F1 2013 Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying Preview
The Suzuka circuit hosts an iconic and historic Japanese Grand Prix that is always exciting and always very fast.
Local Time: 2 PM (Japan)
Top Three Qualifying Finish: Mark Webber @ 1.95 See the Latest Odds
TV: Sky F1 (UK), NBC (USA)
For Formula 1 drivers, Suzuka is heaven. One of the fastest circuits on the calendar, it’s up there with Spa for pure driving enjoyment. With perhaps one of the most iconic first sectors of any race track in the world, the 3.4 mile long circuit is also not without a challenge.
Friday running was littered with drivers, both rookies and veterans, spinning off due to tight nature of the circuit. Some cars were damaged, Jules Bianchi’s Marussia was completely written off in FP1, while others, like Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, lived to fight another day.
Away from the frequent off-track adventures, the on-track action was pretty much as expected. What we’ve got now is the competitive order for the remaining five races, save for some slight variations due to track characteristics and minor upgrades.
With the championship pretty much sown up in Sebastian Vettel’s hands, most teams, if not all, would have well and truly shifted their focus to the 2014 prototypes. What that unfortunately means is that little developmental time is being put into the cars that are currently doing the laps, and therefore improvements in performance are going to be few and far between.
The Red Bull’s, once again, rounded out Friday in one-two order with, once again, Sebastian Vettel leading the charge. Given the times are fairly close, he still holds and healthy 0.25 second advantage over Nico Rosberg in P3, probably with plenty of room to improve he needs to.
Even from this early point in time, it’s too hard to see anything different than Sebastian Vettel leading every lap from lights-out to the chequered flag for a comprehensive victory. What we’ve seen over the last four races is much akin to what we saw last year. The German wait for the right time from where to absolutely dominate for a couple of months and blow the championship beyond all reckoning.
Once again Mercedes seem close, but are not yet close enough. Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in FP1, and Nico Rosberg looked promising in FP2 but the W04 isn’t quite at the level to match the RB9, not on raw pace for qualifying anyway. With a bit of luck, Mercedes can expect things to go their way after a frustrating weekend in Korea where everything went against them. Taking that into consideration, one of their drivers is favourite to fill the last podium slot given we expect a Red Bull one-two.
The team trailing slightly in third is Lotus, who are well clear of a struggling Ferrari, but perhaps unable to match Mercedes in qualifying, although Romain Grosjean has been on some sort of form of late. Their advantage, as it has been the whole year, is putting together efficient and effective race strategies that invariable help Kimi Raikkonen get somewhere near the podium, often from hopeless positions.
What will be interesting, as it’s yet to really materialise during this recent run of Red Bull dominance, is seeing Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel fight it out at the front will all gloves off. Webber will need to qualify well, and will have the motivation to do so as he starts to see the final stretch of his long F1 career. He’ll want to make the most of Suzuka and should comfortable qualify in the top three given the Red Bull he has at his disposal.
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