Scuderia Ferrari got through its planned programme on the first day of practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, with the two SF-23s finishing both sessions in second and fourth places. This Friday showed the cars to be competitive over a flying lap and also indicated that a two-stop race is almost a certainty because of high tyre degradation, something that was expected, but exacerbated by particularly high temperatures at the end of the Japanese summer. In both sessions, the team also used some sets of a prototype tyre supplied by Pirelli for possible use next season.
FP1. Charles and Carlos started off on the prototype tyre before switching to the Softs for a qualifying simulation. Sainz was second quickest in 1’32”273, while Charles, who was also trying a new specification floor, stopped the clocks in 1’32”574, good enough for fourth on the time sheet. For the last 15 minutes, they ran with a heavier fuel load in race trim on Hard tyres. Carlos did 24 laps, Charles 25.
FP2. In the afternoon, both drivers again started off on the prototype tyre, before switching to the Medium and then the Soft for a qualifying simulation. This time, Leclerc was second fastest in 1’31”008, while Carlos was fourth with a 1’31”237. With half the session remaining, the team then switched to working in race trim, doing long runs at a constant pace on the Medium compound, even if Carlos and Charles, along with many other drivers, had to deal with the tyres suffering from degradation due to overheating. Charles did 23 laps, Carlos 22. Tomorrow’s final free practice session starts at 11.30 local time (4.30 CEST) with qualifying getting underway at 15 (8 CEST).
Charles Leclerc #16
We seem to be slightly closer to our competitors than expected, so it was quite a positive day overall. On my side, we tried out a few different things on the car to make me a bit more comfortable, which was good. I’m looking forward to confirming that feeling tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz #55
This weekend the gaps to our closest rivals seem very close, therefore back to where we were in previous races, with Red Bull very strong again. On my side, we’re still fine tuning the car a lot and today we tested many different set-ups to try to find the best compromise for this track.
We have a lot of data to look into and tonight we'll need to decide what settings to run tomorrow, trying to put the car in the right performance window. We have a couple of interesting days ahead of us.