Grand Prix 2012 Japanese Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

Traditonally the title decider but now earlier on the calendar, the F1 circus rolls into Japan with the championship finely poised with Vettel closing in on Alonso despite a setback in Monza. At the moment it's a two horse race with the German and the Spaniard but don't count out Raikkonen and Hamilton just yet, The Finn's incredible consistency has meant he's third in the championship and will be there or thereabouts at the end, particularly if the updates that Lotus are bringing to Japan benefit. Hamilton is in one of the fastest cars on the grid (if not the quickest) and was robbed off a probably win (certainly at least second) in Singapore with gearbox problems and the loss of 25 points has threatened to derail his championship. With 6 races to go he's 50 points behind Alonso. The only benefit for Hamilton, and indeed Raikkonen and Vettel is that Alonso isn't in the fastest car. The only reason that Alonso has been on the podium in recent races is from DNF's from other drivers and also the sheer skill of the Spaniard to drag an average car to places it shouldn't be and that is why he's top of the championship with a reasonable margain, but it's certainly not comfortable and I expect the title to go to the final race in Brazil.

In Singapore, McLaren and Red Bull were the class of the field and I think this will continue in Japan where both teams have been traditionally strong in recent years with Red Bull winning in 2009 and 2010 and McLaren in 2011 with Hamilton taking a podium in 2009. The worrying thing for Ferrari is the hit and miss pace of Sauber and Williams as Perez took 3 points off Alonso in Monza and Maldonado could have taken the final podium place until he had to retire in what was his best drive since Spain. What's interesting also is that with the 4 drivers going for the championship, they are all from different teams and how the 'other' drivers do (Webber, Massa, Button, Grosjean) do will have a significant impact on the championship. Romain Grosjean has already managed that when he took out Hamilton and Alonso at the first corner in Belgium, this enabled Vettel to close 18 points on Alonso, something that is unlikely to happen again this season (such a big swing anyway, unless there are more DNF's).

Races in Suzuka have generally been sunny and dry, but in 2004 and 2010 qualifying was held on Sunday morning due to conditions the day before so rain isn't an impossibility although the last wet race at Suzuka was in 1995 with the last wet race of any kind in Japan being in 2007 with the downpours at Fuji which provided a classic race in the torrential rain. Ferrari will be praying for rain as generally this season it's where they've been able to maximise their car as 2 of Alonso's 3 wins have come in rain affected weekends in Malaysia and Germany. Considering the amount of wet practices/qualifying we've had this season, there hasn't been that many wet races with only Malaysia being wet (not including Monaco as it was still too dry for intermediates at the end of the race).

The Japan/Korea double header will have a big say in the title fight if nothing else than to decide if it's going to be a 2 horse fight or a 3/4 way fight. Certainly Hamilton can't afford any more DNF's and Raikkonen needs to win at some point, although a DNF or a low points score for Alonso would blow the championship wide open and this would play into the hands of Vettel who in my opinion is the favourite for the title at the moment unless Ferrari can find more pace in that Ferrari as Vettel is roughly only one wins worth of points from Alonso and he has the car and the speed to compete for the win at all remaining races. But then I think him and Hamilton are the only two capable of that, the big difference is is that Hamilton is a further 30 points down the road, it's superbly poised, a lot better than this time 12 months ago when the Championship was all but over with Vettel leading by over 100 points

Suzuka circuit write up - http://cliptheapex.com/pages/suzuka-international-racing-course/
 

tranquility2k9

Podium Finisher
I'm going to go out there and predict Hamilton winning and Alonso finishing 6th. I think both McLaren's and RB's will be ahead of Alonso - it's one of those circuits where the better cars mean more than the driver abilities and JB + Webber are both good at Suzuka. I think Williams, Lotus and Sauber will also be strong and at least one of them will get ahead of Alonso, so he'll finish 6th at best. This could bring Hamilton back into the championship and take Vettel, who I think will finish 2nd, even closer.
 

Incubus

Champion Elect
Generally speaking it seems to me people are very quick to re-assess how quick those cars really are after only a couple of races. After Silverstone the Ferrari was suddenly as quick as the Red Bull and those McLaren were just shockingly slow and on the level of Williams, then two races later and Red Bull just haven't had the pace this year and next thing you know the Lotus is the fastest of them all just before it was realised McLaren really have been pace-setters all season and it was only a succession of mishaps that prevented them from dominating the entire campaign and suddenly Ferrari are back to having the fourth fastest car.

Maybe different circuits just play to certain cars' strength and the form book will be turned around again in the next couple of races? That's what it's been doing all season as we've been through different type of circuits so why should the rest of the year be any different?
 

Wombcat

Podium Finisher
Maybe different circuits just play to certain cars' strength and the form book will be turned around again in the next couple of races? That's what it's been doing all season as we've been through different type of circuits so why should the rest of the year be any different?
Don't let logic get in the way of a good story.
 

Incubus

Champion Elect
Wombcat Precisely, and Ferrari are a case in point. Their strength this year has been the handling in fast bends and one of their weakness has been their top speed. Pretty much the reverse of last year..
 

MCLS

Anti F1 fan
Valued Member
Wombcat Precisely, and Ferrari are a case in point. Their strength this year has been the handling in fast bends and one of their weakness has been their top speed. Pretty much the reverse of last year..

They were one of the fastest at Monza though, could have had a double podium in different circumstances
 

Incubus

Champion Elect
MCLS indeed they were but I was referring to the season as a whole. It has looked as though they have got on top of that particular problem in the last few races. Traction has been their number one weakness though so it was perhaps not surprising they were nowhere near the leaders' pace in Hungary or Singapore, two tracks devoid of fast curves.
 

Il_leone

Champion Elect
the last 3 years Vettel has been on pole so he's going to start as the favourite as despite the power deficit the Red Bull 's aerodynamics suits the circuit

I expect Mclaren to be strong again
 

RickD

Pole Sitter
A McLaren 1-2 would be interesting as Jenson goes well here and was untouchable last year. Will be interesting to see if team orders come into play if he is ahead of Lewis..
 

MCLS

Anti F1 fan
Valued Member
I expect it would be a Ferrari-Monza type thing if he was, although they should only do it if Hamilton is right up his backside, McLaren have a WCC to win as well. Personally I think it's all a bit overstated, Button would only let Hamilton past if the situation was right for it, and that is how it should be.
 

ZakspeedYakspeed

NeverUnderestimateThePredictabilityOfStupidity
Valued Member
With the tyre choices... Hard, Soft... for mine the winner will be whomever is the greater tactician and gets the most running in clean air... way too many fast sweeping corners to maintain contact with the car ahead of you...

Unless it rains... :whistle:
 
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