The Fuji circuit looks like a Ferrari track. And if McLaren were banking on the race weekend being wet, they’re in for a disappointment.
Which of the title contending teams will have the upper hand at Fuji Speedway?
As heavy rain played such a huge role in last year’s race its inevitable we should look to the skies for the first sign of how the weekend might pan out.
When it does rain at Fuji, it rains extremely hard. In these heavy wet conditions we have seen McLaren – and especially Lewis Hamilton – perform much better than Ferrari.
But early signs are we’re in for a dry weekend at Fuji, with a chance of rain on Saturday that may affect qualifying.
Early indications are the weekend will be cool. So far this year the general rule has been that cooler conditions suit McLaren better. But that may have changed.
Ferrari has struggled to compete with McLaren in wet weather this year. But following the Italian Grand Prix the team tested extensively in cool conditions at Mugello to get on top of the problems it had getting its tyres up to temperature.
However even a dry track will bring certain challenges. It was wet for most of the weekend last year and the teams only ran in dry conditions on the Friday. The teams may be short on data for this venue. Bridgestone is bringing the same compounds of tyres as last year: medium (prime) and soft (option).
Fuji is dominated by a huge straight, just short of 1.5km long. However much of the rest of the track is slow corners, which calls for a compromise between downforce and efficiency.
This should play to the strengths of the F2008, which has thrived on ‘compromise’ tracks such as Valencia this year.
Fuji Speedway track and tyre data and circuit diagram here: Fuji Speedway circuit information
With the championship in mind, both teams will surely want to use their de facto number two drivers (Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen) to support their strongest title contenders (Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton).
McLaren have the luxury of knowing Kovalainen is completely out of the championship hunt and therefore asking him to help out Hamilton is entirely reasonable.
But what about Ferrari? Raikkonen has said publicly he believes his title hopes are over. But it’s hard to forget he overcame a 17-point deficit with two races to go to win the title last year. At Singapore he was the fastest man on the track when the safety car intervened and ruined his race. If Raikkonen were to win this race with Massa not scoring, Ferrari could find themselves with a difficult decision to make.
More about team orders: F1’s unwritten rules: team orders edition
Don’t forget BMW
Both of BMW’s drivers are still in the hunt for the championship, although the odds are stacked against them.
Robert Kubica has often been able to get between the McLarens and Ferraris, which could spoil their efforts to use Raikkonen or Kovalainen to influence the race.
Which team and driver do you think will be quickest at Fuji?