Home - The Official Formula 1 Website Skip to content

Japanese Grand Prix - driver preview quotes 25 Sep 2007

(L to R): Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault with Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 13 September 2007 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 14 September 2007 Sakon Yamamoto (JPN) Spyker.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 13 September 2007 Alex Wurz (AUT) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 15 September 2007

Replacing the famed Suzuka circuit for the 2007 Japanese race, the Fuji Speedway has a lot to live up to. But with Mount Fuji as a backdrop, an overtaking-friendly 1.5-kilometre straight and a multimillion-dollar refurbishment by Hermann Tilke, the drivers are looking forward to their first experience of Japan’s new Grand Prix circuit…

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 4th, 2006 Race - 6th

“I am really looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. It is the first time Formula One has raced at Fuji for 30 years, and of course it is a home circuit, so we want to have a strong weekend and get back in the points. The two most obvious features of Fuji Speedway are the long straight and the scenery because, with the mountains behind, it is very beautiful. I drove on the circuit in 2005 just after it was completed but I only did a few laps as a demonstration and the track was very dusty.

"It is an interesting circuit to drive and the facilities have been completely rebuilt so they are great. It’s hard to say too much about the track because it is new for all the teams but looking at the first corner, it is at the end of the long straight and quite wide so that should be a good overtaking opportunity. I am expecting a really special atmosphere for our home race and I hope we can deliver a good result.”

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 3rd, 2006 Race - 7th

“I remember the old Fuji circuit from my time racing in Formula Nippon in Japan and I always enjoyed racing there. One of the most impressive things about Fuji Speedway is the location, with Mount Fuji in the background. The track itself is also very impressive, especially now the facilities have been improved. It is now one of the most modern in Formula One but they have kept a lot of the character of the old track, with the very long main straight.

"It is going to be a challenge to set the car up because with such a long straight you certainly need top speed but on the other hand the infield is quite twisty so you want downforce there. Personally, it is great to be going to a different circuit, even if I loved racing at Suzuka, and I am looking forward to the challenge. The entire team is pushing really hard to get the best possible result this weekend.”

Fernando Alonso, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - 5th, 2006 Race - 1st

“As this is a new track for all the teams, we are in the same position with regards knowledge of the track. In 2006 I did a couple of demonstration laps with passengers on the track and it seemed really good. It is going to be a challenge to find the optimum set-up for the cars as you have this really long, fast straight and then the rest of the track is much slower.

“To be honest, we will have to wait until after Friday free practice to tell you more, but I am looking forward to seeing what it is like. We are not in any position to make any predictions, but I am sure the championship will continue to swing between all four drivers. Ferrari were strong at Spa, we were strong at Monza, everyone in the team is pushing hard to be strong at Fuji, Shanghai and Interlagos. We can still win races, and will be doing everything to make this happen in Japan.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“I haven’t even seen Fuji Speedway yet, but I am sure it will be a great place to race. Hopefully there will be some overtaking opportunities because of the really long start/finish straight. We will have to wait and see what it is going to be like as I do not really have a major image in my mind at the moment. I have to say when I was first asked about my feelings of Fuji, I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be getting to race at Suzuka because everyone goes on about how great it is, but this season I have really enjoyed going to new tracks and learning them.

“It provides a slightly different challenge so I am looking forward to it. Everyone will be in the same boat and it should be quite exciting. Everything is so close in the championship now, so we have to go out there in Fuji and get as many points as possible. It would be great to win. Also, Japan is one of my favourite countries and the fans are very enthusiastic, so it would be even better to win in front of them!”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 11th, 2006 Race - 5th

“I'll go to Japan early next week. I can't say many things about the track at Fuji, because I've never seen it. But there's nothing to worry about. I'll walk around the track on Thursday and on Friday I'll get to know it during the free practice. I've heard that this track might be better for McLaren: we can't change the track, but we can work on our car.”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 1st, 2006 Race - 2nd

“As usual, I will do my best to get the better result for the team. In Ferrari, our main priority is the interest of the team. However, there is a lot to do, but you never know what might happen. In Formula One, there can be surprises sometimes and I am hoping for the right sort of surprise!

“The Japanese will be a new adventure for all of us with a new venue and a new track layout. Like most of the other drivers I guess, I have been using the simulator we have in the factory to learn the Fuji track. I spent the whole day there last Tuesday. At least now I know where the corners are and I also got a feel for the track and its character in general.

“This means that when practice starts on Friday, I will be more familiar with the circuit and at least I will know which way the corners go! I think that was a very useful day's work. At Ferrari we are still developing our simulator a lot, as we are not where we want to be with it yet. We are working very hard to improve this, but it will take a bit more time to get it operating at the highest level. But, in a situation like this coming weekend, where you don't know the track at all, it is still a very useful tool.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2006 Qualifying - 6th, 2006 Race - 3rd

“I think it is always interesting for the teams and drivers when you go to a new place, and a new circuit. It breaks up the routine from year to year when things change around. And for the drivers and also the engineers, I think it makes our job a bit more interesting. To be honest, this isn't my first time in Fuji because I raced there back in 1993 in Formula Three - but the circuit has changed a lot since then. That means I will have plenty of work to do learning the track.

“Japan is a country I like in general, and I have always had a fun time racing here. I have been on the podium both times I have raced for Renault in Japan, and I am hoping for another good race at Fuji this year.”

Heikki Kovalainen, Renault
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“Like Monza and Spa, Suzuka was a really challenging circuit, for the drivers and the car. This year's race, though, is at Fuji, which is a track I already know a little bit about after doing a promotional event for our partners here last year. I think it will make for good racing, which will be good for all the Japanese supporters, who are always really enthusiastic about Formula One!

“The Japanese fans are without a doubt the best of the whole season: very enthusiastic, always kind, and they will wait for hours to see you at the hotel or the circuit. Even last year when I wasn't a race driver, I was amazed by how many people recognised me or stopped me for autographs. It really puts you in a good mood, and makes you want to race well for them.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - 9th, 2006 Race - 8th

“I've never been to Fuji and am always pleased to see a new circuit appear on the calendar. A new circuit presents the drivers and engineers with some interesting challenges, and - even in our ever-changing sport - provides an extra dose of variety, as all of us first have to find our bearings in the new surroundings. I like Japan as a whole, especially Tokyo. I like the mentality and am a real fan of Japanese cuisine, which has a lot more to offer than the obligatory sushi.

“Suzuka is my favourite race track, so I'm pleased that the two circuits will take turns in hosting the Grand Prix from 2009. I'm really looking forward to driving the Fuji circuit, and I hope I'll get to see Mount Fuji at least once. I heard that some people have been there any number of times, but the peak has been hidden in a cloud every time.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - 12th, 2006 Race - 9th

“I like Japan and I like the Japanese mentality. Of course I am looking forward to it but I don't know the Fuji track as a driver, just a bit from games when I was younger. However, I think it has changed a bit. We have to see how the track is but I think it is going to be good going there because the Japanese fans are very enthusiastic. They really like to stay and watch the racing cars so I think we will have a lot of people there.

“I think our car this year is behaving similar in all kinds of tracks so it is not like last year when we were better in low downforce tracks; this year it is more consistent so I think we can achieve what we are achieving everywhere.”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2006 Qualifying - 8th, 2006 Race - 12th

“I am really looking forward to returning to Japan in my second year with Honda for our home race. The Japanese Grand Prix has always been a favourite of mine and the Suzuka circuit holds some very special memories as I won there from pole position in 2003. My experience last year driving with Honda for the first time was fantastic. The fans are so enthusiastic and really supported us throughout the weekend.

“This year Formula One is returning to the Fuji International Speedway for the first time since 1977. I last raced at Fuji back in 1991 in Formula 3 but the circuit has been totally modernised since those days. It will be very exciting to race on the new layout and I am sure that the organisers will have done an excellent job with improving the existing circuit.

“Our car and performance this year has not been at the level we hoped for at the beginning of the season, however a lot of hard work is still going on back at the factory to improve our situation. We will all keep working very hard right to the end of the season and I hope to see further small improvements in our performance which will help us this season and in 2008.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2006 Qualifying - 7th, 2006 Race - 4th

“The Japanese Grand Prix is always a very special weekend for the whole Honda Racing F1 Team as it is one of our two home races of the year. I have had fantastic support as a Honda driver at the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit in the past few years and the Japanese fans always create such a special atmosphere over the race weekend.

“This year will be a new challenge for both myself and the team as the race returns to the Fuji International Speedway. The Fuji circuit is an unknown quantity so I will be studying the circuit layout with our engineers in advance of the race but we will only find out its true characteristics during our track walk on Thursday and the first few laps of practice on Friday. The re-designed circuit is another Herman Tilke special, and after the fantastic job that he did with Istanbul Park, it will be interesting to see how this circuit matches up. There is a long 1.5km start-finish straight which should allow for some overtaking combined with some exciting looking twists and turns.

“We are the first to admit that Honda have had a tough season this year, however we approach the final races of the season with continued motivation and will not stop pushing to take the maximum possible performance from the RA107 car to help us move forward next year. Of course, Rubens and I will also be keen to put in a good performance for the thousands of Honda fans who will be cheering us on from the stands.”

Adrian Sutil, Spyker
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“Normally Fuji is a low downforce track, but for sure we'll see some cars running higher levels just trying to gain some time in the middle and last sector, but in general it'll be a low downforce set-up similar to Spa. I had many F3 races and many tests there, so it's like my second home track!

"The experience will help as I know which parts are important and how you set up the car there, what the benefits are and so on. I think it's very good to know about driving this circuit because it's not easy, and there are some special corners where you really have to be very smooth and not push, because otherwise you will be slow. I hope it will be an advantage.”

Sakon Yamamoto, Spyker
2006 Qualifying - 22nd, 2006 Race - 17th

“Fuji is a very interesting circuit, because one side is a very quick straight, and the other is very technical, especially sector three. For a driver it's interesting, but for engineers it's a real compromise. The last part is probably best for drivers. It's a bit slow, but it's fun to drive. And also this is the part where the driver can make a difference, good or bad.

“The first time I raced there on the old circuit was in F3 in 2001. It was good until I crashed! My first race on the new circuit was 2005, in Japanese GTs. On the old track you could really use a big tow and you could pass more easily. I think it was more tricky and more dangerous. The new one is safer, but it still has the long straight.

“Last year I was really surprised that so many Japanese fans cheered for us when I was driving with Super Aguri. That really gave me some power. So I'm looking forward to driving in front of them again. I also think my family and some friends are coming, so it will be good!”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2006 Qualifying - 10th, 2006 Race - 10th

“I am looking forward to racing at Fuji Speedway. With the huge renovation work and design input from Hermann Tilke, the legendary Fuji should now be a pretty cool track. Not having been to Fuji before, I have done some practice in a simulator, but the real learning happens when you are out on the track. For me, less than a dozen laps will be enough to start feeling comfortable.

“At Fuji Speedway, we'll be on Toyota's home ground, so it would be great if we could do well there in front of the Japanese audience. I'll be flying out to Tokyo a week early for sponsor events and to recover from the jet lag. Dealing with the big time difference is not only about sleeping, but also about eating. You sometimes wake up at 4am and your body is screaming for a huge steak! Anyway, it's an unknown track, but again I am confident we can do well and continue our form of the last few races.”

Alexander Wurz, Williams
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“I very much like going to oversees races and particularly to Japan because I love the culture there. This time, though, it will be a bit of an unknown trip for me, not because we’re going to a new track, but because my wife Julia is expecting our third son and he’s scheduled to arrive in the days between Japan and China. Naturally then, I’m leaving home with a bit of an uncomfortable feeling.

“As for the circuit, I always like driving new tracks and usually manage to learn them quite quickly. Fuji Speedway will certainly be a challenge when it comes to set-up and aero settings because the long fast straight, combined with the slow speed last sector, demands a big compromise. From a Championship perspective, we will have to wait and see where we stand in comparison to the others, but I hope to be able to snatch some points.”

Takuma Sato, Super Aguri
2006 Qualifying - 20th, 2006 Race - 15th

“I am excited to be going back to Japan and to see this new generation of racing emerging. I have never raced in Fuji except when I was cycling, but this is a very famous circuit and its 1.5 kilometre long straight with heavy braking at the end could provide some great overtaking opportunities. Fuji has always provided exciting racing in other categories, so I am sure that we shall have a great Formula One Grand Prix.

“Fuji is close to Tokyo, where I am from, and it is set in the beautiful scenery of the mountains and lakes. I often went driving and cycling there when I raced bikes and it is a good ‘hilly’ training spot. The weather can be inconsistent as it is in the mountains, but on a clear day the view of Mount Fuji is amazing.”