Heading into this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix the question on everyone’s mind is why had Mercedes gone so far off the boil in Singapore? The truth is that they don’t seem to know and could only point to the fact that they were struggling to get the tyres working in the correct temperature range around the streets of downtown Singapore.
Was it specific to the track or is there a real problem that may affect them for the rest of the year? It is easy to speculate that it was just a one off as Singapore is an unusual race. It’s hot, humid and held at night. Throw in the polished and slippery street tarmac that the driver’s race on and you might have a perfect storm that just seemed to affect the Silver Arrows.
However, since the tyre failures at Spa, Pirelli have been more attentive in checking that minimum tyre pressures that the teams are required to run are adhered to. You saw that in Monza, Mercedes were the only team to not quite comply. They got away with it there, but in Singapore Pirelli were very strict and the tyre pressures would have been checked a lot more.
Tyre pressures can have a big effect on how the tyres react with the car. If Mercedes can’t get their car to work with the higher start pressures, then this could be a problem that affects them here in Japan and not just last weekend.
The Japanese GP is very different from Singapore, so we should have a conclusive answer to whether their poor performance was a one off or whether it’s a serious problem for the rest of the year.
Suzuka is all about fast flowing corners and is personally my favourite track on the calendar. The only other place you see and feel the incredible G forces you experience here, are at Spa. However, unlike Spa, there are no run off areas and it’s easy to end up in the barrier. When you do a good lap here – knowing that a wrong move could end up in disaster – it’s a real buzz.
It’s the sort of track that Red Bull could be very strong at now that they seem to be getting all their updates working. Daniel Ricciardo said the car is starting to feel like last years car and that is ominous especially when you consider how quick they were through the last fast left-hander in Singapore. Suzuka is all about fast corners.
Ferrari should be quick here too as will Williams. We saw how quick Williams was at the British Grand Prix and that should work out well for them here too as the circuits are not too dissimilar. Their car should certainly be better suited then it was around the tight confines of Singapore.
However this is assuming that Mercedes will struggle again. Their package is still a very strong one and I would be surprised if they were not on top of their problems this weekend. If they are on top of it; then they will still be clear favourties to be on the top step of the podium.
Lastly, I’d like to mention Jules Bianchi who had his accident here last year. I’m sure everyone in the paddock will be thinking of him this weekend and my thoughts are with his family, friends and of course his own team, Manor Marussia.