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Japan preview - can Button delay the inevitable? 06 Oct 2011

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren chats with Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing in the press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 31 July 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6 leads at the start of the race as Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30 crashes.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 9 October 2010 Fans
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01 and Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01 battle.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) BMW Sauber in Parc Ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) BMW Sauber C29 leads Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula 1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 24 September 2011 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F10 crashed out at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sebastian Vettel likes Suzuka. As the winner of the last two Japanese Grands Prix, he likes it very much. And given the way that Adrian Newey’s Red Bulls go there, with their near perfect aerodynamics and excellent grip, even with his habitually pessimistic outlook until a job is done Vettel knows that the odds totally favour him to score the solitary point he needs to put the world championship beyond the reach of his only remaining rival, McLaren’s Jenson Button.

Suzuka is a great venue at which to secure your second consecutive title. Technical and challenging, for both drivers and their engineers, it has a wide variety of very high-speed corners and fast changes of direction, allied to the heavy braking required for the chicane in the final corner. It’s a classic circuit that favours the bold driver and the balanced car.

“Suzuka is one of my favourite tracks; it really couldn’t have been built any better,” Vettel says. “The first sector up to the Degner Curves is the most spectacular and challenging of the whole season. The 130R is legendary; it’s great fun to drive straight through this left-hand bend. I’m not the only one who loves this track and our car normally loves it too.

“The fans in Japan are special. What they have been through in recent times is something I cannot begin to imagine, but they are so impressive. They are extremely patient and always polite and friendly and their stamina is amazing. I hope we can put on a good show for them this weekend.”

The one man who could spoil his show is Button, who also loves the place.

“I consider Japan my second home - it’s a place that’s very close to my heart, and, obviously, it’s going to be a very emotional experience for me to be racing in Japan for the first time since the events of last March,” he says.

“I’m very proud that the Formula One World Championship will put Japan on the world’s sporting stage this weekend: while the country is still collectively rebuilding itself, I’m deeply aware that sport can play a significant role in helping to restore hope and normality to communities that were torn apart by the earthquake and tsunami.

“And I think it will be a great race for everyone. In the last few races, I think we’ve shown that we have extremely good pace and that we’ve been the team most able to take the fight to Red Bull. On paper, I think it’s a circuit that will suit the Red Bulls, particularly in the high-speed sweeps that make up the first sector of the track, but I certainly don’t think people should under-estimate our package.

“We showed at Spa that we have a car that’s very effective in high-speed corners. We’ve also improved our straight-line speed and we have a more efficient rear wing for qualifying, so I think we’re feeling positive about the weekend. For everyone who follows Formula One, I hope we can put on a great race to bring further strength to the people of Japan. And to everyone in Japan, I say: ‘Ganbatte!’”

That’s ‘good luck,’ or ‘hang in there’ in case you were wondering…

McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton is another Suzuka groupie, and he’s dead set on making up for Singapore by taking the fight to Vettel and Red Bull. “The Japanese Grand Prix is one of the highlights of my season. I think Suzuka will play to my strengths: it’s a track that really requires you to drive in an attacking way to be able to get a good lap time.

“It’s an uncompromising place. But that’s when the thrill of driving a Formula One car is at its highest; when you know you can’t afford a single mistake and where driving on the absolute limit is the only way to get the best time. In that sense, it’s a lot like Monaco, and maybe that’s why I like the place so much - it’s unique.

“I think we’re headed there in pretty good shape: we know that the Red Bulls will be strong - but we also have a very quick car, and we can make it work on different kinds of circuit. It’s another reasonably high-downforce track, which should play to our strengths. The weather in Japan in the autumn is always unpredictable - we’ve seen before that it can be beautifully sunny and hot or extremely cold and wet. But I’ll take any conditions, as long as I can race hard.”

That’s pretty much the way Fernando Alonso feels at Ferrari, even though he’s out of the title chase after Singapore, while Felipe Massa wants to get one decent, uninterrupted, race under his belt as the season heads for its last meetings.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber has been a little overshadowed of late, but is another contender who’d like nothing more than to get his first victory of the season under his belt on such an historic circuit.

There’s plenty of interest throughout the field, too. Mercedes are hopeful of an upswing, while Renault are confident of bouncing back from their shocking Singapore result as they bid to catch their German rivals. Meanwhile, Force India, Toro Rosso and Sauber continue their epic fight for sixth overall, with the latter bringing a major car upgrade which they believe could provide a serious step forward. Williams, too, believe they have finally made a performance breakthrough.

And at the rear of the grid, Narain Karthikeyan will get another Friday practice outing with HRT in anticipation of his race return in India later this month. He will take over Vitantonio Liuzzi’s car for the opening Suzuka session.

Pirelli have brought their medium (white) and soft (yellow) compound tyres, just as they did at the two other recent classic tracks with high-speed corners, Spa and Monza. Suzuka’s wide range of demands requires a versatile tyre, and these compounds provide the best compromise between grip and durability.

“After what has been a devastating year for Japan, we are very pleased to be showing our support for the country and coming to the Japanese Grand Prix, on a circuit that all the drivers love,” says Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery. “Suzuka is all about putting power down effectively in order to obtain maximum grip in terms of traction, braking and cornering.

“There’s a lot of energy and lateral load going through the rubber, so once more it is going to be important for all the drivers to manage their tyres effectively, because of the speeds involved and a high-downforce set-up that pushes the tyres onto the road surface. We are likely to see our very first P Zero-equipped world champion crowned at Suzuka this weekend, so it’s a race that is set to go down in our history.”

It may also be one that generates some interesting pit-stop strategies.

In terms of weather, the forecast looks quite settled after some showers on Wednesday, with partial cloud and an ambient temperature between 23 degrees Celsius on Thursday and 22 for the rest of the weekend.

The race will run over 53 laps of the 5.807 kilometre (3.608 mile) circuit (which has no major changes since last year), or 307.471 kilometres (191.056 miles). The FIA has decided on a single DRS zone down the start-finish straight. The detection point will be shortly after Turn 15, prior to the final chicane, with the activation point just after Turn 18.

The race starts at 1500 hours local time, which is nine hours ahead of GMT.

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