There are reasons for optimism after a productive two Friday sessions in Japan after Williams Racing completed a day with plenty of running and quick lap times.
Aside from a loose DRS flap on Alex Albon’s car early in FP1, we had two trouble-free hours to clock up plenty of mileage around the Suzuka circuit.
Alex ended P8 in FP1 and P7 FP2 as our Thai driver eased into one of his favourite tracks on the calendar, repeatedly shooting into the upper echelons of the timing sheets.
It was a first visit to Suzuka for Logan Sargeant, and his two clean sessions had him sit P19 after FP1 finished, and P20 following FP2, with the 2023 grid continuing to be tight.
With 99 laps to our name — 52 for Sarge and 47 for Albono — we have a lot of data to analyse before tomorrow’s qualifying session comes.
The lap times from Alex came from his low-fuel laps, and he summarised the day by saying: “It was okay today. As we expected, the low fuel pace feels good, it’s the long run pace that we are struggling with, so we need to figure that out as the deg is high.
A cautious Albono went on with a level-headed approach to find the optimal setup to maximise his weekend.
“We’re going to go back to the drawing board a little bit; we might need to compromise our qualifying car a little bit for our race car, but let’s see.”
Logan was delighted to tackle one of motorsport’s hallowed circuits, although he conceded that there’s more work to do: “It was really cool to drive in Suzuka for the first time but not easy at all, particularly in Sector 1.
“There’s a lot of work trying to dial in the car. I feel like it’s not easy to get everything you need around here, so it’s a work in progress but a good step forward from FP1 to FP2.
“From a driving point of view, I need to link the first sector up as it’s where I’m losing the most time. From a car point of view, there’s a few tweaks to try and have a better balance from low speed to high speed.”
Like Alex, our American driver found the degradation of his tyres a challenge, and said, “We’ve experienced quite high deg today and it hasn’t been easy to have a consistent balance throughout the long runs.
“However, on low fuel runs the grip is high and feels pretty good.”
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Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance shared his positive thoughts on the day: “We’ve had a good day here in Suzuka. It’s always difficult to find the right compromises here and with the hot conditions, the tyres are under a lot of stress, which is causing high degradation.
“We haven’t got the trade between low fuel and high fuel pace quite right yet but there are things that we can do to improve that overnight.
“Logan has driven well all day and as a result, both drivers have got a good understanding of the trades that they can make.”
Dave also believes that there won’t be a recurrence of last year’s unpredictability in the race and said, “The conditions are likely to remain fairly stable for the next couple of days, so we are in a good position to improve the car.
“It is going to be close in qualifying and the race will require a lot of management, but we should be able to get ourselves into a strong position.”
The prediction window for this Grand Prix has now closed.