Japanese Grand Prix - team and driver preview quotes 28 Sep 2009
The mere mention of Suzuka sets drivers' pulses racing. This fabulous race track offers every type of corner in the book - from the spectacular esses after the start, to the challenging Spoon curve and the tight hairpin, all the way to the high-speed 130R. This weekend sees the teams return to the classic Japanese circuit for the first time since 2006. To say they are looking forward to it is something of an understatement
Jenson Button, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 18th, 2008 Race - 14th
"Suzuka is such a fun circuit and I have lots of good memories from racing there over the years. It's a very fast-flowing lap and a real drivers' circuit just like Silverstone and Spa. I think everyone has missed having it on the calendar for the last few years. 130R is one of the fastest corners in Formula One and you really have to think about how you approach it. We might not be flat through there this year but it is still a real buzz to take the corner carrying speeds of 300km/h. I've had some moments there in the past! I've always enjoyed great support at Suzuka in the past from the Japanese fans who are so enthusiastic about the sport so we'll be hoping for more of the same this weekend and I can't wait to race there again and put on a great show."
Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 17th, 2008 Race - 13th
"Suzuka is a great race track and we are all really pleased to be returning there for the Japanese Grand Prix this year. Besides being a challenging circuit, Suzuka holds some particularly special memories for me from my win from pole position in 2003. It's a tough circuit because of the corners and the track layout and you have to be precise, consistent and get the balance of the car absolutely right to have a good weekend. Spoon and 130R are the undoubted highlights of the lap. Both turns are part of what makes Suzuka so demanding and such a great challenge for the drivers. Overtaking can be tough and generally happens into the slowest corner on the track, the Casio Triangle, into the fast fifth-gear First Curve or occasionally at the Turn 11 hairpin."
Ross Brawn, Brawn GP team principal
"Suzuka is a fantastic racing circuit and a classic drivers' track so we are delighted to be returning there this weekend. The venue has played host to some great races over the years and with all the hard work that has been undertaken recently to improve the facilities, it should prove to be an even better venue for the Japanese Grand Prix after the three-year break. From Brawn GP's perspective, I was very pleased with how the team recovered well from a problematic qualifying session in Singapore and came away with further valuable points for the championship challenge. We will learn from those experiences and put the lessons in good practice for the final important three races of the season. We were pleased with the performance of the upgrades that we took to Singapore and expect to continue to see the benefits of this package in Suzuka this weekend."
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"We last visited Suzuka in 2006 and a lot has changed in Formula One since then, so teams will have to work hard to understand the circuit with the latest specification cars and tyres. For the younger drivers this will be the first time they visit this circuit so they are set for a delight. The configuration is unique as it is a figure of eight and there are several high speed corners as well as a hairpin, so there is a lot to consider for car set-up and in the race. Interestingly, around half of the track has been resurfaced. The new surface on the east side is very smooth and gives good grip. The older surface on the west side gives less grip than the newer surface on the east side. We will not know exactly how this will affect performance until the cars are running, but it certainly will be a consideration. The circuit layout tests all four corners of the car so a good all-round set-up will need to be found. The best set-up will be the one which allows the best traction, grip and enable quick change of direction from the tyres."
Adrian Sutil, Force India
2008 Qualifying - 19th, 2008 Race - DNF
"I'm really looking forward to this race. I lived in Japan for a year in 2006 when I was competing in Japanese F3 and I know the track very well as we often raced there. It's a brilliant drivers' track, quite difficult to learn, but very rewarding when you get it right. I think our car will perform well there as well - as we've seen, we are very strong on the low and medium downforce tracks and Suzuka should suit us well. I feel very confident on the track and in the car and I am positive this combination will bring us some good results."
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India
2008 Qualifying - N/A, 2008 Race - N/A
"I think for Suzuka we will be in better shape. Singapore was a circuit where it's difficult to get the feeling back, because the concentration is so high, and you have to try and stay away from the walls. It's not a normal situation. But doing the whole race helped me a lot. I think we are getting close to my optimum speed. Now I think we are ready for Suzuka. I've been there once in 2006 and it's a circuit I like. I'm more optimistic for there, because the configuration for our car is somewhere in between Spa and Singapore, so we should be more competitive. This year has been a bit of a crazy year but we cannot complain because we had two good races, Spa and Monza, and there are tracks coming up that will suit us more as well."
Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal
"Suzuka is more low downforce and should suit the car well. Plus both drivers know and enjoy the circuit so their confidence will be high. Vitantonio is now fully up to speed and has completed perhaps the most physical event of the year in Singapore. Adrian too has driven the circuit extensively so I would say we are feeling positive. I'd hope to see another Q2 and then let's see about points in the race. That's got to be our goal going forward for the rest of the season now."
Dominic Harlow, Force India's chief engineer
"A welcome return of possibly the best 'drivers' circuit' in F1. The Suzuka layout is unique in that it is a figure of eight, and the Esses and Dunlop corners as well as the awesome 130R give a real roller coaster lap. It's been partially re-surfaced since we last raced there, so it will be interesting to see how the tyres behave in what has traditionally been a challenging event for them. It's important to have good aerodynamic efficiency and a stable platform to get the best of this track but we expect it to suit our package and drivers well."
Fernando Alonso, Renault
2008 Qualifying - 4th, 2008 Race - 1st
I'm really excited to be returning to this amazing track which is one of my favourites. I have some great memories from Suzuka as I won the race there in 2006, which was a very important result for the championship. Also my battle with Michael Schumacher in 2005 is something that I will always remember. Japan is certainly one of the most enjoyable races of the season because there is a special atmosphere and the fans always show their enthusiasm in a respectful way. I think all the drivers enjoy the high-speed corners of Suzuka, but it's also a technical track which gives the engineers a big challenge. In terms of set-up, you have to work hard to make sure you have a car with a good front end for the changes of direction, and a stable rear so you have the confidence to attack the high-speed corners. The Esses section is an important part of the lap as you have to cope with fifteen seconds of continuously changing direction, so its very demanding physically. You also need to keep your concentration as there is only one line through the corners and any mistakes cost you a lot of time.
Romain Grosjean, Renault
2008 Qualifying - N/A, 2008 Race - N/A
Suzuka is a circuit that I've never been to, but I have always dreamed of racing there as it's one of the special circuits of the world. I have seen the track on television many times so I know the layout and cannot wait to drive the quick corners like 130R. I hope that my luck will change in the races as I have yet to have a normal race without any problems. If I can have some trouble-free races then hopefully I can help the team score some important points, which is what we need for the fight in the constructors' championship.
Bob Bell, Renault team principal
The (Singapore) result obviously lifts the spirits of the whole team enormously and will be fresh in everyone's mind as we have back-to-back races this weekend. The team will therefore arrive in Japan feeling very upbeat. The race in Japan might not be the easiest for us, but I think the level of motivation will be much higher. It's an interesting venue and it's quite challenging for an older circuit. It requires a good balance and a medium to high downforce set-up, but braking performance is less important there, which will assist with the problems Romain had. It has some corners that are very challenging for the drivers that require a lot of commitment and are rewarding to drive. Overall, it's a circuit were we have done well in the past and Fernando particularly likes Suzuka so he will relish the challenge this weekend.
Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 14th, 2008 Race - 15th
I kind of grew up around Suzuka. I have been to the circuit many, many times and its the place where I started karting. Ive also watched countless races there, not just Formula One races, but many other forms of Japanese motorsport, so going to Suzuka feels like going home. Apart from a short trip last April, I havent been there for the past four years so it will be almost like a new experience. Overall, its just a very nice place and I cant wait to get there.
Suzuka has a very technically challenging layout. Its designed in a figure of eight shape, which has a mix of 16 slow and fast corners around the lap. One of my favourites is the famous 130R which is really unforgiving. Its a really quick circuit so you have to make sure you have a well balanced set-up or youre just punished the whole way round. The one thing you have to be careful of in Japan at this time of year is the weather which can be really variable, but that could just make it more exciting!
Nico Rosberg, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 15th, 2008 Race - 11th
I am now looking forward to Suzuka because I think we can do well there. Personally, I think the track is one of the best on the calendar, up there with Spa. Its also a good venue for Formula One because the fans are so enthusiastic which is always great. I haven't been to Suzuka for three years now but I felt really comfortable on the track the last time that I raced there I am looking forward to driving it again.
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2008 Qualifying - 2nd, 2008 Race - 3rd
Suzuka is a very demanding track, from a technical point of view, especially in terms of aerodynamics. You need a lot of downforce and honestly, we do not have enough to fight for the top places. All the same, we will do everything we can to get the most out of the potential at our disposal.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari
2008 Qualifying - 20th, 2008 Race - DNF
I have not lost heart and I am looking forward to putting on a good show in front of the enthusiastic crowd, including members of my Japanese fan club. Ive only been with Ferrari for a few weeks, but Ive found out that this team is made up of people who never give up and I am sure that, thanks to everyones hard work, we will once again be able to secure some good results in these final three races, starting in Suzuka.
Jaime Alguersuari , Toro Rosso
2008 Qualifying - N/A, 2008 Race - N/A
I have been to Suzuka before, back in 2005 for a karting race, the Asia-Pacific World Cup, although of course we werent racing on the F1 track! I was leading the race on the final lap, but I crashed with Kazuki Nakajima at the last corner and ended second. Being in Japan for the first time was an amazing experience and it felt like another world to me. Its a dream to now be able to drive on the real circuit, after having seen it while I was there. Ive driven it on the simulator and also on a computer game. I hope we can have a successful weekend.
Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso
2008 Qualifying - N/A, 2008 Race - N/A
Ive been to Japan, as I drove the Medical Car last year in Fuji, but Ive never been to Suzuka. Ive been on the simulator to practice the track, which looks great, so Im very much looking forward to driving it for real. Ive heard that they have resurfaced the track and got brand new facilities in the paddock with new pits. I think it is one of the best circuits in the world, so I cant wait to get there. Japan is very strange and completely different to what we are used to in Europe. Ive been to Tokyo, which is fantastically modern, although the people wear some rather funny clothes! I got a good impression while I was there, in that the people treat one another with a lot of respect and everything is very clean. As for the race, I think we can do well, as we will have a new update on the car. In Singapore, we were a bit more competitive than in past races and I think we could be even better in Japan.
Sebastian Vettel , Red Bull
2008 Qualifying - 9th, 2008 Race - 6th
Suzuka is the best track in the world. I drove the two hours of Friday free practice here at the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix. The first hour was wet, which was pretty scary as I didnt know where the track went. Im looking forward to racing there as its one of the most challenging circuits with a lot of high speed corners. Its enjoyable and I think it should suit our car. I like the culture and the people in Japan. Last year, I climbed Mount Fuji and Ive also spent time in Tokyo. The food is great, although maybe not all of it! Everything about the place is very disciplined and ordered, which I like.
Mark Webber , Red Bull
2008 Qualifying - 13th, 2008 Race - 8th
Fourth is my best result here, for Williams in 2005, the penultimate time we raced at Suzuka. It was a bit of a classic with Raikkonen and Alonso coming through from the back. Kimi took the lead on the last lap and I had a good battle with Fernando in the middle of the race. Its a sensational circuit and Ive even got good memories of watching the 8 Hours motorcycle race on TV, as a lot of Australians ride in that race. The crowd are pretty close to the Italians in terms of how knowledgeable and passionate they are, although theyre also very reserved. When I walk into the track, going through the amusement park, you can really feel that Suzuka has got something about it that makes it special.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 1st, 2008 Race - 12th
It feels like Ive been waiting my whole life to race at Suzuka - so, as you can imagine, Ill be really excited when practice starts there on Friday morning. Ever since I was a kid, Ive raced Suzuka on computer games - and while it kind of gives you an idea of how the circuit goes, nothing can beat the real thing. It looks like a real drivers circuit - the first sector esses look very demanding and the higher speed corners towards the end of the lap will probably require real precision and a good car set-up. Im also really looking forward to returning to Japan - its one of my favourite countries and I love racing in front of the Japanese fans. It should be a great weekend.
Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 3rd, 2008 Race - DNF
I had one of my greatest Formula One drives in Japan, in the wet race at Fuji in 2007 when I finished second behind Lewis, so I have some fantastic memories of the country. While Im really looking forward to racing at a classic racetrack like Suzuka for the first time, I dont think the circuit will be ideal for our package: its a bit of a mix of places like Silverstone and Istanbul, with high speed corners, and will require a car with good downforce and mechanical and aero balance. But, that doesnt put us off: the improvements weve made to the car over the course of the season have been genuinely remarkable and I think we still go to Japan confident that we can do a very good job.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
Along with Spa-Francorchamps, Suzuka is one of Formula Ones greatest circuits, and one that every driver relishes. Certainly, McLaren has had more than its fair share of spectacular moments there - weve won at Suzuka on six occasions, and I vividly remember the 2005 race, when Kimi (Raikkonen) took the lead on the final lap of one of the most spectacular Grand Prix I have ever witnessed. For 2009, we go to Japan knowing that overall victory will not be easy to achieve - but the improvements we evaluated in Singapore, particularly some useful changes to the floor, should give us a competitive boost and it will be interesting to see how our pace translates against that of our rivals.
Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President
From a teams and drivers perspective, the Japanese Grand Prix is one of the biggest challenges of all 17 races this year. The track layout offers everything from the ultra-fast 130R corner to a slow hairpin. With Kimi Räikkönen we won there in 2005. With two race wins and 45 points from the last five races, the final one being last Sunday in Singapore, our team has continued this upwards trend. I dont think well be among the favourites for victory at Suzuka; however, everybody in the team is working hard to conclude the season with further good results in Japan and the following races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 16th, 2008 Race - 9th
"I'm thrilled that my favourite Formula One circuit is back on the calendar. It will be interesting to see what changes it has in store for us. I know the track has been partly resurfaced, and there's always the possibility of the forces of nature intervening - we've already had an earthquake and a close call with a typhoon. The weather is always an issue and there's been torrential rain often enough in Suzuka. It's quite a long circuit, very varied, and it flows beautifully. The first section with its double-apex right-hander and sequence of esses is really superb. But you have to get into the flow properly; if you make a mistake in one turn, you'll mess up all the rest.
"I really enjoy going to Japan. The first time round I didn't immediately take to it, but since then I've become a great fan. I just love the food and the unique atmosphere. I'll be spending a few days in Tokyo ahead of the race in Suzuka."
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 6th, 2008 Race - 2nd
"I am really looking forward to going racing in Suzuka again. The circuit is one of the most exciting tracks to drive on - for me it is one of the best circuits in the world. There are a lot of really challenging high-speed corners, especially the 130R which is really fast. The fans there are fantastic. In 2006 a lot of them in the grandstands stayed at the circuit until very late in the night. They are really passionate and enjoy Formula One a lot."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director
"It's one race chasing the next on the home straight of the 2009 Formula One season. Seven days after the night race in Singapore we've got the next round in Suzuka, Japan, which completes the back-to-backs in a region that is extremely important for the BMW Group. This circuit is one of the most challenging for the drivers, making it a real favourite among them and the fans. A well-balanced car is a must in Suzuka. But it's a tough track for the engine experts as well: in the ultra-fast 130R turn you get lateral acceleration forces of up to 6g and it's essential the oil keeps flowing."
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering
"With its many fast corner combinations, the Suzuka Circuit is one of the most challenging in the Formula One calendar. The gradients also contribute to making this a true race track. The esses in the first sector are crucial to lap times: you can lose a lot of time there if you don't follow the ideal line. It's a unique sector, no other Formula One circuit has anything like it. There's also the tight hairpin, but the dominant feature are the medium and high-speed corners. It's a real contrast to Singapore's city circuit which has more of a stop-go rhythm. That's why the car's balance is so important in Suzuka. As for configuration, we'll be setting the car up with a high downforce level similar to that in Singapore."
Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 7th, 2008 Race - 5th
"I am excited to be returning to Suzuka because it is a very technical and challenging circuit which I like very much. There are a lot of high-speed corners and quick changes of direction so it is a bit like Spa in that sense and it is one of my favourite circuits. I am particularly looking forward to seeing what changes have been made to the facilities; although I am pleased the lay-out is the same with just resurfacing. Japan is the home Grand Prix for the team so I will give my all to get the best result for Toyota and our Japanese supporters. I have a special relationship with the Japanese fans so I really enjoy visiting the country; they are always so supportive and enthusiastic. It is a special atmosphere. I had a disappointing weekend in Singapore but Suzuka is a totally different track and we should be competitive there; we hope to be very strong so I hope to race well and get a result to match."
Timo Glock, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 8th, 2008 Race - DNF
"Suzuka is a really special circuit. It is very fast and the first sector is just unbelievable in a Formula 1 car; a really enjoyable experience. It is five years since I drove a Formula 1 car at Suzuka but the lay-out hasn't changed and I'm sure the fans will still make it a pleasure to race there. It's a really good fun circuit to race at because not only is the lay-out so fantastic, the fans make it feel special too, especially when you are a Toyota driver. It's not an easy track to drive and you really have to be completely concentrated to get the best lap time but this makes it so much fun. It was fantastic to finish on the podium in Singapore. I would love to be challenging for the podium again in Toyota's home race to give something back to our team's; that would be a great result. Standing on the podium for Toyota in Japan would be perfect."
Tadashi Yamashina, Toyota team principal
"We are very much looking forward to our home Grand Prix. After two great years at Fuji Speedway the race returns to Suzuka this season but despite the change of venue we are equally determined to achieve a positive result. We will have a lot of encouragement from our fans, our partners and Toyota employees at this race which is very motivating for the whole team. This creates some positive pressure because we know our supporters are hoping for a strong result and we are determined to meet their expectations. Everyone back in Cologne has worked extremely hard to develop the new package we saw in Singapore and will use again in Japan. This shows we are fighting for every 10th of a second right to the end of the season."
More to follow.