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Pre-Japan analysis - Don't rule out McLaren say rivals 08 Oct 2010

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010

Everybody expects that Ferrari and Red Bull will be massively strong this weekend at Suzuka, the wonderful figure-of-eight track that places such a premium on aerodynamic efficiency and the ability for a car to change direction faithfully and cleanly.

Sebastian Vettel won easily here last year in the Red Bull RB5, and this year’s RB6 has shown itself to be the aerodynamic pacesetter. But Ferrari have been matching the Milton Keynes cars recently, beating them at Monza and again in Singapore, on two very different types of track.

Both teams, however, are refusing to rule out McLaren.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, under notice from president Luca di Montezemolo to score good points in order to help team mate Fernando Alonso’s title push, says he is confident that Ferrari will be very quick here, and that they have turned a corner on such tracks compared with their performances earlier in the season.

“Red Bull will be strong here, for sure,” he said yesterday, and though there is a feeling within the team that caution may be the better part of valour here in the interest of scoring a healthy helping of points, he believed that Ferrari will not be as far off the pace as it was at venues such as Barcelona and Silverstone.

"We improved a lot in the last few races and maybe we can be competitive here," he stressed. "We are getting better and better every race.If you look to some races in the past on tracks similar to Suzuka, we saw that Red Bull were very strong. It's difficult to say about Korea because I've never been there, but of all the tracks that we are going to race on, this is the one that, looking back to Silverstone, Barcelona and even Turkey, we could see a very strong Red Bull at."

He also tipped the Red Bull to be strong in Korea, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, but stressed that McLaren should not be ruled out.

"Even if Red Bull doesn't have the points that they are supposed to, they are going to be quick whatever the track. Maybe they will be too quick! But there are many races where they didn't score good points.

"McLaren are a little bit harder to say. In some races, they are very quick, in others a little bit less. It's difficult to say. But you know that, like Ferrari, they will always be pushing hard."

Red Bull's Mark Webber also sounded a warning about McLaren. "I went very quick in Turkey and then I was pretty strong at Silverstone,” he said, referring to tracks with similar characteristics and requirements to Suzuka. “The cars have changed massively since the middle part of the championship. Everybody's moved forward. Ferrari I expect them to be right in the hunt. But all three teams will be quick."

David Tremayne

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