suzuka having done well knows that they are a good team with a strong package.”
Allison insists winning the battle for third place in the constructors against the Williams team is important, and after a satisfying Singapore Grand Prix he believes the team are working well together to continue their recent improvements.
“We left Singapore with some satisfaction that areas we’d been working on the car, to improve its mechanical grip for example, appear to be paying off for us,” insists Allison. “So we go to Suzuka and the remaining races determined to close the gap to Williams and then try and actually pull ahead of them, with the aim of securing a third place in the championship. We also plan to learn what lessons we can during the remainder of this season, to help guide us for the following year.”