In the compressed Qualifying + Race Sunday of Suzuka we assisted to many unexpected reversals. From Free Practise analyses, Mercedes was pointed as the favourite for taking the first row or, at least, one of the two places available ahead of all. But in the condition of green track (that means more slippery and aggressive on wheels due to the rain that washed away the rubber redisuals from the road) Ferrari monopolized the first row of the grid.
In race, Mercedes changed the sound: Ferrari gifted the 6th Constructor’s title to Toto and Co. The impressive achievements of Maranello in 1999-2004 era are matched by the Silven Arrows.
Before the race analysis: what did we see on Sunday’s qualifying?
In his favourite track, S.Vettel conquers the Pole cutting off the sequence of first places of his teammate Charles Leclerc in Quali. We have also to highlight that for the young Ferrari’s driver is here in Suzuka only for the second time and as for other tracks such as Albert Park he paid his lack of experience in regards to the 4th times world champion.
If compared to the Free Practise (FP) Ferrari opted for an aero-setting of lower drag, reducing the angle of incidence of the reat wing. This choice showed up in a remarked difference of max speed and acceleration in the long straights. However, that configuration had an impact also on the race pace of the Italian team.
First of all we have to study the start. Right after few meters, Ferrari’s fan hope for victory were spoiled.
The red lights long duration tricked Vettel.
After the race the German driver said that he was surprised by the duration of the red light at the starting. That caused him the involontary reaction of releasing the clucth quite, but still enough to move. However, stewart said that the movement was not revelead by the sensor located on the starting grid: this is the explanation why Vettel didn’t receive a penalty.
Vettel’s move triggered also the bad start of Leclerc probably misled by the false reaction of his teammate. Then, the young driver crashed into Verstappen receiving the first 5-sec penalty (the penalty was set only at the end of the race). Leclerc went wide probably because of understeer caused by the negative effect of Vettel’s wake on the Ferrari of the number 16.
Mercedes pace was better than the one of Ferrari for the whole race whatever the tyre compound mounted. The more wear seen on the Scuderia has to be linked to the lower drag configuration that lead the tyres to slip a little more. On the other side, Ferrari’s original plan was to fight for the first place with strategy: without that abnormal (jump) start, turning the first corner with both car on your side you can have a chance to take the win also with a slower car. We had the proof in the last laps of the Japanese GP where the difficulties of overtaking a car with less than 1-sec performance difference. Even equipped with the softer new tyres didn’t manage to take the second position.
Another weekend to forget for Ferrari’s satelite teams: Haas and Alfa Romeo Sauber.
Vettel: very good weekend but the mistake at the start has signed the destiny of the race for Ferrari. Sebastian’s abilities are remarked in his fight with Hamilton but it’s what we expect from a champion. GRADE: 6.5/10.
Leclerc: He is hypnotized by the teammate’s jump start. At the first corner he touches with Verstappen in a crash at the limit of the race-accident. The attempt of remaing on track without changing the front wing caused another penalty of 10-sec for safety reasons. The total of 15-seconds demotes him to the 7th position. Very good comeback and very strong on the overtakes. GRADE: 6/10.
Bottas: great start that alloes him to control the whole car. During the entire weekend has showed to be faster that Lewis, just for one time in the season. GRADE: 8.5/10.
Hamilton: not an impressive weekend in terms of pure speed. The English has the chance to catch the win if Mercedes have allowed him to stay on track avoiding a two pit stops strategy. But this time Mercedes was loyal to Bottas who deserved the first place. GRADE: 8/10.
Sainz: Mclaren has highlighted his potential the medium/high speed corners. Very concentrated and concrete the Spanish guy: GRADE 8/10.
Albon: every race that passes he grows a little bit, even in a Red Bull that was probably longing for a better result in terms of absolute competiveness. GRADE 7.5/10.
And for the ones who didn’t notice: the race finished on the lap 52 of 53 because of an error of exposing the chequered flag. And to point out another flaw on stewart’s decision: if the penalty to Leclerc was committed during the race probably Ferrari would not have stopped his driver to try to set the fastest lap. For that, Perez took points (9th) despite the crash during the last lap.
For 2020 tie break Ferrari needs to find perfection during the entire weekend, otherwise if you can’t make it when you have the oppotunity but other does when they have theirs, the championships may not find the path to Maranello.
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