Friday practice - selected driver quotes 28 Sep 2007
Nick Heidfeld on gearbox problems in the BMW Sauber; Spykers Sakon Yamamoto on suffering an engine failure in front of his home crowd; and Renaults Heikki Kovalainen on why the calendars newest circuit is fun to drive. All 22 drivers report back on their early progress at the Fuji Speedway. (Note - all positions and times refer to Practice 2.)
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren (1st, 1m 18.734s):
Its obviously always a challenge to get to know a new track, but I have tried that three times this year already. The engineers and I walked the circuit yesterday, and I was really looking forward to getting in the car this morning. I stayed on the same set of tyres in the first session - just to get a feel for the layout. The grip levels increased throughout, but the challenge is when you dont have a real idea of when the levels will stabilise. I experienced no problems and we found a good basis and made continuous progress. In the second session we focused on some longer runs and everything seems to be going in the right direction.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren (2nd, +0.214s):
I walked the circuit with my engineers on Wednesday which always gives you an initial idea, but today was when the fun started. The track is very challenging but initially it was very dusty and the grip levels were low. In the first session I mainly focused on familiarisation and stayed on the same set of tyres throughout. The second session was when the work really began with tyre comparisons and set-up work. So far so good and we experienced no problems. Both tyre options seem to be working well, and I am looking forward to a competitive weekend.
Felipe Massa, Ferrari (3rd, +0.749s):
On this interesting track, it is not easy to find the right balance between the slower section and long main straight. This morning we were quick and the afternoon, our work was aimed more at the race. We improved the set-up during the day but there is still much to do. However, the first impressions are positive and I think we can be competitive.
Jarno Trulli, Toyota (4th, +0.977s):
Today was a positive start to the weekend. We put a lot of effort into our set-up programme, as well as looking at the tyres. It was a smooth day but we still need to do a bit of work on the car balance and, of course, we will be pushing hard to get even more speed from the car. The circuit did not have much grip today which was as expected but it is in a good condition and the facilities are great - everything looks good here. We are here in Japan for our home Grand Prix so we are working hard to have a good weekend. We are very motivated this weekend and I really hope we can get the best out of the car. I am confident about our chances and tomorrow I expect again to be fighting in the top ten in qualifying.
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (5th, +0.980s):
A good morning followed by a slightly more complicated afternoon. It is quite difficult to find the best set-up on this track, especially for the final sector. This is a demanding track but at the same time it's enjoyable to drive. The car was well balanced; in the second session we tried a change to the set-up which did not produce the expected results and so we went back to the previous one. We have to study the data to find the best settings. Obviously, it is very early to say where we are compared to our main rivals. But in any case, I think it will be a very close fight.
Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (6th, +1.055s):
I am pretty happy after today's sessions. This was our first day at a new track, and I think we did a good job: we completed a lot of laps, there were no problems and the mechanics worked very well to get through the set-up changes in our programme. We made progress with the car all through the day, and I think that once we have gone through the data this evening, we will see that there is still a little bit more performance still to come. In terms of the track itself, I found it quite fun to drive. As we expected, it is very smooth so there are no big problems in terms of our comfort, but I think the key section is definitely the last five turns. They are very slow, and you are always tempted to over-drive this part of the lap. However, the car is very light on downforce because the speeds are low, so you have to be patient and really work hard on the mechanical grip and on being very smooth with the driving style. I think I got to grips with the circuit quickly, and I am looking forward to another competitive day tomorrow.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (7th, +1.192s):
The balance of the car wasn't fantastic this morning, but we made some good changes at lunchtime, and then carried on moving forward during the afternoon session. We did a lot of laps, explored some different directions with the set-up, and we know where we can improve for tomorrow. The track itself is quite nice to drive. We knew it was not going to be a match for Suzuka, but there are still some challenging sections: the final part where you can gain a lot of time, and even the quicker corners through Turns Three/Four/Five, where you need to carry a lot of speed and get the perfect line to be quick. Overall, I think this was a good first day, and now we have to work hard to make more progress overnight.
David Coulthard, Red Bull (8th, +1.215s):
There are tricky elements to the circuit and the last section is particularly difficult with very low grip, so the car was sliding around there. It's pretty challenging. Other than that, there's a very long straight, which there isn't so much to say about. We'll see what we can do in qualifying tomorrow.
Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (9th, +1.235s):
The afternoon session went well after a bit of a problem with oversteer in the morning. The track conditions were tricky because of the low grip but that did gradually improve during the afternoon and the situation was the same for everybody. I must say I am impressed by the circuit here at Fuji Speedway. As a track it is nice and drivable, with an unusual last section. It is a challenge to find the best compromise for the high speeds we need on the start-finish straight, and the grip we need on the infield section. The facilities are obviously very good as well and I particularly enjoy racing in Japan after I spent a season racing Formula Nippon here. I am focused on getting a positive result this weekend and confident we have the opportunity to do that.
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (10th, +1.335s):
It is quite a nice track. I enjoy driving here though it is very tricky with a lot of blind corners, so you dont see the apex on four or five of them. There is also a lot of braking and acceleration. We have done some long runs this afternoon, and now we just have to fix a couple of set up issues and then we will be okay.
Mark Webber, Red Bull (11th, +1.335s):
It's quite a technical circuit, with a very long straight. The second sector has a nice flow to it - it's impressive, but it's difficult to continue to nail the lap through the last sector, which is tricky. It's a good new venue. We seem to be moving in the right direction with the car, we started to find a bit more lap time towards the end of the second session.
Alexander Wurz, Williams (12th, +1.499s):
As a new circuit, Fuji is very interesting. I think it is quite a tricky circuit, especially because in the last half of the lap you have to be very gentle with the car - if you make a mistake you lose half a second, which is really penalising. As a consequence, it requires plenty of discipline. Having worked through our tyre comparison and set-up options, Ive got a pretty clear picture of what the car needs, but even with the car optimised, you cannot change the fact that this is a very tricky circuit, but this will make the weekend interesting.
Nico Rosberg, Williams (13th, +1.536s):
The track here at Fuji is a lot of fun to drive, its very cool. It has taken a bit of time to learn it, so even though weve had two sessions today, there are still some tricks to pick up. In terms of tyres, it is again pretty close between the two options we have, so it will be interesting to see what everyone else does, but regardless, it doesnt seem too complicated and both tyres seem to work well. The circuit has a whole range of demands - low downforce here, high downforce there, so we have been trying lots of options and I think we arrived at some good conclusions for tomorrow.
Jenson Button, Honda (14th, +1.602s):
Everything ran pretty smoothly today as we experienced the new Fuji circuit for the first time. After trying some different set-ups on the car this morning, I felt more comfortable with the balance in the afternoon session and we understand where we are going with the set-up for the rest of the weekend. As for the circuit, I was really pleased with the flow and there are some tight challenging corners towards the end of the lap and a couple of potential overtaking places, so generally I was impressed.
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (15th, +1.728s):
The track is a lot of fun and is much nicer, wider and more fluent than I thought it would be after I saw the sketches. It is very uphill and downhill and on several corners you cant see the apex, in particular this is because we are sitting so low in the cars. I didnt like the cars set-up at all in the first session as the rear was very nervous. It was better in the second, but we still didnt get the balance right. Because of a problem when shifting into seventh gear, I had to stop driving 15 minutes before the end of the session.
Adrian Sutil, Spyker (16th, +2.002s):
It was very much a normal day. The track is very good and it's a lot of fun to drive here with an F1 car. This morning I had a better feeling but we have a lot to do for sure. We had some problems with the harder tyre, they just don't seem to be able to keep their temperature or suit the track conditions. The softer tyre seems to be better and I set my fastest laps in both the sessions on this compound. Every team needs to find a good set-up, but hopefully we can find half a second or so.
Rubens Barrichello, Honda (17th, +2.155s):
I have the same problem here as I had in Spa and the car is running short on aero balance. I just don't have the grip level and the balance that I would like, so we changed some parts on the car this afternoon to see if this helps with the issue. We have a lot of data to look at overnight to try to make some improvements for the morning. I like the circuit here, the only issue is that there are some blind corners so the marshals will need to react quickly with the yellow flags as you are not able to see when coming round some corners, which is what happened when I hit Yamamoto.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso (18th, +2.251s):
It is a nice circuit with changes of gradient as it goes up and down, which is something I like in a track, although it is not particularly difficult. Its a really cool circuit and I particularly like the high speed section. It is also really wide, which means that you can try a few different lines although in the end the right line evolves where the rubber goes down. Overall it was a decent day, with a good run in the morning meaning we could understand what to do in terms of set-up and I learnt the circuit quickly too. On the second run, I did not get a clear lap on new tyres so I think we could have been faster. But I think we got a lot of good data from the long runs regarding set-up and tyre choice, which gives us plenty to work with for tomorrow. A decent Friday.
Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso (19th, +2.263s):
Its a nice circuit and I prefer the first section that has quick high speed corners, while the last part is technically demanding. There are a lot of possible different lines and it is difficult to figure out which is the quickest, as all of them seem to produce similar speed. This makes it harder to set-up the car. Other than that, it has been a normal Friday so there is the usual question mark about fuel loads in the other cars. But my initial feeling is that I am quite happy with how it went today. There are two or three things we can improve. With some work from us and as the track improves, we can move forward.
Anthony Davidson, Super Aguri (20th, +2.273s):
It was a different day for all of us who have not been to the Fuji Speedway before. I enjoyed driving the circuit a lot. It is a big challenge, especially the last sector, and it is a tough one for the engineers to work on as well, finding a good balance between top speed and enough grip around the tricky last sector. I think that we did some good work today with the long run pace and I am pretty happy with the balance on the car.
Sakon Yamamoto, Spyker (21st, +2.571s):
It was the first day for my 'home' Grand Prix. In the morning I had an engine failure and had to stop, which was a bit of a shame as it was the first time we had run here and we wanted to put in as much mileage as possible. But in the afternoon I think we did quite a good job as it all went to plan and I think we have some good data for tomorrow.
Takuma Sato, Super Aguri (22nd, +2.618s):
I had a mechanical problem during the first session which meant that I was only able to complete two outings this morning. We lost a lot of time necessary for the testing you need for a new circuit and because of this we were forced to rush and cut out some of our programme this afternoon. We had to evaluate the balance on long runs for the different downforce levels as this is very important, but it meant that I was not able to set-up the car as I would have liked to and it was more of a data collecting exercise. Hopefully though, with the work that we managed to complete today, we will be able to set-up the car more competitively and have a better day tomorrow.