The trip to Japan is not comfortable for Europeans. More than 12 hours of flight, stopovers, jet-lag… And upon arrival, a totally different culture, food that has little to do with Western cuisine or a population with behavior that can be shocking. And yet, all Formula 1 drivers are looking forward to the date.
The Japanese GP is marked for everyone. It is a radically different environment from others, with passionate fans who go crazy with the drivers, whether it be Max Verstappen himself, Lewis Hamilton or the more humble (and unknown) Logan Sargeant or Liam Lawson. This time, in addition, Formula 1 set up the calendar so that the journey between Singapore and Japan was done in one week, so many even had time to spend a few days off in Japanese lands before putting on their suits. of pilots.
Suzuka is also a unique circuit, one of those that no longer exists. Just one fact: it is one of the few where there is only one DRS zone and yet there are multiple overtaking points, which already speaks highly of its design and the essentiality it has held in the championship for decades. This or that race may be eliminated, as the Japanese GP can never fall.
In this context, there is a driver who resets mentally when he arrives in Japan: Fernando Alonso. The Asturian pilot is passionate about Japanese culture and a faithful follower of the ‘Do’, the path, and the samurai philosophy. It is no coincidence that he has a gigantic tattoo on his back of one of these quasi-legendary warriors. Aston Martin has enthusiastically embraced this idea and wants what happened last Sunday to be just a scare.
And the team in green touched down in Singapore. Their worst weekend, by far, so far in the championship, and although the team is aware that they seem to have lost step with respect to those at the top, they have taken it upon themselves to reassure the masses to a certain extent. They are not now the last team on the grid, much less are they going to go for victory on the Japanese track, since that position seems irremediably destined for Verstappen and Red Bull. Anything other than seeing the Dutchman in one of the first two positions on the podium on Sunday will be a surprise.
Alonso, who this weekend will wear a helmet with a special design based on that samurai philosophy (which he has already strongly promoted in the past), was in charge of calming things down. And everything indicates that a problem with the front suspension was the cause of the race pace in Singapore being so unfortunate and, in the end, making the AMR23 a car, in his own words on the radio, “undriveable.” .
A solution that ended up being a problem
Of all the problems Aston Martin had in Singapore, there was one that turned out to be shooting itself in the foot. In an attempt to bring its performance closer to the Red Bull (or at least to the Ferrari and Mercedes, which today seem superior), Aston Martin engineers designed a new rear in the area where the hydraulic jack rests on the pit stops. Some small winglets that, although they were not going to turn the AMR23 into the dominant car, could finish polishing its performance a little. Scratching here and there could iron out that difference, they hoped. Nothing further and it was seen at the pit stop in which Alonso left himself almost 20 seconds too long: the jack did not engage well in that area and the car fell several times. That piece has already been removed for Suzuka.
This is an example of the small things that failed in Singapore and that, as they promise, will not be repeated in Suzuka. Between that and the suspension problem, which was much more serious, what we saw in the last race was not as scary as it seemed. “I’m a little less worried about benefits in Singapore after seeing the damage we had. The rhythm was not real. Without that, perhaps we could have followed the leaders’ train and we would have had fewer problems with the Alpine and Pérez,” Alonso assured the media.
It remains to be seen if this is the case or, as the most doomsayers fear, Aston Martin is already out of the successful line. And if so, in the following races (and not just the one in Japan) they will need to take it philosophically… samurai or not.
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