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Bob's Fuji Blog (Saturday)

NEWS STORY
11/10/2008

So. McLaren seem to be in a strong position after qualifying, Ferrari less so. Toyota's strong home race showing so far results in seventh and eighth on the grid, Scuderia Toro Rosso out-performing Red Bull again. David Coulthard has out-qualified Mark Webber for only the second time this year (the first time was in Australia) and Kazuki Nakajima has out-qualified Nico Rosberg for the third time.

There were some surprises in qualifying. BMW thought it a good idea to send out their men on a second set of hard tyres in Q1 which relegated Nick Heidfeld to 16th, the second time (after Hungary) he hasn't made it through to Q2 although he did eventually start 15th after penalties applied in Hungary. Kubica was lucky to make it through and all the way to sixth.

But how about this? Fuji's straight is the longest of the season at 1.4kms and through the speed trap at the end of it, the two Force India drivers Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella were quickest on 317kph and 315.6 kph respectively. David Coulthard was next on 314.8 while the Hondas were slowest at 308 and 309. Hamilton was 15th fastest there at 310.

What does that tell us? With Raikkonen on 313, you might see some interesting action between the McLarens and Raikkonen during the race. Massa is only 1kph quicker than Hamilton and Kovalainen, so it will be more difficult for him.

But Lewis Hamilton does look very strong and it's hard to see any challenge to him. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. At least the weather looks good.

Much has been mentioned about Singapore and its success. But one wonders whether it was the night race effect, the circuit itself and its bumpy nature, the backdrop, the facilities, or the general atmosphere. Many are putting its success down to the idea of racing at night, but while that contributed to the atmosphere, I don't think it made much difference to the race itself. The drivers generally didn't think it made much difference.

As I have mentioned before, running a race that finished at 10pm made it hell to work at, but that's not something that troubles many people. Sure, the backdrop was fascinating, but might have been just as interesting during the day. Luca di Montezemolo obviously didn't like the bumpy track which did make it tough on the drivers, but they all seemed to survive pretty well. Given the heat, I thought there would be many more exhausted drivers at the end of the race.

There were a couple of amusing radio messages you might have missed there. One was to Nico Rosberg, telling him, round about lap two, that if he didn't get past Jarno Trulli soonest, his race was pretty much finished. Poor bloke, it was only lap two, as I said, and there were another 59 to go, but the prophet of doom was already threatening his evening.

Then there was Fernando Alonso's race engineer, Dave Greenwood, who transmitted the useful information that 'we don't know what's happening but keep pushing.' It was one of those races, but even so… A friend wondered why engineers ask their drivers to push. Surely they know to do that anyway. But how many times have we seen drivers mesmerised by the car in front and simply following it. And how many times have we suggested that a driver has really gone to sleep and yet he suddenly seems to wake up and get a move on.

It did seem a fairly cut and dried qualifying session here, but there's a lot of work taking place in scrutineering as I write this, so there may be changes to check up on as the evening wears on. Having eaten in an Italian restaurant for the last two nights, we're going to try one of the Chinese restaurants nearby.

Many of my colleagues love sushi but I seem to be in a majority of one in finding cold rice particularly unappetising. I did find a kindred spirit who is unimpressed by raw anything, particularly in dodgy circumstances, so we shall be careful with our Chinese tonight. I am particularly looking forward to a Sechuan restaurant in Shanghai where the speciality is chicken with forty chillis. What you have to remember, however, is that you don't eat the chillis…

Bob Constanduros

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