F1 teams will not be able to “hide the game” in Japan

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The famous circuit Suzuka features an iconic mix of high-, medium- and low-speed corners, linked by a long straight, with the unforgiving first sector providing the biggest challenge for drivers. Formula 1. This combination of factors allows us to better understand the behavior of cars.

After abrasive asphalt Bahrain and exclusive layouts of Jeddah It is Melbournemany of the top engineers hope Suzuka will be the best test yet of where their cars stand in the pecking order.

“The way the calendar is this year, I think in four races we will have a very good idea [de onde estamos]. Japan is quite a circuit to measure a car. On this type of circuit, you will discover a lot of things”, said the veteran of FerrariJock Clear.

The technical director of MercedesJames Allison, agreed, saying: “It’s a track with a lot of fast corners and also some slow corners, so a real test for the car.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

This year, the Japanese GPo was brought forward from its usual fall date. This means teams can more accurately measure how the level of competitiveness has changed compared to the end of last year and evaluate their progress over the winter.

It is also the first return track for the company’s latest tire construction. Pirelliwhich was introduced last July at Silverstone to help the tire manufacturer keep up with increasing downforce levels from the start of 2023, eliminating yet another variable compared to the opening races.

The calendar change appears to be good news for Mercedes, with Alisson explaining that the main factor the team has discovered behind its difficulties this year is that the W15’s performance decreases as the track heats up.

“If we were trying to draw that pattern, probably the strongest correlation we can make right now is that our competitiveness drops when the track is hot, when the day is hotter, and therefore tire temperatures rise with track temperatures,” Allison said.

Weather forecasts predict temperatures between 16 and 21 degrees Celsius, which is 10 degrees colder than last year.

The new Suzuka date is also relevant for Mercedes’ rival, the McLarenwho started 2023 ago, but had a major upgrade to the car when he went to Japan, which resulted in a double podium with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.

The year-on-year progress in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia was clear, but the Woking team now has the best indication of how much progress has actually been made on the car’s design over the winter.

McLaren’s biggest question marks are not just related to its own MCL38, but more so to the huge improvements in race pace made by Ferrari compared to last year.

“The problem is that Ferrari has greatly improved its [desempenho] at high speed and that’s where she struggled last year,” said Lando Norris.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“That’s why they were able to make such a good move. We can still hope for that. And I would love to say that if we can get two cars on the podium again, it would be a great weekend. But I think this year we have two more cars that we are competing with on these types of circuits, not just Max [Verstappen].”, assessed Norris.

Ferrari is one of several teams bringing upgrades to Suzuka, but whether that will be enough to beat Verstappen and Red Bull in consecutive races is another story.

In Melbourne, on a heavily grained circuit, the Ferrari was particularly strong, although Verstappen’s brake problems saw Carlos Sainz take the lead before the Dutchman’s early retirement.

And, unlike Albert Park, Suzuka is a circuit where thermal overheating will be the main opponent, which puts it closer to Bahrain.

Verstappen crushed his opponents in Japan last year, taking pole with a six-tenths advantage over the McLarens and taking victory with a 19-second advantage over Norris and 43 seconds over Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

“I think Max returns to Suzuka fully motivated and will show on a circuit of real drivers who is the king of the whole game here,” said Red Bull’s Helmut Marko bluntly after the Dutchman’s retirement in Australia.

It would be audacious to bet against a third consecutive victory for the three-time world champion at the Japanese GP. But whatever the case, a circuit as demanding as Suzuka will offer no more place to hide, as the true strengths and weaknesses of the 2024 team are about to appear.

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Tags: teams hide game Japan

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