October 11th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - The Japanese Grand Prix is shaping up to be another race of Red Bull dominance, after Sebastian Vettel and Mark Weber finished Friday practice first and second in the running order.
Mercedes were not too far behind, and Lotus are in the mix, but it does look like Red Bull have at least a small edge on the competition. Nevertheless, Red Bull are not satisfied with their performance as things stand, and are looking to improve ahead of final practice and qualifying.
Suzuka is an old-school Formula 1 circuit - it's narrow compared to the newer tracks, has high-speed corners with little room for error and provides few overtaking opportunities. That makes it very important to have a well-balanced car for the race, and absolutely crucial to put in a strong qualifying performance.
In qualifying, there is the possibility that Mercedes or Lotus will be able to challenge Red Bull, but in the race it's not so clear that the World Champions will have much competition. Tomorrow's final practice session will provide some more information about the relative pace of the teams, and qualifying will show definitively just how fast they are over a single lap. Only when the race gets underway on Sunday, however, will we know who has the quickest car over a race distance.
This is what the Red Bull drivers had to say after Friday practice:
Sebastian Vettel: “The car balance is decent, but I think we can still improve. Looking after the tyres will be important here, especially during the race. The car works fine at the moment, but we need to make sure we set it up the right way. It’s good to see we are up there today, but it’s not always so important; we need to step up our game for tomorrow, as Mercedes will be strong in qualifying.”
Mark Webber: “On one lap, it looks pretty tight with the Mercedes and with the Lotus’, but I haven’t had a close look at the times: it doesn’t look too bad. We've done a lot of laps today and will now work on tomorrow. The track is a special one and in terms of difficulty, it’s right up there. We have to be very accurate and if you're not, then you get penalised. We have to find performance tonight, it's our job to make improvements each day and we have a job to do tonight to find some more tenths.”