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The drivers look ahead to Japan 05 Oct 2005

Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Turkish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, 19 August 2005 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Jordan.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Interlagos, Brazil, 23 September 2005 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2005 
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Preparations, Interlagos, Brazil, 22 September 2005 Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Interlagos, Brazil, 23 September 2005 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Interlagos, Brazil, 24 September 2005

Formula One racing heads to one of its great venues

The Suzuka circuit always ranks among the drivers’ favourites and that is where they are currently heading en route to this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. In their own words, they discuss their prospects for the race and explain just why they love this track.

Takuma Sato, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 4th, 2004 Race - 4th

"The Japanese Grand Prix is a very special race for many reasons. I love the layout of the Suzuka circuit as it follows the natural lay of the land and of course the atmosphere over the race weekend is fantastic. The corners and combinations of the track are very challenging, but a lot of fun to drive. As there are many corners through the speed range, from low to very high speed, making up the unique figure-of-eight, it is important to get the set-up of the car right. You also need a good balance, especially for Turns 1 and 2 and into the S's as most of your time is spent cornering. Obviously I am always very excited when I come back to Suzuka and am looking forward to a great race in front of my home crowd next weekend."

Jenson Button, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 5th, 2004 Race - 3rd

"Suzuka is special because it's Honda's home circuit. I've had good support there in the past, especially since I've been involved with Honda and the BAR Honda team. I'm excited about going back, and I think if we sort out the issues we had in Brazil, we'll be reasonably quick. Suzuka is a very tough circuit, mentally and physically. You have to be very precise around there, and also very consistent, which is difficult. It is definitely one of my favourite circuits."

Felipe Massa, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 20th, 2004 Race - 9th

"Suzuka is one of my favourite circuits. It's right up there with Spa-Francorchamps as the most challenging that we visit. It's a fantastic circuit and I love to race there. You need a lot of downforce because of all the corners, but you also need low drag on the long straights so you have to compromise when setting up the car. That just adds to the excitement you feel there. In particular, 130R is a superb corner, and it can be very tricky if you take downforce off! Overall, I hope that the C24 suits the track; we had quite a good race there last year, so I am optimistic I can do something good this weekend."

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 9th, 2004 Race - 10th

"In general Suzuka is an amazing track. It is one of the most beautiful that we 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. Otherwise the circuit is quite technical, very challenging and there are a lot of difficult and demanding high-speed corners. It is difficult to get a rhythm but when you do a good lap at Suzuka it feels really, really good. Out of all the tracks we currently race on, Suzuka is one of my personal favourites. I like racing in Japan, and since it's one of the last races of the year this always adds to the excitement."

Mark Webber, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 3rd, 2004 Race - DNF

"I'll be heading to Suzuka after a very busy week. I went straight from Brazil to Spain for two days of testing at Jerez, which proved very successful. We managed to achieve a lot of mileage over the course of the two days and made some electronic and mechanical changes to the car. We also completed a full programme of tyre testing for Michelin which was my last working for them, ahead of our switch to Bridgestone next season.

“Suzuka is a fairly unique circuit as it has a figure of eight track configuration and has a tremendous amount of high speed corners as well as some slow, technical ones. It's great we're going to such a fantastic venue late in the season as it will provide a good send off for the V10 engines as they can punch out their full potential on a fast, flowing circuit such as Suzuka. Realistically, I think our own goal for the weekend is simply to try and score some points so we can maintain a comfortable buffer between ourselves and BAR."

Antonio Pizzonia, Williams
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I am really looking forward to racing in Japan. I don't know the circuit at all, so it is going to be a big challenge for me. Driving on a new track is always very exciting though and I've heard a lot of positive things about Suzuka, especially from other drivers, so I can't wait to drive there. I am going to practice in the team's simulator which is the best way to learn a track, apart from actually driving it, of course!

“Due to the limited running I had during the Brazilian Grand Prix, I will have some extra miles available on my engine, which will allow some extra running on Friday and Saturday, which will help me to familiarize myself with the track. In 2001, I went to Suzuka as a spectator so I am very happy to go back this year and be among those racing!"

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 12th, 2004 Race - 6th

"We will give it our all to win the Constructors' World Championship by aiming to score the best possible results in Japan and China, and I think we have the package to achieve this. Juan Pablo and I had a good battle in Brazil and I am looking forward to continuing it this weekend! The Drivers' title fight is over for this year and now we want to win the Constructors'. Suzuka is a great track; it is fun to drive and really allows you to push the limits. 130R corner was modified before last year's race, but it is still a good challenge. It is quite difficult to overtake here though. There are tight hairpins, sweeping corners and long straights, so set-up is a compromise, mainly with the slower sections to ensure we can be flat out through the esses, which is key for a quick lap time. It is a low grip track though, so we do need quite a bit of downforce to handle this."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 13th, 2004 Race - 7th

"With two races remaining, myself and Kimi need to take as many points away as possible from both Grands Prix to clinch the Constructors' World Championship. The car felt really quick in Brazil and there are some modifications coming on board after the recent tests, so we need to maximise this on track. All the different sections of Suzuka have their own unique characteristics. You know you have to be smooth with good balance and power through the esses, traction and braking stability for the chicane and high downforce at Spoon and 130R. So we need a compromise and we have a medium downforce set-up. As with Brazil, the fans in Japan are crazy about Formula One; they are always so excited, which is great fun."

Pedro de la Rosa, third driver, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"Suzuka is my favourite track by far and I would say it is like my second Home GP as I raced in Japan for three years before Formula One. The Suzuka Circuit is long, fast and has many types of corners to both sides, right and left, which makes it very demanding for the driver and for the tyres. I expect our package to be very competitive at this very special track, where I will focus as always on tyre selection with Michelin."

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 11th, 2004 Race - 5th

“I always enjoy Japan. It is very technical and complex, and all the drivers feel very good there - there are lots of high speed corners, and that is a big challenge. It is very complicated for the engineers as well, and getting the set-up right is a good challenge for them. Plus we always enjoy the weekend because there are so many fans there supporting F1, which means we have a great atmosphere.

“Bad weather could be a key part of the weekend, but with Michelin tyres, we are ready for any challenge. They have done a fantastic job this year. We saw already in Spa that the tyres are fantastic this year, and we managed the whole race there with the same type of tyre. It started wet, it was dry at the end, and the tyres were working well.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 7th, 2004 Race - 8th

“Japan is another really great circuit, with a very challenging first sector and lots of long left-hand corners that can be hard for the neck. You need a good engine because there are a few long flat out sections, good downforce and good traction to get speed out of the last corner and over the start-finish line.

“For sure, we are not at McLaren's level in terms of pure speed, but we are closer. I have a great feeling at this circuit, because it is one of my favourite tracks, and the fans are fantastic. I have a fan club in Japan, who I will be seeing on Friday night, and that adds something special to the weekend as well. I am really looking forward to racing in Suzuka.”

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 1st, 2004 Race - 1st

“After the Grand Prix of Brazil we want to see if we can continue our improvement at Suzuka. There is no doubt that this is what we are looking for and this is why we are going into the last two races, in Japan and China, very charged up.

“Present factors aside, Suzuka is a race that I always enjoy going into as the circuit is a very demanding one. Apart from Spa, Monaco and Suzuka are tracks that I, as a driver, consider the most difficult, above all from a technical point of view. I like it a lot.

“We tested again last week and we are anxious to see whether we can put into practice what we have learnt. In any case, I don’t want to make any predictions. As ever, we will be giving our all. We have not given up all hope for the season. We would like to make the most of the last two races to build up as much experience as possible so that we are ready for next year.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 6th, 2004 Race - 11th

"Suzuka is a very good, technical circuit where set-up is even more important than usual because of the big mix of corners. We would obviously like to do well at the Japanese Grand Prix because it is the home race for our team. The Japanese fans are passionate about the sport and they really get behind you - especially when you're driving for a Japanese team. I made my debut for Toyota here last year so I've already sampled the atmosphere - although it was a strange weekend because of the weather that wiped out Saturday's qualifying. But we have come a long way since then. This year we'll go there with much higher aims, and we could even have a chance of a podium. That would be a great way to cap off an excellent season."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 2nd, 2004 Race - 2nd

"I am really looking forward to driving for Toyota in Japan in front of the passionate Japanese fans. Suzuka is a circuit I know well from my time racing in the country before I arrived in Formula One. It is also my favourite track on the calendar because it provides a really good mix of corners and a big challenge for all the drivers. The evidence this year shows that we go pretty well on high speed tracks so it would be great to have another strong performance here. I won the Japanese F3000 championship in 1996 so I have good memories of the country and I always look forward to my trips there. Local knowledge can also come in handy if there is a wet race as you can predict which areas of the track will dry the quickest. We will certainly be aiming to bring home some more points and who knows? Perhaps we can even make it to the podium."

Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"Japan is one of the greatest circuits on the calendar and one of my favourites. It is a bit like Spa and drivers seem to like it a lot. I have raced at Suzuka driving in Formula Nippon in 2001 and I did quite well, so it should be ok. We will have to pay attention to the weather as it can be very changeable there; as for instance last year they had a typhoon. Also, the EJ15B has certainly closed the gap with the other teams so I am looking forward to Suzuka even more. As it is Bridgestone's home race, hopefully they will give us something special."

Tiago Monteiro, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I have never been to Suzuka or Japan so I am really curious to see the country. I have heard it is one of the top tracks in the Championship. Suzuka is similar to Spa, mixed with other great tracks, therefore I cannot wait to race there. I know it is quite tricky and long. The weather can be changeable there as well so that could maybe help us. A lot of things could happen. I would like to finish the season on a high note and we will keep focused and prepare for the last two races."

Sakon Yamamoto, third driver, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I had two successful days of testing at Silverstone. I was very impressed as it was the first time I have driven a Formula One car. Everybody was wondering if I could drive a Formula One car and I believe I have proved it. During the two days, we had mixed weather conditions so it was good for me to try the car with wet tyres as it may rain at Suzuka. I have spent a lot of time testing different types of Bridgestone tyres for the Japanese Grand Prix and I am pretty confident that we have found a good type. I have really enjoyed this test and I would like to thank Jordan Grand Prix for giving me that opportunity. I know the circuit at Suzuka very well so this will be a little advantage. I am glad I could have an initial feeling about the car previous to my Friday drive. I will try to give a lot of useful information to the team for the race. I cannot wait to drive in front of my home crowd."