Thursday at the Japanese Grand Prix featured clear skies and pleasant weather, which should continue into tomorrow, when free practice takes place. However, a drastic change is expected as from Saturday, with the possible arrival of the Hagibis typhoon in the Mie Prefecture, with very strong winds and heavy rain.
Meetings and track walk. This morning Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, who yesterday was in Tokyo for some events involving sponsors and the local market, went for the usual track walk to check the condition of the track surface and get a first look at one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar. Back in the paddock, the two men met with their respective engineering groups to prepare the work plan for tomorrow. That could turn out to be more important than usual as it might be the only opportunity to run in the same dry conditions that are currently expected on race day.
Press conference. Charles was one of the panellists in the official Thursday press conference and the Monegasque was quizzed on several topics by the media, including his relationship with Sebastian in the aftermath of what happened in the opening laps of the race in Sochi. “In Russia there were some misunderstandings, but we spoke about it and cleared it all up,” he said. “What matters is that we must look forward and work to get the best possible result for the team.” Then the topic switched to the race here in Japan. “I adore Suzuka, especially the first sector, because it is difficult and highlights a driver’s ability. You cannot make any mistakes here and that’s what makes Suzuka particularly interesting,” continued Charles. “Let’s see how our car behaves here. I hope we will be competitive in both the dry and the wet.” It seems that not even the typhoon can frighten Leclerc. “We can be sure that the race director will take all the necessary decisions to ensure our safety. If the conditions really are too bad for us to go out on track, it will means qualifying on Sunday morning, which has already happened in the past.” (Ed’s note: 2004 and 2010)
In the hospitality. As for Sebastian, he met the media in Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’s hospitality suite, claiming he was pumped up for what is one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the year. “I feel the fans are special here and it’s particularly enjoyable to meet them as you can sense their affection and passion.” In fact, it was the fans that were uppermost in Seb’s mind when the topic of Saturday was raised. “I think if there are 80 mile an hour winds and it’s raining sideways, it’s unthinkable that we can go out on track. It’s not so much a problem for us as for the fans in the grandstands and everyone working at the track. However, it would not be the first time that the forecast has been too pessimistic and, in the end, we have managed to run without too many problems.” The topic then switched to Sebastian’s own performance. “Following the latest updates, I’m getting positive feelings from the car and I think the pace we had in recent races, in Singapore and also in Sochi, shows that I have more confidence. I have to improve things in qualifying, because I’m still not getting all the potential out of the SF90. I hope I can manage it, starting this weekend.”
Programme. The two free practice sessions tomorrow start at 10 and 14 local time (3 and 7 CET). On Saturday, unless the typhoon comes into play, the final hour of free practice begins at 12 (5 CET) while qualifying begins at 15 (8 CET.) The Japanese Grand Prix gets underway on Sunday at 14.10 (7.10 CET).