Ferrari attempted to cover all possible bases during the opening day of the Japanese Grand Prix, as the looming spectre of Typhoon Phanfone caused much head-scratching in the F1 paddock.
With the strong possibility of the storm passing directly over Suzuka during raceday, the Scuderia worked on two parallel programmes designed to ensure that it was ready for whatever the weather gods decided to throw at them, with the obvious drawback of not knowing which direction would prove to be the most useful one at the end of the day.
“Despite the many interruptions to the second session, we managed to complete almost our entire planned programme without any problems, working on race set-up for both dry and wet conditions,” Fernando Alonso confirmed, “At the moment, the uncertain weather forecast makes it impossible to take any decision, even when it comes to tyre choice [although], here, compared to other tracks, the difference between the two compounds is minimal and their performance level is very similar.”
Technical chief Pat Fry confirmed that the threat of heavy rain – and possibly worse – on Sunday would focus Ferrari's attention more than ever on its forecasting abilities, but insisted that day one of the meeting had been productive regardless of the rumours surrounding his star driver [ see separate story
]. Alonso finished the day seventh fastest, one place behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
“It's very important to find a set-up that gives the drivers as much confidence as possible,” Fry explained, “In the first session, we worked on the balance of the car, trying to adapt to the low grip levels, while the second session was spoiled by several yellow and red flags and we didn't manage to make the most of the time available to work on our programme. Suzuka is also one of the most demanding tracks for the tyres, which are put under a lot of pressure by the series of consecutive corners and the heavy lateral loads which never allow for a moment's rest.
“Today, it's difficult to assess the order behind the two Mercedes, but we will have to pay very close attention to the weather, because the forecast is changing all the time and at the moment it seems it's going to play its part.”
Regardless of his position on the timesheet, Raikkonen sounded as though he may already have been driving on a damp circuit for much of the day, such was the lack of feedback that his F14-T was giving.
“Today wasn't easy and the lack of grip from the track surface, especially in the morning, didn't help,” the Finn lamented, “In the first practice session, on the hard tyres, we concentrated on testing different set-ups aimed at qualifying and the race. Then, in the afternoon, we made some changes which brought a partial improvement to the handling of the car but, because of the yellow flags and a technical glitch, I only managed to complete just one good run on the medium tyres. Now we have a full night's work ahead of us in order to find a set-up that will allow us to get the car to suit any sort of conditions.”