Italian pundit Davide Valsecchi believes Mercedes returned to their dominant ways of old in Friday practice at the Japanese GP.
Valtteri Bottas topped both sessions on Friday ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Max Verstappen their closest challenger in FP2 just under three tenths adrift.
Mercedes may well have secured a front-row lockout for the race if qualifying can’t take place on Sunday morning, since the FP2 order would then form the grid, and Valsecchi, who won the 2012 GP2 title, believes that the Silver Arrows seem back to their dominant selves after a rough patch since the summer break.
“Ferrari was slightly slower in all areas than Mercedes and there is a lot of work for them to do,” he told Sky Italy.
“Mercedes has brought many updates and here we see that Mercedes seems to have returned to the beginning of the year when they dominated the World Championship.
“To win, Ferrari will have to beat the best Mercedes and not the Mercedes of the last few races. I don’t even think Red Bull can beat the Mercedes.
“But be aware of Verstappen and Honda who have to show his strength here. If they give Verstappen the most he can do a good race here.”
Former Ferrari test driver driver Marc Gene believes that Honda have already “saved the season” with two wins in 2019, though he knows Red Bull want more.
But, the Spaniard believes the team with the biggest issues this weekend are Renault, after Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg managed only P17 and P18 respectively in FP2.
“This is a track where the driver makes the difference. They saw that there is a bit of margin to improve. Recovering the gap with the Mercedes is not huge but Ferrari can do better and also beware of Red Bull,” he explained.
“The teams tried everything for qualifying and also the long run but Sunday will not be easy. On Saturday all the team’s simulators will work hard because you can’t work on the track.
“Honda has already saved the season with two wins with Red Bull, who want more, but considering what they had done with McLaren they have made an important leap forward.
“The team in great difficulty [in Japan so far] is Renault.”
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