Japanese Grand Prix – Both Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc say they feel off the pace shown by Mercedes after practice.
Ferrari are facing an uphill battle to get on terms with the pace shown by Mercedes, particularly with no further practice sessions available this weekend. With Mercedes bringing upgrades to their W10 this weekend in an attempt to redress the balance of power after four consecutive races where Ferrari have appeared the quicker car, it was Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton who led the way in both practice session on Friday.
With Saturday’s tracktime cancelled due to the incoming Typhoon Hagibis, Ferrari must now go into qualifying on Sunday morning without any further fettling of their setups and, based on FP2, they have quite a bit of time to find. There’s also the possibility that qualifying may not go ahead at all if there is any sort of disruption to the circuit rebuild on Sunday morning, meaning that the starting grid for the race will be taken from the FP2 classification. Should this be the case, Charles Leclerc would start the race from P4 and Sebastian Vettel from P5.
“We made the most of our day.” said Charles Leclerc after doing a 1:28.392 in FP2 – almost half a second off the time set by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. “Knowing that qualifying has been postponed to Sunday due to the weather conditions, everyone approached free practice a bit differently to usual, especially for the second session. There will be no FP3 this weekend and if we can’t drive on Sunday morning for any reason, the results from FP2 will count for the starting grid.”
Leclerc would also be starting from behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen – the Honda-powered RB15 proving nimble and quick around Suzuka. Leclerc said: “Our competitors were very strong today and we are not yet where we would like to be. I am not entirely sure where we are lacking in terms of our pace, but I know that some of the improvements will come from me working on my driving.”
“Sunday will be busy, but in the end you always have the same routine before you get into the car, the same mindset. So we will go ahead as usual, working hard on improving in all areas and doing the best job possible to bring home a strong result.”
Sebastian Vettel, a further 0.2 seconds behind Leclerc at the end of FP2, said that Ferrari are in ‘reasonable’ shape but that there’s work to do to find laptime. He felt he didn’t quite get the maximum from the SF90 during his flying lap of 1:28.376, due to traffic on his lap.
“Today, was not too bad, at least it was better than it looked. We are in reasonable shape, but maybe we are lacking a bit of pace overall. Our rivals looked very comfortable right from the start of practice and they confirmed that pace in FP2.”
“I think we have a bit of room for improvement as it wasn’t an ideal session, in terms of how we made use of our tyres.”
“On Sunday there will be a big question mark over the state of the track as tomorrow’s wind and rain will have an effect.”