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McLaren is the team to beat

Saturday, 6 October 2012 - 8:48am IST | Agency: DNA
This weekend sees the Formula 1 at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, which along with Spa, is a driver’s favourite.

This weekend sees the Formula 1 at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, which along with Spa, is a driver’s favourite.
The high speed demands with no room for error makes this such an exciting circuit.

In fact, the first sector sees a sequence of high speed corners — all taken over 200kmph — is unique in the Grand Prix calendar. All drivers love driving here and there is no other feeling when you get this track right. Almost like a true validation that you are indeed one of the best and most courageous drivers in the world.

Pirelli bring their hard and soft tyres here and the big step between the two will see some different strategies used during the race. The soft tyre will obviously be used for qualifying as their one-lap pace is significantly higher, but the hard tyre durability will be more suited for the race. Drivers electing to start on the hard tyres and sacrifice qualifying may see themselves with more options during the race.

Suzuka is hard on tyres due to the high speed corners that make up most of the track, but drivers will obviously have to balance this with the fact that Suzuka is not easy to overtake on. So, a strategy that starts off slow but ends with good rubber at the end of the race will only work if you can pull off the risky overtaking moves needed.

McLaren is the team to beat at the moment with four pole positions from the last four races. They have been very impressive with their development of the car and despite the news of Lewis Hamilton going to Mercedes next year, I think the team will still be fully committed to the job at hand.

McLaren have traditionally proven they can produce championship-winning cars year in and year out. But at the same time, maybe it was correct for Hamilton to go to Mercedes. I always feel that a mature Hamilton can get more out of any car, just like Fernando Alonso. The new environment might be a good change of scenery for Hamilton, and only time will tell if it is a good move.

An important consideration is that the new engine regulations will come into play in 2013, and this could prove to be a shrewd move as Mercedes would have an early start ahead of everyone else.

Jenson Button will have a tough start this weekend as he takes a five-grid penalty for a gear box change. Despite their car advantage, the pressure is on the team to get the results as they cannot afford to slip up at all in the fight to the title. Hamilton’s retirement from the Singapore GP due to a mechanical failure was very costly.

Red Bull will be quick here as this circuit should suit them nicely and with Sebastian Vettel driving well, you know they will be in the mix.

The question is can Ferrari find an improved performance this weekend so that Alonso can take the fight to his title rivals. You get the feeling that unless they find that performance gain in their car, it won’t be enough to hang on to the lead in the championship to the end of the year.

—The writer is an F1 expert with Star Sports


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