Japanese Grand Prix - selected preview quotes 03 Oct 2008
After making its return to the calendar last season, the Fuji Speedway plays host to the Japanese Grand Prix again this weekend. With an overtaking-friendly 1.5-km straight, Mount Fuji as a backdrop and the possibility of the same wet conditions seen in 2007, it presents a real challenge to drivers and engineers alike
Nico Rosberg, Williams
2007 Qualifying - 15th, 2007 Race - DNF
After our second place in Singapore, we want to go to Japan with the same momentum and continue our high. Fuji Speedway might not be the best circuit for our car but weather could play a big part in the proceedings this weekend. Last years race was a washout and theres a strong possibility it will rain again this year. If that happens, well have a good chance of a strong finish as our car goes well in the wet. This is Toyotas home track so Im looking forward to driving in front of their home crowd.
Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA
Im really excited about my home Grand Prix and this will be the first time Ive been back to Fuji for three years. It used to be my F3 teams home track so I lived in the area for a year. It feels really good to be going back, and this time Ill be driving a Formula One car so I cant wait. I think there will be some expectation from the fans because Im the only Japanese driver at the moment so Im a bit more nervous for this race. The atmosphere will be great though and Ill just do my best to relax, enjoy the weekend and hopefully bring home some points.
Sam Michael, Williams technical director
After a great weekend in Singapore, we are looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. Its always nice to see the passion that Japan shows for motor racing and the track at Mount Fuji is a great venue. Last years race was dominated by weather conditions. Fog and rain were the main issues over the weekend, and it could be the same this year. The FW30 has always been good in wet weather so we will go there to score points in any conditions.
The track layout is great, with predominantly low and medium speed corners, with the exception of Turns 3, 4 and 5 which offer a high speed combination for the car and drivers to deal with. There are plenty of other corner combinations across the lap which all need to be hooked up in order to bank a competitive lap time so the drivers need to really be on the ball this weekend.
With a very long main straight and two intermediate straights, downforce levels are lower than they usually would be in Fuji due to the drag penalty. Another point to note is the altitude. The track is about 570 metres above sea level so the air pressure will be around 950mbar which will also have to be considered within the set-up.
Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - 13th, 2007 Race - 13th
"I enjoy visiting Fuji Speedway and I was very impressed by the facilities there last season. I am definitely looking forward to having a much luckier weekend at Fuji Speedway compared to Singapore. I have to forget about what happened there because I would have finished in the top six but I had the hydraulic problem, which has not happened before. That was a real shame because now we are five points away from fourth in the constructors' championship. But I have confidence going into the Japanese Grand Prix, which is an important race for us as a team and of course for our Japanese fans. It is impossible for me and the team to push any harder than we have already been doing this season, because we have given everything, but I know our fans will give us great support as always and I will be fighting really hard to get a strong result."
Timo Glock, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA
"Singapore was a good race for me and I was pleased to score five points but we still lost ground in the constructors' championship so we want to hit back immediately and that means scoring plenty of points in the Japanese Grand Prix. This will be my first visit to Fuji Speedway and I am looking forward to it, especially as I am a Toyota driver and I'm sure we will get a lot of support. Having not driven the track before it's hard to make predictions but we have been strong at most races this season and we are very motivated to be competitive again. Singapore was a bit too bumpy for our car so we could not show our true potential but I don't expect the same problem at Fuji Speedway, although from what I have heard the weather can be an issue there. I actually enjoy driving in the rain and I believe it is one of my strong points, so I don't mind what the weather does!"
Pascal Vasselon, Toyotas senior general chassis manager
"The Japanese Grand Prix is a special race for our team and it is important to us to do well. Fuji Speedway has every type of corner; slow, medium and high speed, plus a very long straight. In terms of setting up the car it is challenging because you have to be able to deal with all these situations, although in general you can say that the track requires medium downforce. It is a track which requires our baseline aero configuration. We have put a lot of effort into developing our baseline package throughout the season and we have produced some upgrades for this race. We call it our Fuji package but in fact some bits are already on the car and the most recent items can be used at all the last three Grands Prix of the season. It should help us. It is medium grip and it shows no special severities in terms of tyres or brakes. One other thing we learnt last year was that the weather can be awful! But we saw at Monza that we have strong pace in wet conditions so that does not worry us."
Tadashi Yamashina, chairman and team principal
I am very much looking forward to racing at Fuji Speedway. Last year was the first time in 30 years that the track hosted a Grand Prix and I was very impressed by the circuit. It is not only a home race for the team but it is my home race personally and I will meet several friends and colleagues while I am in Japan. That makes for a very special atmosphere. Of course we will also welcome some of Toyota Motor Corporation's top management to the track so I hope we can give a very strong performance. We want to score a lot of points in the Japanese Grand Prix and hopefully fight for the podium. For the rest of the season it is very important to close the gap on the leading teams because at the moment this is bigger than it should be. We will fight to finish on the podium again and we will continue to pursue our ultimate ambition, which is to win races.
John Howett, President
For our team, there are three home races. The German race is naturally considered to be our local event because we are based in Cologne; obviously it is more local when it is at the Nürburgring but nevertheless Hockenheim is also a home race. The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa is only an hour from our factory but it is also the home event for Toyota Europe, which is based in Brussels. Then we come to Fuji Speedway and the Japanese Grand Prix. It is a very important event for us and it is obviously a home race because Toyota originates from Japan. At all these home races we enjoy a lot of local support and we are especially keen to get the right results.
Fernando Alonso, Renault
2007 Qualifying - 2nd, 2007 Race - DNF
We worked hard to develop some new parts for Singapore, but also for the final three races of the season so I think that we can be on the pace in Fuji. We will give our maximum to try and make that the case and to benefit from the free practice sessions on Friday as much as possible. The circuit has a very long straight and so aero settings will once again be crucial. There are also several medium and low speed corners and the last few turns in particular are taken in second gear. So the team will have to work hard to determine the level of downforce and the mechanical grip which will be especially important in the slow sections. We will be running a similar programme to that which we run at other tracks that we visit once a year.
Nelson Piquet, Renault
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA
Fuji is another circuit that I don't know and that I will have to learn. I will try to get up to speed as quickly as possible on Friday and make the most of the three hours of practice available to me. The team has some data from last year and so I have been preparing with that and will learn more with my engineers during our circuit walk on Thursday. Apparently the Japanese fans are very enthusiastic which makes for a very special atmosphere at the Grand Prix. I can't wait to drive at Fuji as the circuit seems interesting and I'm determined to have a good race, which is what I need.
Bob Bell, Renault technical director
After our result in Singapore we're certainly approaching Fuji with optimism, but we aren't putting any new developments on the car or doing anything special in terms of preparation, other than the normal rigorous approach that we take to each circuit. As we saw last year, rain in that part of the world is a distinct possibility and that could play to our advantage.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 10th, 2007 Race - 5th
I like going to Japan to race, there's a very unique atmosphere there as the fans are always really knowledgable and passionate, and I have a large fan club there! Fuji is an interesting circuit, with the combination of slow corners with that very long straight. It's very different from Suzuka, which was a real drivers' circuit, but it's still a challenge, particularly if conditions are wet. Japan in general has been a good event for me as I've finished nine out of the 11 times there, twice on the podium. I also came fifth last year in very difficult race.
After the last race in Singapore, I think you can't predict any outcome! In my career I don't think I've seen a season that's been so full of twists and unpredictable conditions and results. For us, we have to do what we have been doing - concentrating on our performance, making no mistakes and getting to the end of the race.
Adrian Sutil, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 19th, 2007 Race - 8th
I have raced in Fuji a lot, perhaps more than any other driver in F1 as I spent a year doing Japanese Formula 3 in 2006. I had so many races there that year that it feels like my home track! It's not an easy circuit, there are some particular corners where you have to be smooth and not push too hard and of course there is that long, long straight. This means you'll have to have a compromise set-up to make sure that you don't lose time on the straight, but you need to have a higher level through the slower middle and last sector. Another factor you need to watch is the weather, although after last year I don't think I need to tell anyone about that one!
Between races I went over to Bali for some warm weather training as with so little time between Singapore and Japan it didn't really make any sense to come back to Europe. Even though we were mostly working on European time in Singapore, to return to my home and then come back would be a long trip and you'd still have to adapt to the time difference once you got to Japan. This way, I can have a couple of days' break, do some training and adapt slowly to Asian time.
Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and managing director
In Japan, I expect the same as every time we go racing - reliability, dedication, enthusiasm and passion. I understand it's difficult, but Formula 1 is so competitive now that you can't let your game slip for one second. Of course I'd like to see points and Q2, but let's be realistic.
Colin Kolles, Force India team principal
Japan was two weeks earlier in 2007 and the last race was the middle of October, so we still have some way to go. All the same, we are working to the end of the season as there are still chances there and I don't think anyone would be satisfied if we didn't get any points on board. Obviously we have to try the maximum to score points.You won't find anyone giving up just yet.
(Last year) it was amazing how something that other teams seem to take for granted - just one point - really lifted morale. Japan was also a special place last year for another reason as we were entering the final stages of due diligence with the Mol and Mallya partnership. This secured the team for the long future, so I have very good memories of this race.
Mike Gascoyne, Force India chief technical officer
Fuji is a unique circuit in having a very, very long straight - the longest on the calendar - but the new part of the circuit is very tight with lots of slow corners so it's very much a balance between getting the straight-line speed without compromising the need for speed on the rest of the circuit. We'll obviously run a compromise set-up as you need a balance of what is going to give you a quick lap time in the slower sections with being able to overtake or defend your position on the straight.
The weather at this time of year can be, as we saw last year, very wet and this did play into our hands in 2007 when Adrian drove a great race in the wet conditions. We will have our normal weather predictions and radars to monitor incoming weather, but it can be very variable. This flexibility is something we will factor into our normal race preparation.
We have no real developments planned for the final three races. I think most of the other teams now, going to the flyaway races, will have a pretty standard configuration and will be focussing on next season when the rules will be substantially different. All our engineering effort is now going into 2009.
Jenson Button, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 6th, 2007 Race - 11th
"The Japanese Grand Prix is always a special weekend for the team as our second home race of the season. Racing for a Japanese team, we always have fantastic support and the fans are so enthusiastic that it makes for a great atmosphere. For me, the true home of the Japanese Grand Prix is Suzuka, which is just one of the best circuits in the world, and I can't wait to return there next year. However I did enjoy driving at the Fuji Speedway last year and the circuit has a nice mix of twisty corners and the high-speed pit straight. A lot of the corners have a very late apex, which is quite unusual. It will be a busy week for me as I took part in the annual Tokyo Motorsports Festival in Odaiba on Sunday which is a great event that really allows our fans to get close to the action. From here, we will attend the Honda press conference on Tuesday before heading to Fuji on Thursday to prepare for the race weekend."
Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 16th, 2007 Race - 10th
"(Last year) I was very impressed with the Fuji Speedway. The track is a lot more interesting than we originally thought with a nice flow and some tight challenging corners towards the end of the lap. We had limited dry running last year, and then of course the very wet race, so we don't have a comparison of how the track would be over a normal race weekend. There are a couple of potential overtaking places though, which is always good to see in a new circuit. I always enjoy visiting Japan and you want to do your best at your home race. As Honda drivers, we enjoy some really good support over the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. The fans are such good fun and crazy about Formula One."
Ross Brawn, Honda team principal
For Honda, the Japanese Grand Prix is one of the highlights of the year, and we all take great pride in racing in front of our home fans. This will be my first Japanese Grand Prix with Honda and also my first visit to the Fuji Speedway, so I am very much looking forward to the race weekend. The track had a major facelift before the race returned there last year and by all accounts the facilities and track layout are very impressive. The first two-thirds of the lap are very fast before a complex series of corners through sector three. The weather was the major talking point at Fuji last year, with fog and monsoon-like conditions greatly affecting qualifying and the race. The location of the track in the mountainous region of Mount Fuji ensures that it is susceptible to weather fronts, so we look forward to seeing what challenges will be thrown our way on this occasion."
Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2007 Qualifying - 4h, 2007 Race - 6th
Last year was a very wet weekend in Fuji and a very wet race. It was a very tough event and I eventually finished sixth, which was not a great result at the end of the day. But I do remember that on Friday's sessions, in the dry we had a very strong pace from our package. Of course, that was last year, but I am confident we will be competitive again. The Fuji track was an enjoyable one to drive, at least without the rain!
"As for the championship it depends how you look at it: a seven point gap can be a lot or it can be a little. If you look at what happened to me in Singapore where my gap went from one point to seven so suddenly, then you have to consider it could easily go the other way as well. The most important element to consider is that we have a very good car. Without that, my chances would be much smaller. We have two good cars and we can try and get both of us to finish ahead of our rivals. It can be done and we need to think positive and we need to keep fighting to the last race."
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone Director of Motorsport Tyre Development
"The major feature of Fuji is the very long straight, and this straight goes into a slow corner which will mean some interesting overtaking opportunities. There are only two high speed corners, with the 100R and 300R. We will see dry set-ups with low downforce configurations. The surface is quite smooth, so I do not expect problems with wear. As we saw last year, the biggest challenge could be the weather and I will certainly be bringing wet weather clothing.
"We have learnt a lot from racing in other racing categories at Fuji, such as Formula Nippon and Super GT, over the years and it is from this knowledge that we chose the Formula One tyre position of the medium and soft tyres from our range. Of course, last season we did not see too much dry running, but we know that the 100R corner will be a challenge for graining on the left front tyre. However, if competitors manage this well we are confident of a strong performance from our tyres."
Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 11th, 2007 Race - 2nd
Last year was one of those races where everything went right for me, one of those races where you can perform to a higher level than the car. I didnt qualify too well but kept my head, drove sensibly, didnt make any mistakes and battled with Kimi (Raikkonen) to finish second - my first Formula One podium. It was the highlight of my season. Of course, I love Japan, Im looking forward to visiting Tokyo and also getting back to a circuit where Ive got plenty of good memories.
"There is no single corner at Fuji that particularly contributes to your laptime. Its relatively easy to understand the corners, and its not a particularly tricky circuit. So its a place where you cant afford to make any mistakes, you have to be absolutely precise and extract the maximum from your car to be fast. And thats not easy: youve still got to understand the car and find a good set-up: finding the ideal compromise is the tricky bit.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 1st, 2007 Race - 1st
I love Japan. Last year might have been difficult because of the wet weather and the poor visibility, but I actually really enjoyed that weekend. The Japanese fans are some of my favourite in the world: so passionate, but really polite, charming and respectful. As for the race, one of the questions I get asked most is whether I prefer to drive in the rain: my answer is always the same, Ill race in the wet or dry, I dont mind. But its always easier for us drivers to race in the dry; Id always prefer a dry race. This weekend, Ill be hoping for dry weather for another reason - I want the fans at the track to have the best weekend possible and to enjoy the atmosphere of one of the seasons best races.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Formula One CEO
Its not a particularly extreme circuit; its not a place that really places a premium on the car or the driver - unless its raining, of course. But, as a result, its a circuit where you really benefit from solid, clever engineering rather than raw power or efficient aerodynamics. This year, were bringing a number of smaller components to the car ahead of the race and will be working hard with our engineers to ensure that we can maximise our track time in order to get our cars well-balanced. Of course, we are reliant on good weather - and we learnt last year that this is not always forthcoming when youre racing on the side of a mountain!
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
The 4.5km track at Mount Fuji is quite a difficult task for drivers and engineers. The near-1.5km-long front straight is the longest of all circuits on the Formula One calendar; here the cars race at full throttle for 20 seconds. At Turn 10, the cars reach only about 70km/h. Therefore, it will be quite a challenge for drivers and engineers to find the best compromise for the set-up between the high-speed section and the slow corners. Last years data can only be used in a limited way due to the heavy rain encountered during that event.
Three Grands Prix within three weeks, on two different continents, in three different time zones are a big challenge for all drivers and teams. Since Lewiss victory in Silverstone, where he re-gained the championship lead, McLaren has scored 77 points. Our closest competitors, Ferrari and BMW Sauber, have achieved 43 and 46 points respectively. Lewis scored 46 points during that time. For the seventh time in a row, Lewis arrives at a grand prix as the championship leader. Everybody in the team will work hard to achieve that at the final race in Brazil.
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 5th, 2007 Race - 14th
Firstly, Im hoping Fuji wont bring the kind of torrential rain we had in 2007. Basically I enjoy driving in the rain, but with last years deluge it was just impossible. Visibility was zero, which led to a number of collisions. Somebody drove into my car as well and damaged it. Even so, shortly before the end I was in sixth place, but then an engine problem put me out of the race.
Its a fun circuit. There are lots of uphill and downhill gradients and several blind corners. But Im a bit hard on it as Suzuka was always my favourite GP track. One feature of the Fuji circuit that stands out is its extremely long straight. Its a beautiful landscape, and the road from the hotel to the track could serve as an excellent rally special stage. I hope Mount Fuji is going to show its face again. Overall there doesnt seem to be much going on in the area, but that's fine after all the hustle and bustle of Singapore.
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 9th, 2007 Race - 7th
This season we go to Fuji for the second year in a row. I guess everybody remembers last years Japanese Grand Prix as the weather conditions were crazy. It was extremely wet and visibility was poor. From a drivers perspective the track is very interesting. There are some challenging corners with different radii and also some blind corners. Under dry conditions it was very enjoyable to drive, although the last sector is quite slow as there are a lot of tight corners. As always in Japan, I think the fans will bring a unique atmosphere to the Formula One track. Usually they come to the track early in the morning and leave it after us.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
The spectacular night-race premiere in Singapore is over. For the next two races we will be stopping off in Asia as well, first in Japan and just a week later in China. Some team members flew back to Munich and Hinwil from Singapore, while others stayed on in Asia for a few days relaxation. Others, in turn, are travelling to South Korea, where Nick will be doing some demo drives with the Formula One car on Saturday and Sunday.
The Fuji Speedway celebrated its successful comeback to the F1 calendar in 2007. The circuit is in a picturesque setting in the Japanese Alps, against the backdrop of Mount Fuji that rises majestically behind it. Last year, however, the sacred mountain could only be seen on Friday, and in the sunshine it was the most photographed view. Unfortunately, it then disappeared behind a thick wall of fog and rain and was never seen again. The weather had a profound impact on the entire race weekend in 2007.
After our unlucky experience with the Safety Car regulations in Singapore - the second time this season - which lost us important points, we aim to make up for lost ground in Japan. In the drivers and constructors championships the leaders are bunched close together, which promises plenty of excitement for the remaining races.
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber technical director
After the spectacular night race in Singapore, Formula One will be returning to normality in Fuji. Last year was our first race there, though it was dominated by a very wet track. But we still managed to gather some information in terms of the car set-up.
At around 1.5 kilometres, Fuji boasts the longest genuine straight of any Grand Prix circuit. It means there are real overtaking opportunities. At the same time, the medium-fast and fast turns require plenty of downforce, which calls for a compromise in the aero set-up. In Fuji we drive with medium downforce, comparable to Valencia. Bridgestone supplies the two medium tyre compounds, which shouldnt pose us any major problems.
After Singapores turbulent race, where the safety car phase threw a spanner into the works, we want to achieve a strong points haul with both cars in Japan.
More to follow.