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Japan - selected driver preview quotes 04 Oct 2006

Jenson Button (GBR) BAR Honda 007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, 7 October 2005 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 29 September 2006 Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team and Sakon Yamamoto (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, 8 September 2006 Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren F1 Testing, Day 3, Monza, Italy. 31st August 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton.

With its unique figure-of-eight layout and legendary corners such as Spoon and the 130R, there are few Formula One drivers not relishing the prospect of returning to Suzuka for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix - especially as it is set to be the sport’s last visit for the foreseeable future, with the race switching to the Fuji track near Tokyo in 2007…

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2005 Qualifying - 9th, 2005 Race - 11th

"I'm really looking forward to going to Suzuka this year as a member of the Honda family for the first time. The Japanese fans are always so enthusiastic and create such a great atmosphere over the race weekend that it will be exciting to hear them cheering for me. Suzuka holds some special memories for me as I won there from pole position in 2003. The circuit itself is challenging because of the corners and combinations of the track layout and you need a good balance, especially for turns one and two. Our performance has been improving consistently over the last few races, and we had a good final test in Jerez, so I am expecting us to be competitive at Suzuka."

Jenson Button, Honda
2005 Qualifying - 2nd, 2005 Race - 5th

"Suzuka is a very special weekend for the whole Honda team because it is Honda’s home circuit and one of our two home races of the year. I've had some great support there in the past, especially since I've been involved with Honda, and I'm excited about going back this year. It's a very tough circuit and a real challenge for the drivers mentally and physically. You have to be precise, very consistent and it is really important to get the set-up of the car right. Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite circuits and I hope that we can put in a strong performance there for all our Honda fans."

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2005 Qualifying - 19th, 2005 Race - DNF

"The Japanese Grand Prix is obviously a very important event for everyone involved with Toyota because it is our home race and we will have so many people cheering us on. The Japanese fans are passionate about F1 and they give you huge support - especially if you're driving for a home team. Japan is very different from Europe but I get on well with the Japanese and I have many Japanese friends dating back as far as my days in karting.

“I also have a big fan club in Japan and I look forward to meeting many of my fans this week. This will actually be my third Japanese Grand Prix as a Toyota driver because I made my debut for the team at Suzuka in 2004. But the first time I visited the track was in 1990 for a go kart race. It's a very difficult circuit with a great mix of corners making it very enjoyable for drivers. We struggled in China but rest assured we will be pushing as hard as possible to give all the fans and employees something to cheer on Sunday."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2005 Qualifying - 1st, 2005 Race - 8th

"It is now over ten years since I first drove a car around Suzuka. During my year racing in the Japanese F3000 championship I grew to learn the circuit very well and it is still my favourite track on the calendar. It has every type of corner and makes for an excellent driving challenge. There are many important sections on the track, notably the first sector up to and including the famous ‘esses’. Of course I will be sad to see Suzuka go from the calendar, but I'm also looking forward to racing at Toyota's home track at Fuji next season.

“For a racing driver it's always very enjoyable to race in Japan because the Japanese fans are very enthusiastic about motor sport so we've always been well received. But the Japanese Grand Prix is an extra special event if you're a Toyota driver, as I found out when I secured pole position there last year. Hopefully this year we will be able to challenge near the front again and come away with a strong result in the race."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2005 Qualifying - 14th, 2005 Race - 7th

"With our win in Shanghai I'm looking forward even more to the race in Suzuka, which is anyway always one of the season highlights. This track is like a dream; especially the first sector. To drive that part of the track is just fabulous: the s-curves, the rhythm, just incredible.

"To be in Japan with an even and promising result in the classification is something that we could not even dream of in Canada, when we were 25 points behind. Now the championships start anew from zero. And you cannot wish for more. It will be a fantastic battle, something really exciting."

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2005 Qualifying - 16th, 2005 Race - 3rd

“For sure, it is one of my favourites. For a driver, it is a very demanding track, very challenging physically and a tough race. It is one of those races that every driver wants to win - and I haven't done it yet.

“You need a good chassis, good aero and a strong engine. That is what we have with the R26. Suzuka is one of the most selective circuits of the championship. A good car can be very good there - but a bad one can be very bad. I think we have the package we need to be competitive.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2005 Qualifying - 3rd, 2005 Race - 2nd

“Definitely, it is one of the circuits I really appreciate. I have a big fan club over there which makes the atmosphere nice, but from a technical point of view, this is one of the hardest tracks physically and mentally. It is a fantastic challenge.

“I had a strong podium in China, and that helped move me up to third place in the drivers' championship. For Japan, my aim is to keep that position - and help the team extend the advantage in the constructors' championship.”

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2005 Qualifying - 17th, 2005 Race - 1st

“We demonstrated the competitiveness of the MP4-21 over the weekend of the Chinese Grand Prix and it was clear that the speed was there, despite my retirement from second place which was disappointing for everyone. This level should carry through to the Grand Prix in Japan at Suzuka, which is really great to drive, and there is no reason why we should not be competing at the front again.

“There are for sure many different characteristics across the circuit and you get to really push the limits all the way round, which is fantastic. The first corner is key, you have to get it just right with the combination of braking and throttle application otherwise you will lose a lot of time in that corner but also it will affect your line into the esses complex. At turn one you have the high speed apex, then the low speed apex, and if you get the first bit wrong your line into the second section and of course the esses is wrong. You can make so much time up in this section of the track; it is great to have such a challenging section so early in the lap!

“The circuit is also pretty fast, and to get the time there is one line that you have to stick to. Probably the best place to overtake is the final chicane, but as last year showed, there are other options. Suzuka is very light on brakes, even though there are a lot of corners, most of them are so quick you are either flat out, lifting a bit or using just a dab of the brakes, there are no massive braking zones.”

Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

“Despite a difficult race in China, where I finished fifth in the wet conditions, the pace of the car felt really good all weekend and I see no reason why this package will not continue to be strong in Japan. Suzuka is without a doubt my favourite track we race on in Formula One and it is truly unique. I competed in Japan for three years before I moved to Formula One and I have some great memories that I am hoping to add to this weekend!

“Japan is renowned for being hard on tyres, degradation levels are severe and this is why you tend to see more three stop races, because tyre performance tends to drop off more than somewhere like Canada. It is an abrasive circuit and has massive cornering demands as they are all so fast. We had a major focus on our tyre programme with Michelin at the recent Silverstone test, where we completed some positive development and arrive in Suzuka with competitive compounds to select from. The fast corners that affect tyre wear are the highlight of this track, 130R is awesome to drive, it has been modified in recent years and is not quite what it was, but it is still great fun. The atmosphere is great at this track, the fans are always so excited, which is great to see, and I hope we can put on a good show for them this weekend.”

Mark Webber, Williams
2005 Qualifying - 7th, 2005 Race - 4th

“We finished fourth at Suzuka last year and it was a good race for us. We were running very close to Fernando Alonso and only just missed out on a podium. The track really is spectacular, it’s fantastic. Most people find the Japanese way of life very different to what they’re used to and you either love it or you don’t. The people, though, are always really friendly, very polite and they love to make a big effort. The weather is very changeable in Japan at this time of year due to the season. There are often typhoons, so we always have to be a bit wary of that. Although it’s a little north, it’s also close to Australia as well which is nice for me, but I won’t be making a visit home until the end of the season.”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

“I’ve already raced in Japan in 2000 at the Karting World Cup in Motegi. Well, actually, I started on the first row but then I had a puncture and my race was quickly over! Visiting Japan will be an interesting experience. I’ll be there from Tuesday as I have some PR work to do in Tokyo before heading to Suzuka. With regards the Suzuka track, it looks like it’s a very good one so I am looking forward to driving there. Our car showed some improvements over the Chinese Grand Prix weekend and we hope we can carry on the momentum.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

"I just can't wait to get to Suzuka. It's my favourite of all F1 circuits. This time it will be a slightly wistful occasion as we may not be racing there again after 2006 if Fuji joins the racing calendar as the venue for the Japanese GP. But I'm hoping there might be two races in Japan. It would be sad to say farewell to this challenging circuit. Its main attraction is the so-called ‘esses’ - a series of high-speed turns behind the pits. There are five consecutive corners which flow beautifully and are tremendous fun if you manage to get them right. But if you mess up the first turn, it will pursue you right through to the last one in the sequence.

“I'll be flying to Tokyo on the Monday after the Chinese Grand Prix to visit a friend. Tokyo is an impressive place and I'm already looking forward to enjoying some Japanese food. The first thing we think of is sushi, which is delicious, but there's a lot more to Japanese cuisine than that."

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

"I've only been to Japan once - back in 2000 for the Karting World Championship in Motegi. So I don't actually know the Suzuka track, although it seems very impressive - I took a look at it on a computer game. It looks very challenging and it must be fun to drive there, so I'm really looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. Unfortunately I've never had the opportunity to drive another car there, but I'm sure driving a Formula One will be a tremendous experience."

Sebastian Vettel, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

"After China, we Europeans have our next exotic country lined up. The language and lifestyle are a different world. I'm absolutely thrilled to be able to go to Japan with the team. For me it is also the country of inventors of all kinds of electronic gadgets. I've only driven the track on a video game so far and I believe Suzuka is an impressive circuit, especially the ‘esses’. It will be difficult to find the ideal line and the braking points at the start. I imagine the circuit to be as great as Spa, if not better."

Takuma Sato, Super Aguri
2005 Qualifying - 5th, 2005 Race - DSQ

“Suzuka will be extremely challenging both mentally and physically for us this year. We are really upbeat after a great race in Shanghai and we should have a very strong package now. Suzuka has an equal number of the right and left- hand corners and most of them lead straight into each other, so it is important to have the absolutely right balance of the car, which I believe we can achieve after our successful testing at Silverstone last month. We are firmly concentrating on performing well at this race as this will be not only our first, but our only chance to visit Suzuka this year, so we are passionate to have a good weekend for our fans. I cannot wait to share the massive support that I have had over the years as I am sure that all the team will feel it.”

Sakon Yamamoto, Super Aguri
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

“This really is my home grand prix because I was born very close to Suzuka. When I was eight years old I went to see the Formula One race there and ever since that day I have wanted to be a Formula One driver. So I joined the Suzuka Kart Racing School when I was 12 years old and that was my first step into motorsport. I drove my first Formula car at Suzuka and what I could see from the car was just like what I had been watching on the TV! I have grown up with the Suzuka circuit, so I cannot help but be excited to be going to the Japanese Grand Prix for the first time as a Formula One driver and with a Japanese team. Last weekend in China I finished a Formula One race for the first time, so this is a good step for me going to Suzuka this week. I am really looking forward to seeing all of the Japanese fans and I will try to do the best, even more than usual, in front of my home crowd.”

Tiago Monteiro, Spyker MF1
2005 Qualifying - 20th, 2005 Race - 13th

“It’s good to be back in Japan so soon after leaving China. Back-to-back races mean that I can totally focus on my driving for two weekends rather than be interrupted by time away from the track. I like the circuit at Suzuka as it has such a unique layout. Corners such as 130R are extremely famous in Formula One and require great driving to maximise the capability of the car. I had a good race here last year so I hope to improve upon what we have achieved so far.”

Christijan Albers, Spyker MF1
2005 Qualifying - 13th, 2005 Race - 16th

“This is one of the best tracks that we visit for drivers. The design really allows us to attack the circuit and focus on getting as much speed and grip out of the car as possible. The people here in Japan love Formula One and I am always amazed by the fantastic atmosphere, it means the track is buzzing when we arrive which always gives you an extra lift on race day.”

Adrian Sutil, third driver, Spyker MF1
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

“The third driver role here at Suzuka has vital importance, the track design and required set-up mean that there is a great deal of potential for creating the right and wrong adjustments for the race. I am really looking forward to see what the M16 can do here as I feel I am learning more and more about driving an F1 car every time I climb in the cockpit. After going fifth quickest in France I hope I can show my capabilities again.”