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Japan Preview - Vettel and Alonso the favoured two? 07 Oct 2010

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010 Suzuka circuit signage.
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 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren with his girlfriend Jessica Michibata (JPN).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010

Last year Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel walked the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. And the time before that, Fernando Alonso won the last race here, to clinch his second world championship. Both plan to repeat those feats, as Vettel shoots for his first title and Alonso his third.

Given this, and what each achieved in Singapore, they start favourites for what could be a gripping weekend, as rain showers are forecast each day.

It might be slightly tougher for Vettel, the aerodynamic excellence of the Red Bull RB6 notwithstanding, for championship leader Mark Webber will be going all out to increase his current score of 202 points and get back on the winning trail in the other Red Bull. Will he be the first man to win five races in 2010, or will that fall to Alonso, who can expect Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa to ride shotgun rather than challenge him?

Having gathered more points than anyone from the last five races, the Spaniard says: “This win means a lot to keep in the fight in the championship. We know there are still four races to go but it seems we can be competitive in any track, so thanks to the team. Great job at the factory. Great job at the track as well getting 100 per cent of our potential all the time, so let’s see in the remaining races. Forza Ferrari!

“When I said my chances were 50-50 after Monza it was really just yes or no, I can win or I cannot win. It depends on how things and how the races go. In fact if we are five drivers, we have around a 20 percent chance each of us, maybe Mark a little bit more because he’s in front. I was very bad after Spa in terms of championship points, not any more for the title fight. People thought a very bad 2010 championship etc, a lot of mistakes and now, after two races I am second in the championship, 11 points behind Mark, I think. Anything can happen in these four races, any of us can win two or three consecutive races and put you in a very good position or you have one or two retirements and you are completely out of it, you are mathematically out of the championship.

“So we need to keep concentration, keep the focus and as I said, the chances for all of us are more or less the same. It will depend on how these four races go, hopefully with no mistakes, with very high concentration from all the team and hopefully we keep the same way and keep momentum in Japan as well.”

“Suzuka should suit our car, but we still have to go there and prove it,” Vettel says. “I think we have a very competitive car this year on all circuits, so we can be confident. Last year was very good and I think we should get a good result again. Ferrari has made a step forward in the last couple of races, so they will be strong and don’t forget McLaren. There are still a lot of drivers fighting for the title and they are very close to each other, it’s tight and a lot of things can still happen. We need to make sure we get the best out of ourselves and then we’ll see.”

Webber, meanwhile, says: “I’m optimistic we can do well in Japan and the team did well there last year. The momentum is currently with Ferrari going into the race, as they have had two victories on the bounce, but the points situation is still very open. It’s nice that I have a little buffer, it’s not very big but it’s something I would rather have than not. Suzuka is a track that all the drivers love and I’m looking forward to it. I think we will be very competitive; we need to go there and get the maximum out of what we have.”

McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are both determined to claw their way back into firmer title contention, the former in particular desperate to finish a race after retirements at Monza and Singapore.

"I'm 20 points behind Mark, and that's a reasonable gap, but it's not an insurmountable one," Hamilton says. "I guess I'll just have to keep my head down and hope for the best. I'm not going to think specifically about the world championship right now, I'm just going to try to enjoy the rest of the season - and whatever happens, happens. But I'll keep fighting to the end, because it's the only way I know.

“Suzuka is very much unfinished business for me. I raced the best I could last year, but our car just wasn’t fast enough. This year, I’m holding nothing back - I need a strong result to get my title hopes back on track, and that will be my complete focus from the moment I first sit in the cockpit on Friday morning. Now is not the time to hold back; now is the time to fight.”

Button believes he can still win the title, and says: “I think the world championship is still completely open: obviously, there’s no room for mistakes, but any of the top five drivers could easily steal the title. It might seem a disadvantage to be behind in the points standings, but, make no mistake, I know I can win this championship. I’m still as determined as ever to keep the number one on my car for 2011.

“I’ve spent such a large part of my Formula One career working in Japan that I almost consider it something of a second home nowadays. Tokyo is one of the greatest cities in the world - just an endlessly exciting place to discover and explore, and Suzuka is the perfect venue for the Japanese Grand Prix - one of the world’s truly great circuits, and a supreme challenge for any racing driver.

“I love the whole Suzuka experience - the fact that it’s a real trek to reach from Europe, the amusement park that you walk through to get to the paddock, the incredibly loyal and friendly Japanese fans - who cheer me on all weekend - and the whole atmosphere, which is invariably extremely tense and frantic, because the race always plays such a decisive role in the outcome of world championships.”

Suzuka is one of the world’s greatest tracks. It’s extremely technical and challenging, both for the drivers and the engineers, and features plenty of very high-speed corners and fast changes of direction.

“I’ve had some great results at Suzuka, but I’ve never won in Japan,” Button said. “I think it’s a circuit that suits my style - it’s all about scrubbing off as little speed as possible through the corners and maintaining a very smooth and precise rhythm: get it wrong and you’re usually scrabbling to regain your momentum for several more corners. It’s a punishing place.”

With so many different types of corner the perfect car will be strong in all areas: horsepower, handling balance and grip, and stability under braking. On this medium- to high-speed track aerodynamic performance is crucial but the long pit straight and the run to and out of Spoon Curve will favour cars with efficient F-ducts, too.

Bridgestone have once again brought their hard and soft compound tyres, for their last home-ground appearance in Formula One. Initial forecasts suggest the weather may not be too favourable, with showers possible each day and an ambient temperature varying between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius.

The race will run over 53 laps of the 5.807 kilometre (3.608 mile) circuit, or 307.471 kilometres (191.056 miles). It starts at 1500 hours local time, which is nine hours ahead of GMT. The track has been modified slightly, with revised kerbs and green concrete run-off areas in Degner 1 and the exit to the Spoon Curve.

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