Japanese GP - Accurate simulation
A new circuit is always an interesting challenge and these days, the first day of practice at a new track is a case of seeing how accurate was the simulation work carried out with the various simulation tools available back at the factory. A gradual restriction in the amount of actual testing the F1 teams are allowed to carry out has naturally led to an increase in this simulation work, regularly used for tracks that have been used for years, but also particularly useful at a new race venue, in terms of giving the drivers a chance to see which way the corners go.
Generally, the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro drivers and the engineering team feel their homework was pretty accurate and this is reflected in the fact that in the morning, as F1 cars started running at Fuji Speedway for the first time since 1976, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa ended the first ninety minutes of free practice in first and second places respectively. Not surprisingly, third and fourth places went to the McLaren-Mercedes duo of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. However, in the afternoon, as once again the clouds rolled in to hide Mount Fuji, the tables were turned: Hamilton set the quickest time ahead of his team-mate Alonso and these two were the only drivers to break the 1m 19s mark. Felipe Massa, who completed a total of 63 laps today was third, with Jarno Trulli fourth for circuit owners, Toyota. Kimi Raikkonen (55 laps today) was fifth ahead of the Renault of fellow Finn, Heikki Kovalainen.
"A good morning followed by a slightly more complicated afternoon," said Kimi. "It is quite difficult to find the best set-up on this track, especially for the final sector. This is a demanding track but at the same time it's enjoyable to drive. The car was well balanced; in the second session we tried a change to the set-up which did not produce the expected results and so we went back to the previous one. We have to study the data to find the best settings. Obviously, it is very early to say where we are compared to our main rivals. But in any case, I think it will be a very close fight."
Luca Baldisserri also said, "It is always interesting to tackle a new track and compare the simulations carried out back in the factory to the reality at the track. Overall, we can say that our predictions proved to be accurate. The three hours of practice followed what we have got used to seeing on Friday in the last few Grands Prix. We are struggling a bit to do a quick first lap on new tyres, while our consistency of performance over a distance is good."