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Suzuka - the engineer’s view 08 Oct 2003

(L to R): Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams and Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Chief Operations Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Brazilian Grand Prix, Preparations, Interlagos, Brazil, 3 April 2003

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer, Williams:
"Suzuka is the most exciting circuit in the championship, with the high speed flowing corners to start the lap followed by the hairpin, the still infamous high speed 130R and the chicane, all of which places a high demand on the drivers, and rhythm is an important aspect of being quick at Suzuka.

"The Japanese circuit requires higher downforce and a stiffer than normal setup to ensure high speed stability. Braking is also important for the two stops at the hairpin and the chicane, although the chicane is a lot faster after the circuit modifications. We have been hard at work testing in Spain with Michelin and will be bringing new compounds and casings for the final GP to give us every chance possible in the Championship.

"Engine power is important at Suzuka, to be able to run the high wing levels. This aspect also makes it difficult to overtake, although an opportunity still exists into the chicane and now perhaps into the first corner. The high fuel penalty and tyre degradation will make the strategy interesting."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
"Suzuka is among the most challenging circuits of the Formula One calendar, not only for drivers, also for the engines. The ultra-high-speed 130R turn at Suzuka with its lateral load of 4g poses the greatest challenge to the oil system. Like all evolution steps of the BMW P83 engine, the latest one which was introduced at Indy has proven to be powerful and reliable so far."

Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport:
"Our dry weather specifications will be from the mid-hard range of our compounds as Suzuka is one of the toughest rounds on the calendar for tyres. The abrasive surface and several mid to high speed corners mean that we can expect to see high degradation rates. A strong tyre is consequently needed to cope with the high loads placed on the tyres. This also explains why teams tend to choose two or three stop strategies. As for the weather in Suzuka, well, you never know what to expect there so we shall be prepared for all eventualities. With so much at stake for our teams and Ferrari in particular, we have worked extremely hard in the build up to Japan. I'm expecting the Bridgestone teams to be highly competitive and we hope that together, we will finish the season on a high note in front of our home crowd."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"Suzuka is a very challenging track. Power of the C-spec engine and low drag are crucial on the fastest sections, but there are others that present different demands, because Suzuka is a circuit with many facets to its character. To go smoothly through the Esses at the start of the lap, the car must have excellent handling balance, while the Spoon Curve and the modified super-challenging 130R corner require high downforce. The chicane at the end of the lap then registers a different demand: strong braking performance and stability on the entry and excellent mechanical grip and traction on the exit. The track surface is also quite abrasive, so your choice of tyre compound is also critical.

"All of this makes the circuit a great favourite of drivers and engineers alike, because everyone has to rise to the challenge to get the best from the car. The new qualifying rules will make things even tougher this year, because there are so few overtaking opportunities around the lap. And because it is so long and tortuous you can lose a lot of time to other cars if you get stuck behind a slower car that you are unable to pass."

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director, Renault:
"At the start of the year, once you have run the car, you get a feel for the circuits where you think will be strong: Barcelona and the Hungaroring were two of those circuits, and Suzuka is another. It is a track which demands a predictable, responsive chassis, and excellent aerodynamics: those are areas in which we excel. Coupled with the progress the engine has made in recent months, it should give us a very strong package for the final race of the year.

"We must look to qualify in the first couple of rows, run an aggressive strategy and race to the podium. This will be the final race of an exciting and successful season: we will be looking to finish it on a very positive note."

Pat Symonds, Director of Engineering, Renault:
"The challenges Suzuka presents us with are very much those of a driver's circuit, and in these circumstances, there is very little substitute for track time, particularly on a circuit where general testing is not allowed. Even at this late stage of the season, we expect our Friday testing arrangement to reap benefits.

"In terms of tyres, Suzuka is a hard circuit. Not only do they have to endure severe lateral loads, the number and frequency of the corners means they are constantly loaded with very little time to 'relax': if we compare the energy requirements with Monza (another 53-lap race), all the tyres work much harder, and particularly the right front which sees 75% more energy than it would at Monza. The right rear also works half as hard again as a tyre at the Italian circuit.

"Furthermore, the layout of the circuit can bring quite high temperatures. In response, we are playing the situation both ways with tyre choice: we have chosen one 'safe' tyre, and one more 'aggressive' solution. The final choice will depend on the results of our testing, but it is very likely that the two tyres will require different strategies to optimise their use.

"Although work at Enstone is now fully focused on the 2004 car, our colleagues at Viry are continuing to push ahead with engine development. In Suzuka, we will be able to increase the rev range of the engine once again. The big unknown, of course, remains the weather, but assuming it stays dry, Indianapolis showed our package is as strong on a cold circuit as its well-proven ability in hotter climates. We will be racing to finish the season in style."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager, Renault:
"During the (Suzuka) lap, the engine spends 55% of its time under maximum load (over 14,000 rpm). In previous years, this included a maximum continuous period of 12 seconds but, if 130R can now be taken flat, this may increase to 17 seconds, or the second-longest single period of the year after Indianapolis. Furthermore, the rev range used is one of the most varied, from 7,500 rpm at the chicane (approx. 60 kph) to maximum revs: this is the second widest range after
Monaco.

"Only periods at maximum load have a significant impact on the reliability of the engine, and the amount of the lap spent at full throttle is not particularly high. However, the longer the period at maximum load, the bigger the implications for reliability in terms of the effort the components undergo, and the high operating temperatures they reach: the changes at 130R may therefore impose some constraints we will have to plan for.

"Good driveability is crucial as there is a large part of the lap spent at part throttle, particularly in the esses. Power needs to be available from low revs, for the reasons I have already explained. The extra revs we will be able to use this weekend during second qualifying and the race will be a definite benefit."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering, Jordan:
"It's a very demanding track for the car, and we've all got to work at it but if we do push hard we can be in a better state than we have been. It's a flowing, high downforce track like Silverstone or Spa, with high speed corners.

"That's where the good drivers step up and although our car isn't anything spectacular it's actually better at this type of track than many others. We just need to get on with it and hope we can make the most of our package with car, engine and tyres all performing well and reliably. It's the last race of the season and we want to start the winter with a bit of momentum, so we will do the best we can. In principle it's still possible for us to get fifth in the Constructors' Championship and you have to aim for the best possible. Given the circumstances presented to us, we didn't do as well at Indianapolis as we should have, so although it's a difficult task, here we will push as hard as we know how to."

David Richards, Team Principal, BAR:
"Our task of finishing in fifth place in the Constructors' Championship has been made harder following Sauber's result in the last race, but the team will continue to work hard and fight until the final chequered flag. Honda will also be pulling out all the stops for their home race and will be running its 'Suzuka Special' engine. We have shown what we are capable of and we are determined to finish the season in Japan in the position we deserve."

Pascal Vasselon, F1 Programme Manager, Michelin:
"Suzuka's figure-of-eight layout makes it a fairly well-balanced circuit in terms of tyre wear. The loads are quite high but are spread evenly across the casing. You need a chassis that can cope with constant high-speed cornering - it's a more important factor than straight-line speed. You have to strike the right balance, though, between top-end performance and grip - it's a high downforce track that requires a finely-tuned set-up. In order to keep our cars balanced through the fast corners we are able to adjust pressures to increase tyre stiffness. It is yet another track that places an emphasis on a strong qualifying performance, given that overtaking tends to be fairly difficult.

"After consultation and tests with our five partner teams, we have selected one new construction and four different dry-weather compounds for Suzuka. Three of these have not previously been used in racing conditions. We will also have a new type of wet available.

"The track's twisty, high-speed nature and relatively abrasive surface mean that we will be using tyres from the harder end of our range in Japan.

"The penalty for running a heavy fuel load is substantial at Suzuka - about 0.4 seconds per lap for every extra 10kg. Scheduled pit stops last about 30 seconds."

Ove Andersson, Team Principal, Toyota:
"Not only is it (Japan) our official home race, but we also find ourselves in a very close battle in the constructors' championship, with only six points splitting 5th place from 9th. We are again fully focused on qualifying our cars in a position on the grid from which to fight for a top-eight race result. Suzuka should suit our car quite well, so I am optimistic we can put a TF103 in the top half of the grid for the fourteenth race and from there aim for points in front of our Japanese fans. As always, we will do all we can to give them something to cheer about on Sunday afternoon."