July 11, 2017
Gasly, 5th place
Series name: 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 3
Event name: 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 3 Fuji Speedway
Course: 4.563km × 55 laps (250.965km)
Qualifying: July 8 (Sat) / Fine / Attendance 13,400 (Announcement from the organizer)
Race: July 9 (Sun) / Fine / Attendance 21,200 (Announcement from the organizer)
The 2017 Japanese Championship SUPER FORMULA Round 3 was held at the Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka Prefecture. TEAM MUGEN joined the race with two cars, #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly.
Free session was held from 9:10 for one hour on Saturday. #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly entered the course and made some laps to figure out their best settings. Since the temperature in the weekend is expected to rise, such an environmental condition needed to be considered.
7 minutes remaining just before the end of the session, both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly appeared on the course and conducted simulation of the time attack with new tires installed. #16 Naoki Yamamoto ended the free practice with the lap 00:01:24:533, 11th place and #15 Pierre Gasly 00:01:24:928, 15th place.
#16 Naoki Yamamoto (Q1:13th place / 00:01:23:485, Q2:6th place / 00:01:23.957, Q3:5th place, / 00:01:23:478)
#15 Pierre Gasly (Q1:11th place / 00:01:23:336, Q2:3rd place / 00:01:23.842, Q3:8th place, / 00:01:23:902)
The 3 times official know-out style qualifying sessions started with Q1 session for 20 minutes from 14:30. At Q1 5 cars out of 19 are to be dropped out. Weather was fine and the air temperature was 32℃ and the course temperature was 49℃ as if summer has come already.
Both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly entered the course with the new tires installed from the beginning. Both drivers finished the session with the first half time of 00:01:25 to check the condition of each machine and came back to the pit. At this point #16 Naoki Yamamoto was in 9th place and #15 Pierre Gasly in 11th place.
7 minutes remaining just before the end of the session, both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly again entered the course with new tires and conducted a time attack. As a result, #15 Pierre Gasly ended his session with the lap time 00:01:23:336, 11th place and #16 Naoki Yamamoto 00:01:23:485, 13th place and both drivers advanced to the Q2 session.
After 10 minutes interval the Q2 with 7-minute session started at 15:00. #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly entered the course from the backend of other competitors and made some distance from the machines in front for the time attack. They made 2 laps to warm up the tires and conducted a time attack and #15 Pierre Gasly finished his session recording 00:01:23:842 and so did #16 Naoki Yamamoto 00:01:23:957.
Just after that the qualifying session was suspended due to red flag. By the time when the stuck machine was removed, it was only 3 minutes left till the session ends. Both #16 Naoki Yamamoto and #15 Pierre Gasly stayed at the pit. #15 Pierre Gasly ended up with the session in the 3rd place and #16 Naoki Yamamoto did 6th place, and both of them advanced to the Q3.
After 10 minutes interval the 7-minute session started with 8 cars entitled to join the Q3 at 15:24. The course temperature tended to get lower and the environmental condition was expected to get worse. #16 Naoki Yamamoto made a lap of 00:01:23:478 and #15 Pierre Gasly conducted his time attack with lack of balancing of the machine and finished the session with the lap time 00:01:23:902. As the result the starting grid of #16 Naoki Yamamoto was assigned to 5th and that of #15 Pierre Gasly to 8th.
●July 23 (Sun)
#15 Pierre Gasly, 5th place (55 laps / Best lap: 00:01:26:252)
#16 Naoki Yamamoto, drop-out (25 laps / Best lap: 00:01:26:455)
30-minute free session started from 9:40 on Sunday morning. The air temperature was 30℃ and the course temperature was 40℃. The condition got worse compared to the one on Saturday. Just before #15 Pierre Gasly entering the course, some troubles with electric devices were recognized and fixed urgently. #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto finished this 30-minute session with the lap time 00:01:26:401 10th place, and 00:01:26:526 15th place.
The race was held under very nice weather condition whose temperature was 32℃ and course temperature was 44℃. 8-minute warming-up session was held just before the race and during the session the same electric device trouble occurred to the machine of #16 Naoki Yamamoto and the engineers undertook repair of the machine.
In the end both #15 Pierre Gasly and #16 Naoki Yamamoto were able to join the warming-up session without any troubles. #16 Naoki Yamamoto made 5 laps and recorded the best time 00:01:26:570 and #15 Pierre Gasly recorded the second fastest lap.
The race started at 14:13. #15 Pierre Gasly whose starting grid was 8th but did the rocket starting and jumped into the first corner with #16 Naoki Yamamoto whose position was 5th.
Strategies of both drivers were completely different. #15 Pierre Gasly requested for all 4 tires change during the race considering tire degradation presumed to happen judging from a practice session held in the weekend. The team was also ready for such his request.
On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto wanted to prolong the stint as much as possible to keep better positon and change only 2 tires to avoid loss time as much as possible to get better position.
#16 Naoki Yamamoto in 5th position competed in the race 1.5 seconds behind the car in front with #15 Pierre Gasly going behind him. At 18th lap the first group came back to the pit and #15 Pierre Gasly whose temporal position was 4th also came back to the pit to change all 4 tires and accept refueling work. #16 Naoki Yamamoto whose temporal position was 3rd did not come back to the pit as predicted.
After the tire change #15 Pierre Gasly came back to the course with temporal position 13th and the first group was in front and he speeded up in order to catch up them, which the team was planning to do.
On the other hand #16 Naoki Yamamoto was planning to prolong the pit work, however, he felt something was wrong with the tire and made a decision to come back to the pit. But when he came into the 25th lap, the left rear tire burst. Fortunately he managed to come back to the pit at a slow pace and had no choice but to retire the race.
Position of #15 Pierre Gasly went up owing to pit work of other machines going in front. At the first corner of the 36th lap #15 Pierre Gasly caught up with #37 Kazuki Nakajima and overtook him from the inside of the course, and his temporal position went up to 7th which means officially 5th.
#15 Pierre Gasly also tried to overtake #19 Yuhi Sekiguchi whose official position was 4th. But #19 Yuhi Sekiguchi tried to block #15 Pierre Gasly tactfully and #15 Pierre Gasly could not make it. In the end this dead heat continued till the end of the race and #15 Pierre Gasly finished the race with 00:00:034 seconds behind #19 Yuhi Sekiguchi.
#15 Pierre Gasly finished his race with the best position of this season and gained 4 points. His total drivers’ point is 5 and ranked in the 8th position. #16 Naoki Yamamoto gaining no points in this race has 10.5 points and is ranked in the 6th position. TEAM MUGEN has 4 team points and is ranked in 4th position.
■Comments from #16 Naoki Yamamoto
At Q1 I was late behind #15 Pierre Gasly and was in 13th position. I changed the setting for the Q2 and such a setting change worked well and I could get better position. I felt I was lucky to finish the time attack before the red flag appeared.
At Q3 I could get much better position and confirm that the potential of the machine got better. At the race I was able to go my pace and tried to prolong the pit stop timing as late as possible to get better position, however, I felt something was wrong with the tire and made a decision to come back to the pit but on a way the tire burst. So regrettable since I could get on a podium.
■Comments from #15 Pierre Gasly
The race was quite exciting. For a preparation of Q3 there occurred a misunderstanding regarding machine setting. Due to it I got behind but when in the race, the setting was improved and I could compete in the race with good feeling.
When the race started, I went out from the outside of the course since other cars did from the inside, and could overtake 2 cars. During the latter half the race I spent most of the time competing against #19 Yuhi Sekiguchi. I could utilize his slipstream on the straight course, however, could not overtake him due to his tactful block.
I am glad that I could stand on the top of the Honda machines at previous race in Okayama and this time as well. I hope to get on a podium at the next race. Motegi will be a new course to me then I would like to do my best through communication with the team members.
■Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka
I believe thanks to machine balance improvement and proper communication between the drivers and engineers to make a strategy, both two machines could advance to the Q3. So good news, but all of us felt so regrettable not to be able to win the race since there was a possibility at least.
In the race #15 Pierre Gasly requested for all 4 tires change since he was so concerned about the tire degradation and also he promised to recover the loss time spent during tire change. Because of such his attitude, I tried to take him back to the course in as ideal position as possible, and in fact I could make it and he could catch up the car going in front.
In case of #16 Naoki Yamamoto from the beginning he decided to come back to the pit for refueling and 2 tires change and was planning to find out which tire to be changed during the race. But just after some symptom was recognized, while we were preparing for the pit work, the tire burst. We felt so disappointed since there was a possibility that #16 Naoki Yamamoto could win the race. #15 Pierre Gasly attacked the race so aggressively but not enough speed. We have to figure out which area need to be improved and in reality will improve them to seek for the both 2 cars to get on a podium at Motegi since advantages of having 2 cars have started to be appearing.