Japan preview quotes - Virgin, HRT, Bridgestone, Williams & more 05 Oct 2010
With just four rounds remaining and both titles far from decided, the championship heads to the legendary Suzuka circuit for next weekends Japanese Grand Prix. The fans are fanatical, in the truest sense of the word; the track is widely considered one of the best on the calendar; and it even has its own theme park. No wonder everyone in the paddock is itching to get there. The drivers and senior team members look ahead to the race and discuss their prospects
Timo Glock, Virgin
2009 Qualifying - 14th, 2009 Race - DNS
We head to Japan with another strong weekend under our belts in Singapore. The first part of our two-phase upgrade was working well and I had a good time in the wet to drying conditions. I think we can expect similarly wet weather in Japan - the early forecasts are for a strong chance of rain during all the running sessions and possibly during the race. And of course we have the second part of our upgrade with some new aero developments which I think will help us. It is of course exactly one year since I had my accident at this track, but I dont have any reservations about coming back. The big cut to my leg healed completely and I have no residual effects. I always find Japan such an interesting experience and this is such a great technical circuit which I enjoy, so I am sure that getting the most from the car here in another crucial race for us will be my sole focus.
Lucas di Grassi, Virgin
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a
Suzuka is likely to be the most technical circuit of the year, so it will be a great challenge to get up to speed as I did in Singapore. It is another new track for me but I am pleased with the way I have adapted well to the circuits which I have no prior experience of racing at. I was particularly pleased with my performance in Singapore following my first experience of the track in Free Practice Two. I will have a similar challenge in Japan but I have done a lot of preparation work with my engineers and on the simulator, so Im looking forward to racing at this fantastic track. It is obviously a great technical challenge, so Im optimistic that our new developments will give us what we need to end the weekend ahead of our immediate competition.
John Booth, Virgin team principal
This current batch of races sees us heading back and forth to this part of the world on three separate occasions, but every race brings fresh challenges and enhances our development so we are enjoying our global tour. We obviously look forward to every Grand Prix of our debut season but there is no doubt that it is the circuits that are the most technically challenging that we all find particularly appealing. Suzuka is one such circuit, a real classic which has been entertaining us all for many years with the spectacular racing it regularly provides. The track is very quick with a great combination of corners and the figure-of-eight section which marks it out as unique. We can always expect the weather to throw up some interesting curveballs here but Singapore showed that we can make the best of variable conditions. We have the second part of our final major upgrade of the season and we hope the new aerodynamic developments will help us to continue our current trend of closing the gap to the established teams.
Dr Colin Kolles, HRT team principal
The Suzuka circuit is one of the best circuits ever for me. It is very challenging for the drivers and it offers almost every type of corners. There are many exciting and high-speed ones, especially the 130R. If the drivers make a mistake in one of the first seven corners, they pay for it even longer and cannot set their best lap time. To find a good rhythm in the car is of prime importance as well as a good car performance. After our unfortunate race in Singapore, we look ahead and want to bring both cars to the finish line again.
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"Suzuka is a wonderful circuit and one which is very challenging for drivers and tyre engineers alike. As we found last year, there is a newer track surface on the east side of the circuit and this delivers different grip levels from those found on the older surface of the west side. The nature of the track with its figure of eight configuration tests the cars all round handling characteristics and all four tyres will be subject to many stresses. A set-up which gets the best from traction and grip, whilst allowing quick changes of direction from the tyres is required at Suzuka. This circuit is also the 'mother circuit' for Bridgestone's Formula One tyres. It is here where we first tested and developed our tyres for Formula One over 14 years ago, so it is emotional for us to return here in the final year of our Formula One participation."
Rubens Barrichello, Williams
2009 Qualifying - 5th, 2009 Race - 7th
I love going to this race, its in my top three of all the tracks we visit. Its a big effort to get there, especially from Brazil, but you quickly forget about that when you engage first gear and leave the garage for the first time. Suzuka is a lovely circuit. Its a very high-speed track and has lots of high-speed corners. You really have to be on it all the time. Im fortunate enough to have raced in Japan since 1993 and its wonderful to keep going back. We will have to wait and see how we go but I am optimistic that we can do well again this weekend.
Nico Hulkenberg, Williams
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a
Ive never been to Japan before. Ive heard good things about it though so Im really looking forward to this trip. As I obviously havent driven the track before either, Ive been preparing on the simulator at the factory. Ive also been going through data with my engineers to be in the best position I can be when I get there. It looks like its going to be a fun track to drive. I think it will be important to get a good rhythm in the corners and there will be some challenging areas, but I like that. Ill have the new diffuser in Japan so that will help me. We will have to wait until Friday to see where we are and go from there, but Im looking forward to another good weekend and bringing some more points home for the team.
Sam Michael, Williams technical director
Suzuka is a high-downforce circuit with a figure-of-eight layout. The track has it all, but one of its highlights is the fantastic Esses section. Being able to deliver a strong sector time across that part of the lap is one of the best indicators of a drivers ability. Both cars will be running our final upgrade components and we expect to run them all weekend. Our target will be for both FW32s to be fighting for points among the top 8 contenders and to therefore be racing for points.
Robert Kubica, Renault
2009 Qualifying - 7th, 2009 Race - 9th
Suzukas hard, its the most challenging circuit and its very, very fast. If you count the number of really high-speed corners, taken in fourth gear or above, I think its the most of any circuit on the calendar. The first sector is incredible: the Esses are like a rollercoaster, flipping the g-forces from side to side through very long corners, and its tough to keep the correct line, especially because if you make a mistake in one corner, you carry it for a long time through the next corners. Plus, there are a couple of low-speed corners, and the chicane where you have very heavy braking and its possible to overtake.
You have a very small margin for mistakes in Suzuka because there are no tarmac run-off areas, so as soon as you make a mistake, youre in the gravel. Often, when youre outside the car you dont realise that the drivers are making mistakes, because you see them put a wheel over the kerb and on the run-off area, then they come straight back on the track. But Suzuka doesnt work like that: if you go off with one wheel, you dont come back.
I think our performance will continue along similar lines, and we have some tough competitors around us. Of course, we will try our best, but I dont think the end of the season will necessarily be the easiest one for us. We do not have big new developments coming, so it will depend a lot on how much development other people bring to the car. This will have a big influence on where we end up and how good our end to the season will be.
Vitaly Petrov, Renault
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a
I came back to Europe straight after the Singapore race. I did some training as usual and then I came to the UK to visit the factory for a few days to meet with my engineers and discuss what happened in Singapore and to learn from it. Of course, we have also been doing our preparation for Suzuka and the engineers have given me some data from last year to look at.
I know Suzukas a very famous circuit and its nice to go there for the first time. Its hard for me to say more because I really dont know what to expect. It will be a totally new experience for me, but I know already from talking with my engineers that its quite a tricky circuit. I hope the car will be good there, but the start of the lap looks very quick and challenging with lots of changes of direction. If you get one corner wrong, you really suffer in the other corners. I think its also important we make sure the F-duct works well there because a lot of the lap is full throttle and the straights are quite long.
Cosworth, engine suppliers to Williams, Lotus, Virgin & HRT
The Suzuka Circuit is often cited alongside Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone as one of a Formula One drivers favourite circuits, and it is clear to see why. A versatile mix of high and low speed corners of different configurations around an almost 6km long track shaped like a figure 8, Suzuka is a technically, physically and mentally challenging race circuit. Then there is the ultra-fast 130R turn, corner 15 of 18, arguably one of the sternest tests of the season for car and driver alike.
At Suzuka, more than most other places, success will be a result of all parameters working in harmony - chassis, engine, tyres and driver. Such is the complexity of the track, teams generally find it tough to pinpoint the optimum set-up for the weekend, so trouble-free track time in free practice will be important to evaluate the multitude of options.
Engine performance alone is not a key indicator of car performance around Suzuka, although it plays an important role. Drivers will need to be quick on the throttle heading out of the Spoon curve in order to maximise their run through 130R, the quickest part of the track where engine power will come to the fore. The S curves at the start of the lap are another special feature of Suzuka with quick change of direction crucial to a competitive first sector.
Kamui Kobayashi, BMW Sauber
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a
I am Japanese and therefore the Suzuka round is my home race, although I have not spent too much time in Japan over the last seven years. I was 17 years-old the last time I raced in Japan. Of course I know the circuit quite well after having driven there last year for Toyota in free practice before the Grand Prix. I find the circuit very nice, and I really like every inch of it. It is a challenging track over the entire lap. I think our car will be good in Suzuka. It is very exciting for me to be going there, and I know there will be a lot of supporters. There is a special area for my fans, and the 2000 tickets were sold out quickly. I left for Japan straight after the race in Singapore. Beside the race preparation, the food and the Japanese spa treatments are something to look forward to.
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2009 Qualifying - 6th, 2009 Race - 6th
I am really looking forward to the race in Suzuka. It is my favourite of all Formula One circuits and, on what will be my second race weekend with the team, of course I will know a lot more about the car, which should help. On top of that I just love going to Japan. This time I will not be visiting Tokyo, but even Suzuka, where actually there is not much going on, is still the Japan I enjoy. I like the food, the culture and the excitement of the fans. They enjoy the Japanese Grand Prix so much, and this is very nice to see. The Suzuka lap has a very nice flow and a great variety of characteristics. The Esses in the first sector are especially beautiful. If you get these S corners right it is incredible fun.
James Key, BMW Sauber technical director
Its great to go to Suzuka, which is Kamuis home race. Its a personal favourite of mine as well. I have some fond memories from past events, and the atmosphere there is excellent. Im sure Kamui will have a lot of support from his fans. As far as the track is concerned, its a favourite with the drivers and teams. Its one of those high speed circuits with a lot of high speed corners and sharp changes of direction. Its quite technical, and its a good challenge for the drivers and the engineers to set up the car. Im hoping its a circuit which suits our car better than recent ones, but you never know until you get there. Hopefully it will be a little easier to find a good balance on Friday. As far as the car is concerned, we are taking the updates weve had in Singapore. We will do further work on them to try and get more out of them in Suzuka, which is a slightly more normal circuit than Singapore. Also we will have a few additional new items which we will test on Friday.
Adrian Sutil, Force India
2009 Qualifying - 4th, 2009 Race - 13th
Suzuka is one of my favourite circuits, so I always look forward to going there. Plus going back to Japan always feels a little like going home as I lived there for a year in 2006 when I was competing in Japanese F3. I have really good memories of my time in the country. I raced at Suzuka four times that year and then also went out in free practice with Midland so along with Silverstone and Hockenheim, it's my 'home' race as there's so much history there.
The track itself is a real driver's circuit. There is just about every corner you could imagine and each one presents its own challenges. The 130R is just awesome. You're just flat out in seventh and it bends so you are completely on the limit. It really rewards you if you get it right - I can remember last year taking it in the wet at almost dry level of speed, just the best feeling.
Last year we had a pretty promising event in Suzuka. I was fourth on the grid, which was really good, but then we had all the penalties for the yellow flag incident so I started eighth and the race didn't turn out really well. But all the same the pace was there and we could again show everyone that we were serious racers. I believe it should be possible to have a decent result there this year. Although the car is more competitive on all types of tracks now, we do still have more of an advantage on the low downforce configurations so I would hope we'd be as competitive as we were at Spa and Monza this year. Top ten in qualifying and then in the race are possible and we've got to do it as the pressure is really on to keep sixth in the constructors' championship.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India
2009 Qualifying - 19th, 2009 Race - 14th
I know Suzuka well as I raced there in 2006 and then again last year. It's one of the old-school circuits still left in the championship like Spa and Monza - it's a real man's circuit and one of the toughest of the year. We saw last year that the wet conditions can also really upset the balance so it takes every bit of concentration you have and you must be on the top of your game. I really enjoy the high-speed technical corners, especially the first sequence where you have to be very accurate.
Based on our performance since the summer break I would say our car is better suited to this kind of circuit than the high downforce tracks, so I believe this will be one of our big chances to increase the gap to Williams. I was disappointed to go out so early in Singapore and not be able to help the team, but it was a racing incident that we just have to accept and hope won't happen again at this really important stage in the season.
We've got a couple of new aero tweaks to improve our performance this race so that will be a big help in this battle, but most importantly it will be pulling together as a team and really focussing on what we have to do this race.
Paul di Resta, Force India test and reserve driver
Unfortunately I won't be out in FP1 in Japan, for similar reasons to Singapore - it's such an important time in the year that we need to play the team game and give ourselves every advantage we can. Plus the team will have some new aero tweaks to try out so Adrian and Tonio need the time to get used to them and give some feedback for the race.
As I've not seen the track before and in fact never been to Japan it will still be another new experience for me. Suzuka is one of those places you hear so much about - all the drivers love it and talk about the challenges of each corner so I can't wait to see it for myself. Plus there's so much history about it, with world championships decided there some years, so I'm sure it will be a very special place to be at, particularly when there's so much at stake this year as well.
Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal
Singapore was a so-so event for us as we saw: qualifying was disappointing, but we were happy with the way things went eventually in the race in that we scored points and demonstrated a good race pace. Adrian finished eighth on the road, which was a credible achievement after starting 15th. It was unfortunate for Tonio but it was a racing incident that can, and does, happen.
The next race is Suzuka and I'm looking forward to it as I feel we have a chance to be a bit more competitive - I would hope we could show a level of performance similar to Spa this year. Our car favours the low downforce tracks slightly more than the high such as Singapore, and whether it's wet or dry, both drivers love it, which gives extra confidence.
I'm not going to repeat our objective as everyone knows what we want and need to achieve in terms of points to maintain position. We are giving ourselves every tool we have available - we have another aero development package to put on the car with a couple of bodywork tweaks to eke out every possible performance advantage. The drivers are fully motivated as well - we all know what's at stake.
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP
2009 Qualifying - 11th, 2009 Race - 5th
"Suzuka is a great race track and personally I think it is one of the best on the calendar, along with Spa. It is technically challenging, really quick and just a real drivers' circuit which demands the best out of you and the car. The first sector is definitely the highlight of the lap and part of what makes the whole layout so demanding. We've had a decent run of results, considering our performance, with one sixth place and two fifth places so we will be hoping to continue that at Suzuka."
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a
"Suzuka was always one of my favourite circuits of the year as driving the track is simply sensational in parts. Suzuka is technically demanding and has interesting corner combinations so it was a really good feeling when you got it together. I am heading to Japan with some good memories in mind as the track in Suzuka was the scene of some great races for me. Obviously I hope that we can add more and I am definitely up for the challenge. I am sure we will try to get the maximum out of our weekend."
Ross Brawn, Mercedes GP team principal
"Suzuka has hosted some great races over the years and it is one of those tracks that is considered a real classic by drivers and fans alike. The improved circuit and paddock facilities were very impressive last year with the organisers putting on a great show. The last three races have been particularly good for us with regard to our work at the track as a team and our run of points finishes so we will be aiming to continue this trend throughout the final four races."
Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"The layout of the Suzuka circuit is one of the drivers' favorites on the Formula One calendar. This race in Japan is very special and very demanding for the drivers, teams and cars. As in the last races, our target is to score points and to do the best possible job. We know that we are not yet in a position to win but whilst our technical developments are concentrated on next year's car, our team at the track will be fully focused on the last four races of the season."
Jenson Button, McLaren
2009 Qualifying - 7th, 2009 Race - 8th
Ive spent such a large part of my Formula One career working in Japan that I almost consider it something of a second home nowadays. Tokyo is one of the greatest cities in the world - just an endlessly exciting place to discover and explore, and Suzuka is the perfect venue for the Japanese Grand Prix - one of the worlds truly great circuits, and a supreme challenge for any racing driver.
I love the whole Suzuka experience - the fact that its a real trek to reach from Europe, the amusement park that you walk through to get to the paddock, the incredibly loyal and friendly Japanese fans - who cheer me on all weekend - and the whole atmosphere, which is invariably extremely tense and frantic, because the race always plays such a decisive role in the outcome of world championships.
Ive had some great results at Suzuka, but Ive never won in Japan. I think its a circuit that suits my style - its all about scrubbing off as little speed as possible through the corners and maintaining a very smooth and precise rhythm: get it wrong and youre usually scrabbling to regain your momentum for several more corners. Its a punishing place.
I think the world championship is still completely open: obviously, theres no room for mistakes, but any of the top five drivers could easily steal the title. It might seem a disadvantage to be behind in the points standings, but, make no mistake, I know I can win this championship. Im still as determined as ever to keep the number one on my car for 2011.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2009 Qualifying - 3rd, 2009 Race - 3rd
The first two Japanese Grands Prix of my Formula One career were held at the Fuji Speedway. While thats a great circuit, on arrival at Suzuka for the first time last year, it was clear that this was one of the great racetracks of the world.
Its a real drivers circuit - you need to be committed and precise to do well there, and theres no room for error either: no Tarmac run-off, and all the barriers are pretty close, so any mistake is going to hurt your chances big-time.
Its also a place with a lot of history. Before I first went there, it was a place I always associated with Senna and Prost, and their incredible rivalry. But it only ever existed on the television screen - walking the track for the first time, and knowing I was standing on the same spot of Tarmac where two giants of the sport traded blows was an exciting experience.
Suzuka is very much unfinished business for me. I raced the best I could last year, but our car just wasnt fast enough. This year, Im holding nothing back - I need a strong result to get my title hopes back on track, and that will be my complete focus from the moment I first sit in the cockpit on Friday morning.
Now is not the time to hold back; now is the time to fight.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
The bald facts show that weve only managed to get one car to the finish of each of the last four Grands Prix. While that doesnt make for positive reading, its perhaps too stark an illustration of our overall competitiveness. And it certainly doesnt reflect the level of dedication and commitment thats come from every single team member.
We have worked with unstinting focus and dedication throughout this whole season. And our current positions in both the drivers and constructors world championships are just the spur we need to raise our game and attack these final four races of the season with real vigour.
Of course, any team would tell you that it deserves to have scored more points this season, but weve been unusually unfortunate recently. As an organisation, of course, we dont rely on luck - but Im optimistic in thinking that our fortunes are due a change, and that we can all raise our game as we head into these final four races.
Perhaps our recent misfortunes are exactly whats needed to strengthen our approach and further narrow our focus. We are on the attack: we know all about taking the fight to the end, and I know I can rely on every single individual within this organisation to make sure were hitting with absolutely everything we have until the very end of the season.
Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus
2009 Qualifying - 9th, 2009 Race - 11th
First I want to thank the boys at Williams for their help with the little incident that brought my Singapore GP to an end. Ive had an amazing response to putting out the fire, and while it was clearly the best way to stop what would have been a very dangerous situation, if Id come into the pits, it was a pretty spectacular end to a great race. We were racing Michael (Schumacher) and Sebastien (Buemi) for position, and made the right call to fight them as hard as we could. It didnt pay off this time, but not taking the easy option of just getting the car home shows what were made of, and thats a very good feeling.
After the race the whole team flew into Kuala Lumpur in a team-branded AirAsia plane. That was pretty cool - getting on board an aircraft with my race number at the back, and all the seats in green and yellow - it shows just how dedicated AirAsia are to our team, and it was an awesome feeling taking off and landing back at the teams other home in KL. I had a couple of days staying with our Chief Exec and managed to get some golf in, and then went for a few days of relaxation before making the trip to Japan. I love Japan - its a bit mad, but in a really good way. The fans are pretty hardcore - they know more about the drivers than we do, and the track itself is obviously great to race on. I think well do pretty well there. Its quick, and you need a good rhythm to get the best lap times, but experience and concentration play a big part, and I cant wait to get back in the car.
Jarno Trulli, Lotus
2009 Qualifying - 2nd, 2009 Race - 2nd
After what had been a very busy Singapore race I joined the team for the flight to KL before heading back to Europe. Seeing how everyone responded to our plane was really cool. Its the sort of thing that makes the guys in the team very proud and seeing how excited all the AirAsia staff were about seeing us on board was very special.
Coming back to Japan is something Im looking forward to. I really like the track and last year was on the podium in second place. I know we wont be repeating that this year, but I think well be ok. Everyone in the team is pumped up for the final few races, and we want to focus on beating our nearest rivals. Were in a good fight, and the fans are being given some great action to keep an eye on further down the grid, so well do our best to reward them.
Tony Fernandes, Lotus team principal
Im just about over the excitement of the Singapore race! Seeing Heikki stay so cool under pressure really drove it home to me just how tough the drivers are - first making the decision to fight Michael and Buemi, and not let them pass just to bring the car home, lifted the spirits of everyone in the team after what had been a very long, hot weekend. Then having the clarity of thought to pull over in the right place, get out and sort out the problem - I think that gained him a whole new level of respect and its that fighting spirit that we love. Maybe less of the fire fighting in future, but not one bit less of the aggression.
"This has already been an incredible season, and it is a credit to everyone in our team that there is so much interest around the world in our future. We have achieved so much in one year, and, while nothing in life worth having is easy, when we savour victory the taste will be that much sweeter. For every single person who has given us support, praise and encouragement we thank you. We will leave no stone unturned to be the best."
Mike Gascoyne, Lotus chief technical officer
Suzuka is a classic race venue, one that really brings out the best in the car and the drivers. The team have had a bit of time off to recharge their batteries since Singapore, and I think theyll get to Japan ready to get straight back to work and help us secure tenth place. As most of the efforts back at the factory have now been focused on the 2011 car for several months, we wont be bringing any new updates to Japan, but its obviously good to see that even though our direct rivals are continuing to update their cars, we can still take the fight to them. Singapore was a great battle, and had Heikki not had to do his fireman act, we would have finished comfortably ahead of Virgin. We want to continue that next weekend and were aiming to put on as strong a performance at Suzuka as we did in Singapore.
Mark Webber, Red Bull
2009 Qualifying - 20th, 2009 Race - 17th
Im optimistic we can do well in Japan and the team did well there last year. The momentum is currently with Ferrari going into the race, as they have had two victories on the bounce, but the points situation is still very open. Its nice that I have a little buffer, its not very big but its something I would rather have than not. Suzuka is a track that all the drivers love and Im looking forward to it. I think we will be very competitive; we need to go there and get the maximum out of what we have.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
2009 Qualifying - 1st, 2009 Race - 1st
Suzuka should suit our car, but we still have to go there and prove it. I think we have a very competitive car this year on all circuits, so we can be confident. Last year was very good and I think we should get a good result again. Ferrari has made a step forward in the last couple of races, so they will be strong and dont forget McLaren. There are still a lot of drivers fighting for the title and they are very close to each other, its tight and a lot of things can still happen. We need to make sure we get the best out of ourselves and then we will see.
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