Alfa Romeo Racing head to Japan with optimism that they can carry on their consistency with their seventh points score in ten races.
Kimi Räikkönen has not had the best of luck since the summer break though. A collision with Max Verstappen in Belgium destroyed his car’s performance for the whole race, followed by starting on the incorrect tyres in Italy of which he had to serve a stop/go penalty as his punishment.
Singapore saw his 100% finishing record for this year come to an end after contact with Daniil Kvyat, and a jump start in Russia effectively put him out of contention for points when he had taken his drive-through penalty.
The Finn is not down from his predicaments, as the Japanese Grand Prix will be the last before he turns forty next week, joining world champions including Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher and Sir Jack Brabham to have raced past that age.
Räikkönen’s main focus however will be on the race weekend ahead and bids to end his pointless run of four races with a top-ten finish.
“The last four races have been disappointing for me and the team, but we shouldn’t forget we looked strong in Belgium and Italy despite the issues that prevented me from scoring,” Räikkönen said.
“The key is to recover the form we had before and immediately after the break: the gap from our rivals in the midfield is not big and hopefully a circuit like Suzuka can help us get the most out of our car. It’s a track I like and the fans are incredible, so I am looking forward to the weekend.”
Antonio Giovinazzi on the other hand has out-qualified his more-experienced team-mate in the last two rounds and looks to have found his form that he had been finding since the season had started.
The Italian was involved in the first-lap collision with Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean in Sochi, which sent him to the back of the field where he would remain until the end.
Another new track for Giovinazzi awaits this weekend, as the Suzuka circuit is a venue that he has not raced in previous categories. With the threat of a typhoon hanging over in Japan, it will make it even more challenging for the Alfa Romeo driver.
“Suzuka is one of those historical tracks on which everyone wants to do well,” Giovinazzi added.
“It’s a very challenging layout and to drive on it in a Formula One car for the first time will be quite the experience. I had a good run of races before Russia and I know we can be at that level again in Japan. It’s a very different track from the last few we raced, so hopefully we will be able to turn our fortunes around and get back in the points.”
Team Principal Frederic Vasseur expects the C38 to run better in Suzuka than it has done in recent races and the margin between ending up at the top of the midfield pack and outside the top ten to be very small.
“We head to Japan with the commitment and motivation to get back into the points immediately,” Vasseur added objectively.
“We must not forget we have been scoring in two of the last three races, so putting both cars in the points is a realistic objective: but we still feel there is more we could have brought home from the last few races.
“The track layout in Suzuka is quite different from Sochi and Singapore, so hopefully it will suit the C38 better and put us back towards the front of the midfield. Both trackside and at HQ, we need to keep working hard to extract the most out of our car: marginal gains is all there is to go from P12 to P7 in a race at this stage in the season.”