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Japanese Grand Prix - selected driver quotes 07 Oct 2003

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams BMW FW25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang, Malaysia, 22 March 2003

Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
"After the difficult race in Indianapolis, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team can now go on a full attack. Naturally it's a pity for Juan Pablo that he is out of the battle for the Drivers' Championship, but our goal is now focused on the Constructors' title. I am sure we can claw back the three points on Ferrari and the team's test in Jerez this week makes me confident that we can achieve this. While I don't have an absolute favourite track on the calendar, I have to say that Suzuka is up there among them. The S-corner behind the paddock and the super-fast 130R are two of the most challenging elements of a track anywhere in the world.

"I also feel very much at home in Japan after my season there contesting Formula Nippon. The start of the Japanese GP will be at 7:30am German time, on Sunday. Juan and I will be fighting exclusively for the Constructors' Championship, while Michael and Kimi will be concentrating on the Drivers' title. As it is will be so compelling to watch, I am sure the finale will be well worth an early wake up call for every Formula One fan."

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
"It's a real shame that my battle for the Drivers' Championship was lost in Indy, especially the way it happened. I obviously hoped I would still have a chance in Suzuka, but that's the way it is. Now my main focus is scoring as many points as possible to help our team to win the Constructors' title.

"On paper, the Suzuka circuit is the most difficult of the tracks we have raced at recently, but nevertheless I like it and I would count it among my favourite tracks. It is fast and similar to Spa, with a lot of changes of direction which tend to suit my driving style. Two years ago I qualified and finished in second position and last year I came fourth, which gives me reasonable confidence for this year. I know some of the track layout has been slightly altered since last year, but I will have to see what these revisions are like on the ground.

"Before I raced Formula One, I raced in Japan twice in CART. Although it was at the Motegi circuit, I nearly won both races, and as a consequence, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I have a good feeling racing in Japan. Before getting to Suzuka for the first time in 2001, it was somewhere I really looked forward to going as I had been told it was a proper racing circuit - a great track with great corners. And I wasn't disappointed!

"I expect the Japanese fans will be as excited as always, and it is amazing how passionate they are. They wait for hours at the entrance of the circuit and when you get there in your car they scream and wave. I am looking forward to getting to Suzuka to make up for the disappointment I felt in Indy."

Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"The last race of the season already and the fight is still on. It's exciting to have come this far and to have seen the team improve so much over the past eight months. Suzuka is not going to be an easy race for us by any standard but as always in true Jaguar Racing style all hands will be on deck to make sure that we are in the best possible place to secure any points. I finished tenth here last year and I quite enjoy the track. I will be looking for a good qualifying session, as this was where we were let down in Indianapolis. Again weather conditions will come in to play however, after the changing conditions in Indy we are pretty much prepared for anything. At the moment I am actually in Australia and I will be travelling to Japan early next week. Despite being out of the country I have been keeping in touch with my race engineer and the rest of the team. There is everything to play for next weekend and I can't wait to get back behind the wheel and this time hopefully finish the race!"

Justin Wilson, Jaguar:
"My eighth finish in Indianapolis (US) was a great boost for me and the team, and with a point in the bag I travelled direct to Japan in a positive mood. I have been spending some time here with the team physio working on my fitness and also learning more about the track. I have never been to Suzuka so again this will be a challenging weekend for me, but of course, Friday testing helps me and certainly takes some of the pressure off in time for qualifying. I will be looking to place myself as high as possible in qualifying but as always, race strategy is so important and this is a key focus for us. As this is the last race for me with the team before a decision is taken for the driver line-up in 2004 I will of course be pushing every step of the way and doing my utmost to achieve another finish, and you never know, maybe even a point!"

Nick Heidfeld, Sauber:
"Suzuka is my favourite track, but it will be interesting to see how changes to the 130R corner and the chicane have affected its flow. I think the former may more easily be flat now, but it will still be a very challenging corner. Just how challenging depends on the level of downforce you are running. The Esses, too, are special, because you need to make compromises in some sections to make sure you don't spoil others. It's very satisfying when you get them right.

"The fans in Japan are great. They are very enthusiastic and they seem to lose all their inhibitions as they get into the sport.

"Running so strongly during the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis was an uplifting experience that showed the clear potential of the Sauber C22. The car was fast and reliable, so naturally I am hoping to score some more points. I'm really looking forward to the race."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber:
"This year, without Spa on the calendar, Suzuka is my top track, the biggest challenge. I always look forward to it because it requires a special flow to get a good lap time. It has some great corners, and the two left-handers (which are really one big long corner) behind the pits are real neck-killers. You can pull 3.5 to 4g there, for quite a long time. That's physically very tough.

"Others are more technical, like the Spoon Curve or 130R, and the chicane is the only part of the track where you have to brake strongly and don't feel the aerodynamics at work. It's a good spot for overtaking.

"My best memory of Suzuka comes from my first visit in an F1 car, when I qualified third there in 1994 with Sauber. I was on the podium in 1997. The fans are very special, and they help to contribute to the atmosphere which always makes it a pleasure to be there. They have such uncontrolled enthusiasm!

"After the way our new aerodynamics package worked in Indianapolis, and after my podium finish there, I'm sure we can attack when we get to Suzuka. The US Grand Prix marked the first time a Sauber has led a Grand Prix, and our performance there was a tremendous fillip to the team which has worked so hard throughout the season. It was a pleasure to help to lift it from ninth to fifth place in the World Championship for Constructors, so I really hope that we can score some more points in Japan."

Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: Suzuka is well known as one of the drivers' favourite circuits of the year. Is that the same for you?) "Definitely. It is my favourite type of circuit, that's to say somewhere very technical which demands lots from the driver and the car. It has every type of corner, and the car needs a little bit of everything to be competitive there. The most difficult part is the series of 'esses' behind the pits, where you need to get the perfect line from start to finish, because how you take each corner dictates the speed you can carry into the next one. It's a big challenge, but one I enjoy a lot."

(Q: And how competitive do you hope to be in Japan?) "I think Suzuka will suit the R23B, and certainly we should be even more competitive than at some of the other tracks we have been to recently. Since we introduced the 'B' spec at Silverstone, the car has been very strong at every type of circuit, and the characteristics of Suzuka should suit our package. The guys at Viry have worked very hard through the year as well, and that has brought big benefits. We are looking to end the season on a high, and the fantastic Japanese fans will only help that!"

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: Fernando, you have only raced at Suzuka once before, in 2001. How do you remember it?) "Suzuka is a fabulous circuit to drive a Formula One car on. There have been some changes at 130R which means one of the big challenges is different, but we still have the Esses, as well as almost every other corner around the circuit, to keep us on our toes. In one sense, set-up is simple there: you just need a car that is good at everything. In reality, that means lots of compromises, so we will be working hard in practice to dial in the chassis and tyres. But we will be good there: the circuit should suit us.

(Q: In terms of results, things haven't been plain sailing since your win in Hungary. What do you think Japan will hold?) "I don't think we will be as strong as in Hungary, but we will definitely be looking for a podium finish. The teams in front of us will be pushing hard, so our job will be even more difficult: two of them are trying to win the Drivers' Championship, and the other is fighting for the Constructors'. Even so, I still have a chance to get fourth in the championship: I missed out at Indy, but we will be fighting with the other top teams in Japan. If I don't get it, it's not a problem: this season has been far beyond what I had hoped for. But it would be fantastic way to round things off, and I will be pushing hard to achieve it."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Jordan:
"Japan this year will have a special meaning for me. It is my last Grand Prix with my team and I hope to end my experience with Jordan in the best possible way. In Indianapolis I tried my hardest to do well and we scored some points. The weather conditions helped and the human factor prevailed over the limitation of our car, I can only hope this will happen again so that I can perhaps help to catch the Toyota boys, a mere point ahead of us. It is going to be hard, but Suzuka always reserves some surprises."

Ralph Firman, Jordan:
"I cannot wait for the Suzuka weekend because it's a circuit that holds special memories for me, notably clinching last year's Formula Nippon title with Satoru Nakajima's team. As a result I also have quite a few fans there! Having raced in Japan for six years I can at last look forward to racing in F1 on a track I know very well, so that will be one big change, and of course I am determined to produce a strong finish to the season if at all possible. The entire Jordan Ford team has worked extremely hard this year under difficult circumstances so I am certain a lot of effort will go into to trying to ensure we go well at Suzuka.

"It's a real driver's circuit and technically challenging, but satisfying when you get it absolutely right. I am spending 10 days in Tokyo before travelling down to Suzuka, catching up with friends and training every day in the gym because I wasn't able to maintain my normal regime during my five week recovery from the shunt in Hungary. I want to be as well prepared as possible and make the most of my circuit knowledge."

Jacques Villeneuve, BAR:
"It has been a highly disappointing season with a lot of bad luck. This continued in Indy last weekend when both Jenson and I were not able to finish the race. It is difficult when you work very, very hard and do not get the results that you know you can achieve. The Japanese GP will be challenging and a lot will depend on how the tyres perform compared to the opposition. It would be nice to finish with a positive result in Suzuka. In general Suzuka is an amazing track. It is one of the most beautiful race tracks that we still have on the Grand Prix calendar. I don't really like the chicane and the hairpin is not fun, but it's okay and it's logical. There are a lot of difficult and demanding high-speed corners. It is difficult to get a rhythm. When you do a good lap at Suzuka it feels really, really good. Out of all the tracks we currently race on, Suzuka is my favourite track. I like racing in Japan. It's the last race of the year and it should be an exciting end to the season for the championship."

Jenson Button, BAR:
"Along with Silverstone, Suzuka is my favourite circuit on the calendar. I first raced at the track in 1996 in go-karts and then when I went back there in an F1 car in 2000 it was fantastic. I also really like Japan as a place, the culture is extremely different to what I am used to, but it is a place that I enjoy very much. The fans are great, they really get into the spirit of things, and there are so many of them, which is good to see. The first year I competed in an F1 car I finished fifth and then last year I was sixth so I am looking for an even better result this year. The characteristics of the circuit should suit our car and we have been working really hard to push the development forward, so I am optimistic for a good race especially after leading in Indianapolis last week. It was great to be out in front and I know everyone in the team will push as hard as possible to score more Championship points in Suzuka, not least because it's the 'home' race for Honda and Bridgestone."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
"The United States Grand Prix was a weekend of mixed emotions for me and the team. We pushed as much as we could and had a good strategy but the weather spoiled our chances, but there is still a chance to win the Drivers' title. It will not be as easy as if I had taken victory at Indy, but I enjoy a challenge! Obviously I have nothing to lose, I know what I have to do and am only focused on that, not how Michael is going and I know that the team will do everything they can. Hopefully it will be quite an exciting race and we will just have to wait and see what happens. It is a tough and technical circuit, one of the longest we race at and it has a unique figure-of-eight layout. Suzuka has a great variety of corners including the famous 130R, the long and very fast left sweep, and the Spoon. The circuit is low grip in nature and we tend to use a medium-high downforce set-up. The best place to overtake is the final chicane, and the track is very light on brakes. Although there are 17 corners, they are mostly very fast and you tend to take them flat out, lifting slightly or dabbing the brakes rather than the dramatic stops of say Monza."

David Coulthard, McLaren:
"Since the United States Grand Prix, we have been testing at Silverstone with Alex Wurz, Pedro de la Rosa and Darren Turner at the wheel. Work was focused on set-up for Suzuka and a couple of new modifications, which received positive feedback. I am now looking forward to Suzuka, it's a definite favourite amongst the drivers as it is an immense challenge and great fun to drive. It has medium and high speed corners, sweeping straights, gradient changes and awesome corners such as the 130R. However, the track has an abrasive surface, which can lead to high levels of tyre degradation. One of the most important sections of the track is the 'S' curves complex, you need to have a well balanced set-up to ensure you maintain your speed through the bends to put in a good lap time. With the Drivers' Championship still to be decided, it is going to be an interesting Grand Prix, and I wish Kimi the best of luck for the race. Following the Japanese Grand Prix, I will be taking a couple of weeks off, before beginning to focus once again on preparation for what will be my tenth season in Formula One in 2004."

Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"Suzuka is a fantastic circuit and the perfect way to end such an exciting season. It is a very fast track and with a nice combination of slow corners, off-camber corners, long straights and fast changes of direction, which should suit our car. The Esses are where you find most lap time at this circuit, so we will work a lot in this area. The Japanese Grand Prix is obviously very special to Toyota and if the fans from Megaweb [Toyota's flagship auto showroom in Tokyo] are anything to go by, it will be a special atmosphere in Suzuka this weekend. Being so close to 5th place in the championship, it will be our aim to end the season in the best position possible and I am as determined as ever to fight for points."

Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"I have never driven at Suzuka before, but from what I have seen and heard, it is a very technical circuit, so we will have an important session on Friday morning to get up to speed as quickly as possible. Olivier and myself have been busy in Japan since last Sunday when we gave fans in Tokyo the chance to see the TF103 in action at Megaweb. It was pretty remarkable to see so many people turn up. I just hope we can reward their support with some points in Toyota's home race this weekend, as we look to improve on our eighth place in the constructors' championship. From a personal point of view, I will also be pushing hard to gain places in the drivers' standings."

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari:
"It is a great circuit and fun to drive. It is a breath of fresh air and gets your adrenaline running. There is always work to do here and you can never tell yourself that there is only one corner to go and you can relax. It is a good way to end the season.

"I think I have to work flat out this weekend, trying to put the car on pole position or at least the front row. I will be trying to win and that is the best thing I can do to help Michael, because if I do get the win, Michael does not need to do much to take the title. Michael is very competitive here at this track, so he will be okay anyway. There is no point in just trying to finish seventh or eighth, because we still want to win the Constructors' Championship."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
"We still have to win the Constructors' championship and accept the typical approach where we have to be very careful not to retire which we have been in for the last few races as well. We obviously have more to lose than to gain in a way, as I said before, but in the end, as you sit in the car, you just do what you naturally do. There's not much else to say about it. It depends a little bit on the situation you're in after qualifying, how the start will go, but I will just enjoy racing and that's what I'm here for.

"I am going to drive for both championships because I think Rubens is going to win the race and I will take one point. So whatever Ralf and Juan Pablo do, then we win the championship anyway. We have two drivers in the team and both are responsible to do the best job. We both will try to win the race and it is obviously a very good opportunity for Rubens as well."