Ferrari Prepared For High-Energy Suzuka Circuit

2022 Japanese Gp Preview Scuderia Ferrari
2022 Japanese Gp Preview Scuderia Ferrari

The doubleheader, that has taken Formula 1 back to the Far East after a two year Covid-19 imposed break, concludes this weekend with the Japanese Grand Prix, the 33rd to count towards the World Championship. It takes place at the Suzuka circuit, a favourite with all the drivers, featuring its famous figure-of-eight layout.

Since it first appeared on the calendar in 1987, Suzuka carved out a reputation as one of the most formidable but also exhilarating tracks. Many of its corners are the stuff of legend, contributing to some of the most exciting moments in this sport. The track was designed in 1962, by Dutchman Johannes “Hans” Hugenholtz (known in the racing world as John Hugenholtz), its key feature being a figure-of-eight layout. From a technical viewpoint, it is definitely one of the tracks that call for a high level of aerodynamic efficiency. It has significant elevation changes and high-speed sections mixed in with trickier parts such as the chicane that leads onto the main straight. The other key areas are the first part with a succession of rapid esses and Spoon Curve, a semi-circular constant radius hairpin with negative camber. The final sector is very quick, featuring the famous 130R, a very quick corner leading onto the final chicane, where an overtake is risky and only possible if everything is done perfectly.

When it comes to setting up the car, a compromise is required to achieve the right level of aero downforce to deliver a car that is quick, stable and driveable. Suzuka is a medium downforce circuit, with car balance critical for the fastest corners. The moveable rear wing (DRS) is particularly useful on the one part of the track where it can be used, the relatively short main straight. There are four hard braking points, the most demanding being at the entry to the final chicane.

As for the power unit, the Japanese track is pretty demanding for the internal combustion engine, which is run at maximum for over 70% of the lap, while the hybrid part also plays a very important role. While the downforce level is medium, fuel consumption can also be rather critical.

The cars take to the track on Friday at 12 local (5 CEST) for the first hour of free practice and then at 15 (8 CEST) for the second one, which will run for 90 minutes to give teams the chance to test 2023 Pirelli tyres. The final free practice takes place on Saturday at 12 (5 CEST) in preparation for qualifying at 15 (8 CET). The race gets underway on Sunday at 14 (7 CET).

Carlos Galbally, Head of Tyre Science at Ferrari, talks about the importance of gathering data at the high-energy Suzuka circuit.

How did your journey with Ferrari begin?

“My journey with Ferrari started back in 2016, although I guess you could say it’s been in the making for a lot longer than that. I’ve always been passionate about engineering and cars, so after finishing my Mechanical Engineering degree in Spain I moved to Germany where there is a bigger tradition in car manufacturing and therefore more engineering opportunities. After some years in the road car industry, I was fortunate enough to be able to take the step into Formula 1 with Sauber. After an intense period in Switzerland, I was given the option to move to Italy to work for the biggest name in the business, and the decision was more than clear”.

What is the Suzuka track like from a tyre point of view?

“It’s a very high energy track, characterised by its high speed sections with frequent changes of direction. It is an anomaly in the season in terms of left-to-right energy distribution, being the most symmetric track of the year (with as much energy turning left as you have turning right). Due to the high energy content, Pirelli brings the three hardest compounds available (C1/C2/C3), which is actually the least common combination, only used at five races, with Japan being the last of them. Tyre wear rates are on the high side, because of the long combined corners, while the track abrasion level is typically on the medium to high side. The combination of all these factors, along with the unpredictable weather, makes Suzuka an intense test for every aspect of tyre management”.

How do you approach the Japanese GP in terms of tyre management?

“As with other high energy tracks, such as Spain, Silverstone or Holland, it will be important to get the right balance between warm-up over one lap and avoiding overstressing the tyres on the long runs, which always requires some compromises between Qualifying and the race. The FP2 long runs will also be of critical importance, as they provide the best chance to collect data needed for tyre race management. This helps us give indications to the drivers and always plays a critical role in deciding on the best target strategy. On this topic, the reduced amount of free practice time introduced this year poses some challenges, which we are overcoming through ever more accurate pre-event simulation preparation”.

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