It was a good day on track for the Scuderia Ferrari drivers in Japan, with both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen placing inside the top seven in both Friday free practice sessions at Suzuka.
Alonso finished third behind the dominant Mercedes in the opening free practice session of the weekend, but slipped to seventh in the second, over 1.5 seconds behind the pace of Lewis Hamilton up front. The Spaniard remains uncertain about the set-up for the race, especially with the threat of rain hanging over the event.
“It’s always nice running at Suzuka, as it’s one of the circuits that provides the most driving pleasure and where the enthusiasm of the fans is really fantastic,” insisted Alonso. “Despite the many interruptions to the second session, today we managed to complete almost our entire planned programme without any problems, working on race set-up for both dry and wet conditions.
“At the moment, the uncertain weather forecast makes it impossible to take any decision, even when it comes to tyre choice. Here, compared to other tracks, the difference between the two compounds is minimal and their performance level is very similar.”
Team-mate Raikkonen finished fifth in FP1 and sixth in FP2, but admitted to having a difficult day on track. A technical glitch and the numerous red and yellow flag periods meant the Finn only had one proper run on the supposedly quicker Medium Pirelli tyre, and Raikkonen knows he will have to sit down overnight and work out the best set-up with the mechanics for Saturday’s qualifying session.
“Today wasn’t easy and the lack of grip from the track surface, especially in the morning, didn’t help,” said Raikkonen. “This is a fast and tough track, very demanding for both car and driver. In the first practice session, on the Hard tyres, we concentrated on testing different set-ups aimed at qualifying and the race, then in the afternoon, we made some changes which brought a partial improvement to the handling of the car.
“But because of the yellow flags and a technical glitch, I only managed to complete just one good run on the Medium tyres. Now we have a full night’s work ahead of us in order to find a set-up that will allow us to get the car to suit any sort of condition.”