2019 Super Formula Rd. 2 at Autopolis Preview
It’s been nearly a month since Nick Cassidy (VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S) pulled off a victory with a brilliant pit-in strategy from a P12 start in Rd. 1 at Suzuka. In the qualifying for that race, it was 2 rookies from TCS NAKAJIMA, Tadasuke Makino and Alex Palou, who captured the front row. Rd.2 at Autopolis is scheduled for May 18th & 19th. And if it is anything like the races of seasons past, Rd. 2 should promise to have a lot of drama. Last season, the race had to be cancelled due to in climate weather, but this season, the forecast is looking much brighter. The race will be the first time that fans in the Kyushu area get to see the SF19 on the tarmac.
The Rd. 2 race at Autopolis is even more difficult to call than Rd. 1. One of the reasons is because the SF19 will be raced there for the very first time. The teams only have data with the new car from Suzuka and Fuji Speedway where pre-season tests were held The SF14 and SF19 chassis do have similarities, but the SF19 features even more aerodynamic parts, which translates to more downforce. And because the SF19 is equipped with a halo, that extra weight has to be accounted for where considering overall balance of the car. The front tires are also wider. Considering that the SF19 hasn’t ran at Autopolis before, the teams have to thoroughly check out the data they bring in when FP1 takes place on Friday. The set-ups that are brought in will certainly separate the men from the boys in the qualifying and race. So who will record the fastest times is a question that can’t be answered until after the dust has cleared. Will it be TCS NAKAJIMA RACING who showed their speed at Suzuka? Or maybe the VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S tandem, who didn’t appear in top form at Suzuka? KONDO RACING, the team champion from 2018, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL, or JMS P.MU/CERUMO・INGING–which Autopolis is their home circuit–are all teams of high interest, too.
Yet another reason why the race at Auotpolis is so hard to call is because of all the rookie drivers this season. Those Japanese who drove in F3 have raced at Autopolis before, but for several of the drivers, they have never driven there before. There were several cars that went off course and there were also crashes at Suzuka in Rd. 1. The same is expected to happen at Autopolis. Because the SF19 features more speed than its predecessor, going into corner 1 and the hard braking in the 2 hairpin curves may be the site of some drivers going off course. As the course has a lot of natural curvature, if drivers loose their balance, it may cause them to spin out. So who will be laughing at the end of this race is anyone’s guess at this point.
A new course record may be set in the qualifying on Saturday. So that is one point to watch for in Rd. 2. Temperatures are expected to be summer like, so how fast the time that captures pole is another uncertainty. For the race, who gets off to the best start may be the key to victory. What type of strategies the teams pull off for the race will be an exciting thing to watch for, too. Two seasons ago, Felix Rosenqvist and SUNOCO TEAM LEMANS teammate Kazuya Oshima made it to podium, as Felix pulled out an unbelievable race by calculating his fuel consumption perfectly and putting on soft tires which weren’t supposed to hold up until the end of the race like they did. Will there be drivers for this race that use that same strategy, even though they don’t have any data for this course? Nick Cassidy did it at Suzuka and that strategy paid off. But Autopolis is a course that is known to be tough on tires. So what type of strategies the team bring in for this race could play a huge role in the final outcome on Sunday.