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Japanese Grand Prix - selected preview quotes 07 Oct 2004

Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, 25 September 2004 Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Renault in the FIA Press COnference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, 24 September 2004 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004 Mark Webber (AUS) Jaguar at the Jaguar team photo.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, 23 September 2004

Suzuka is generally recognised as one of the most interesting and challenging circuits on the Formula One calendar. No wonder the drivers are so happy to go back there year after year.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
“Apart from the unfortunate technical failure I had last year, I have always done reasonably well at Suzuka. I like the circuit a lot and driving there is good fun. The track should suit our package, which makes me fairly confident for a good result. It was good to collect some points in China and I am aiming to score some more in Japan, as we really need to strengthen our position in the Constructors' Championship.”

Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
“I think Suzuka is one of the most interesting tracks on the Formula One calendar, so I am very much looking forward to racing there. Of course it won't be easy though, you need a perfect car to perform well in the fast sectors of the circuit, so we will have to find a good set-up but, in my opinion, we have a good chance of doing that. In Shanghai we demonstrated that we are definitely competitive, despite the unnecessary accident with David Coulthard.

“I lived in Japan for a year while I competed and won the 1996 F3000 championship, so I have good memories of the country and I am looking forward to returning.”

Jacques Villeneuve, Renault:
(Q: You had a solid first outing with Renault. How are you feeling ahead of Suzuka?) “I know the circuit well and whereas I was still learning about the car in China, we will be able to work on the set-ups right from the beginning of practice in Japan. I got a much better feel for the car during the last race and it gave me some directions for how we can work on the handling. Plus of course, I won't get caught out on the first lap of the race this time.

(Q: How would you describe Suzuka?) “It is one of the most difficult circuits, especially in how the turns link together. The track is very nice to drive, and you need a car that lets you flow through the corners yet also be precise. The surface can be very slippery which makes the car quite delicate to drive, and that means a smooth driver is rewarded in lap-time. You need to be mentally aggressive to put in a good lap, but not with the steering wheel.”

(Q: What sort of performance are you expecting?) “In terms of performance, the first thing I need to do is score the points that I missed out on in China. At Suzuka though, you have a lot of delicate moments around the lap when the car has lots of downforce at high speed, and you are turning and braking at the same time. That means the car needs to be very stable to really feel confident. If we can get the handling right, then I am sure we can score points: the team and myself are still very motivated to get second place.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: How much do you enjoy racing at Suzuka?) “After Spa, I always find Suzuka the nicest place to drive. It is a very challenging circuit for the drivers. It is technical, so you have to work hard to get the car right with a good front end for the changes of direction, and a stable rear so you can have the confidence to attack the high speed corners. The other thing about Suzuka, though, is that you have to take risks in the corners - and all drivers like that. You push harder in most corners and a lot of them are blind on the exit, so you really need to have confidence in the car.”

(Q: What is the most challenging part of the lap?) “All of it is challenging, but the Esses are the most different section to what we have seen so far this year. You have ten to fifteen seconds of continuously changing direction, and that is very hard physically for the driver - you cannot relax at all and you are never running straight, so it is very demanding on your fitness. In terms of line, there is only one way through the sequence for a really quick lap, and you need to find the perfect position to take the corner you are approaching and the one that follows it as well.”

(Q: Finally, what result can the team expect in Suzuka?) “I said after the race in China that I thought the five points we scored would be important at the end of the year, and that is because I think we can be quick at the last two tracks. We have improved the car a lot this season and it is much more competitive and constant than it was earlier in the year. We need to find a good tyre, get it working well and put all the pieces together to have a strong weekend. We know it will be a very competitive race, but personally, I have more motivation than ever to beat BAR at one of their home races.”

Jenson Button, BAR:
"Both Takuma and I are really looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka is a very special circuit in itself and I think our car and package will work very well there. The change of direction with our car is very good, which is important for the particular characteristics of this circuit. We know we can be fast there having finished fourth and sixth last year, so I am expecting a lot from the race. It's also going to be very special being Honda's home grand prix at Honda's own circuit. We have had some fantastic results this season and hopefully they will continue in Suzuka."

Takuma Sato, BAR:
"Suzuka is a great combination of high speed, technical corners and it always produces a very exciting race for both the drivers and the fans. There is a big following for F1 in Japan and personally for me, at my home Grand Prix, the feeling driving there is unbelievable. The fans at Suzuka always support me very well and they are so enthusiastic! After such a great team result in Shanghai last weekend, I am very much looking forward to returning to Japan and to hopefully getting back onto the podium once again."

Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"Japan always seems to come around so quickly and this time it will be weird to not have it as the last race. Since racing in China just over a week ago I have been training as well as taking some holiday time in Australia. Looking ahead to Suzuka, it's a tough track on both the driver and the car but this sort of circuit allow us to really test ourselves. With only two races to go I am very keen to score some more points for the team. The guys at the factory in Milton Keynes and the team up at Cosworth Racing in Northampton have all really pulled together over these last couple of weeks and I would like to reward them with points before the season ends. I will be racing this weekend in our new chassis the R5b-06, which was actually first raced last weekend by Christian.”

Christian Klien, Jaguar:
"It's hard to believe that the end of my first season in Formula One is only two races away. I have been having a fantastic time with the Jaguar Racing team and I am really enjoying driving the car. I am going to make the most of the next two races with the aim of coming away with a couple of points so that I can finish the season on a high. Suzuka is going to be a new track for me so I have been doing some work with my engineers on layout and demands on the car. I understand from them and from talking with Mark that the circuit is tough on the car and on the driver. Overtaking is also not that easy so I will be looking to achieve a good qualifying position and have a strong strategy in place. Friday will be an important day for me and this is when Bjorn's help comes into play. We will have a lot to work through but I know having spoken with Dr Mark Gillan that the team is well prepared coming to Japan this weekend. I am really enthusiastic about this coming weekend and will be giving it my all in the pursuit of points.”

Bjorn Wirdheim, Jaguar:
"I enjoyed driving at the new Shanghai circuit very much and now I will have another new track to get to know in Japan. I have been working closely with my engineers so that I am as well prepared as I can be. The track looks like it has some good fast corners and also some slightly slower more technical ones. I am keen to get out on Friday and complete as many laps as I can. We will, as always, have a detailed programme to work through and I need to be reliable in gathering this data for the team to help them with their decisions ahead of Saturday and Sunday. Since China I have been spending my time in Australia where Christian and I have been working on our fitness training programmes. Racing somewhere like Japan is both mentally and physically demanding on the driver and so we need to be well prepared. I am excited about the next two races and I will be doing all that I can to help the team score more Championship points.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"Scoring two more championship points at the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix was a great result and a good debut at this fantastic new track. And Suzuka is a great track too, maybe the best after Spa. I love the circuit! It's very interesting to drive, and has lots of difficult corners. The first part in particular is very technical. And it's a place, one of the few, where a driver's talent can make up time. It's also a Bridgestone circuit, so I am hoping that we will have some great tyres there! I think it will suit us very well with the Sauber Petronas C23, and I am feeling quietly confident."

Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"The Chinese Grand Prix was a tough race for me at an amazing new venue and I'm happy that I could add a further championship point to my account. Suzuka is another fantastic track! I love its very quick corners, and the variety of them. For sure it's one of my favourite tracks. I really enjoy racing there.

"The track also has a very special atmosphere, because the Japanese fans are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. And as it is in Bridgestone's homeland, we naturally want to do really well for them. And I think we can. The C23 likes very quick corners and our best race this year was in Spa, which has a similar character to Suzuka. I think we can get the job done there."

Jarno Trulli, Toyota:
"It will be a big challenge for me to join Panasonic Toyota Racing for the final two races of this season in Japan and Brazil, but I am more motivated than ever before. I have had four days testing over the last three weeks, working mainly on making myself comfortable in the car and settling into my new team. I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to make my race debut for Toyota at the company's home grand prix in Suzuka this weekend. We will certainly gain a useful time advantage in preparation for next year, as we can iron out any potential problems before we really get down to concentrating on the 2005 season. Japan is also a very special race for me personally, as I have a lot of loyal supporters, who always give me a warm welcome."

Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"I love Suzuka. It is a very fast, high-speed circuit and one of my favourites on the calendar. Our Japanese Grand Prix week already started last Sunday, when we visited Tokyo for a demo run of our TF104 car at the Toyota showroom, Megaweb. There was a good turnout in spite of the heavy rain, so I was happy to perform some donuts and wheel spins for all the supporters who came along. I always enjoy racing in front of the Japanese Toyota fans, but this year's event will also be quite emotional for me because it will be my final Formula One race. Although I will miss the excitement of racing, I will have the chance to give a big input in Panasonic Toyota Racing's future in my new role as third driver. In that respect, having Jarno on board will be very helpful in setting ourselves up for next season. He has been a good friend of mine since our time as team-mates and I know we will work very well together. All I am hoping for this weekend is to finish my racing career with some points."

Ryan Briscoe, third driver, Toyota:
"I am looking forward to continuing my role as third driver at Panasonic Toyota Racing in the last two races of the season. I feel that I have settled into this position comfortably and I am pleased with the job that I have done since my debut back in Hungary. Japan will undoubtedly be a very special race weekend with it being not only Toyota's home grand prix, but also our 50th race weekend. I have been with Toyota since the very beginning of the F1 programme, so this anniversary means a lot to me personally and I am proud that I will be an active part of it. I have never driven at the circuit before, but I have heard it is an exciting track and I can't wait to try it out."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
“Suzuka is one of those circuits that I look forward to with pleasure because, as everyone knows, it is tricky to drive. It remains challenging for us drivers even after the modifications, something that I really appreciate. I can’t wait to see how it drives this year. Last year, for example, we slowed down at curve 130R. This made it irregular and, consequently, more difficult than expected. The chicane is now faster with a drastically reduced braking area meaning that the chances of overtaking are slimmer than we thought they might be.

“I have had some great times here, both positive and negative, and this is why it is always a pleasure to drive here. Last year too we saw a great race, one that, happily for us, ended well. I have good memories of the day. Maybe I’ll be able to transform this into a good race as my sole objective is, obviously, victory. In any case, I’ll be doing my outmost to win here.”

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari:
"This year, for the first time in my career, I won a grand prix for a second time at the same track, which is what happened at Monza. I am sure I can do that again. Can I do it here? Well the saying goes, never two without three, but I am keeping my feet on the ground. We want to do well here for Bridgestone, as this is their home race and the tyres we have here are a good choice. However, I am remaining calm as usual."

David Coulthard, McLaren:
"Following the Chinese Grand Prix, I travelled to Thailand for a couple of days before moving onto Japan. This allowed me to continue my training programme in a similar environment to Japan. Suzuka is a great circuit, it is a proper challenge. It is a very technical track with similar characteristics to Spa, and is the second longest on the calendar. Due to its nature, the track allows you to build up a flowing rhythm so it is particularly important to have a well balanced car to get a good lap time. Suzuka also tends to be fairly gentle on the brakes as the majority of the corners are taken at high speeds, with only light braking or perhaps a little less pressure on the throttle, so there are no many hard braking zones like we have at say Monza or Montreal."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
"As with most of the drivers, I always enjoy the Japanese Grand Prix. The circuit is exciting to drive and the atmosphere is always very lively as the spectators are so fanatical! The Suzuka track has a number of different high and low speed, sweeping and tight corners. They include some legendary ones such as the Spoon, the S complex and 130R, which is great to drive. The track itself is quite physically demanding on both the drivers and the cars. Also, overtaking can be difficult, with the final chicane providing probably the best opportunity. Hopefully we can have another very exciting race as with China. The car continued to handle well and felt quick, so I am looking forward to driving it at Suzuka and pushing it to its limits on the track's great corners. It would be nice to end the season with a couple more positive results for the West McLaren Mercedes team."