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Japan preview quotes - Marussia, Caterham, Williams & more

02 Oct 2014

After a tense race in Singapore threw the 2014 world championship fight wide open, the teams and drivers head to Japan and one of the most celebrated and iconic circuits on the calendar - Suzuka. Those involved in the 2014 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix discuss their prospects…

Lotus

Romain Grosjean

2013 Qualifying - 4th, 2013 Race - 3rd

“Suzuka is probably my favourite track in the world and for many, many reasons. Of course last year holds a great memory as I led the race for a while. Also, my engineer (Ayao Komatsu) is Japanese, so it is nice for him to be in his home country. But mainly I love it so much because the track is a massive challenge and also the spectators are so passionate about F1. There is not a single corner on the track that is not a big challenge. When you finish a lap at Suzuka you really appreciate it because you know both the car and you have been really tested. You can be proud if you have got the maximum from everything.

“It is the kind of track that you find time and improvements, however small, all of the time. It is a very special race track in this respect. Sector one is unbelievable and after you have finished it you can breathe a little bit…but not for long. There is no margin for error with very little run-off area and the track is quite narrow, especially at the top of the hill. I love it. Every metre of the Suzuka track is special and every metre a challenge. The Spoon Curve is especially fantastic, a real thrill to drive in an F1 car.

“There are a few good areas [for overtaking] like the first corner, but only if you get a good exit from the last chicane. But probably the best one is in to the chicane itself, after the long back straight and 130R. If you get a tow here you can get inside under braking. There is also a small chance at the hairpin and maybe in to Spoon Curve too, but you have to be brave and usually rely on the guy in front to co-operate. Suzuka is quite a narrow track so it is not that easy to overtake, but it is a great challenge and very satisfying when you manage to execute one.”

Pastor Maldonado

2013 Qualifying - 15th, 2013 Race - 16th

“It is always nice to know you are going to be challenged by a circuit. If everything gets hooked-up then Suzuka is a pleasure. I really hope we can have a good weekend because at Suzuka it makes it even more of a pleasure to get it right. I think that for a driver it is at least comparable with Spa, maybe even better on some corners. I just love racing at Suzuka and indeed in Japan as a whole.

“The start of the lap is incredible with the sweeps up the hill, right-left-right-left. It is really fast and you need a very good and nimble car to change direction quickly. They are really challenging corners where you need maximum concentration and bravery. The run-off is quite small, so it is really satisfying to get them right. When I first drove this track in 2011 it was a big deal for me because I knew that I could find a lot more time in the car. The corners are like this because you never get them 100 percent right the first time, you learn and learn which is what a great race track should be like I think. Then you have the Spoon Curve which is magnificent and 130R which is still challenging despite being flat-out now. All in all a great, great circuit and with some really steep gradients too. Almost a perfect track!”

Federico Gastaldi, Lotus deputy team principal

“There is a huge appetite for motorsport in Japan. This is both in the sporting and technical context. Everyone knows that the fans in Japan are among the most special in terms of their knowledge and devotion to the sport. So it is very important for us to be racing here and also to have a good weekend on the track. The whole nation of Japan gets tuned in to the F1 groove and it is good for the country and for F1. Suzuka is also a great challenge for the drivers and they will be hungry to deliver. Like Spa, Monaco and Silverstone, I don’t think anyone dislikes going to Suzuka. It has everything that makes F1 great; an incredible track, great fans and somewhere that the drivers and engineers really learn a lot about the car.”

Nick Chester, Lotus technical director

“The challenges are the high speed corners. You can’t run maximum downforce in Suzuka - as you will end up a little too slow on the straights - so you need to give the driver sufficient downforce to give confidence in the fast twisty bits whilst not clipping their wings down the straights. This is part of the reason why Suzuka is such a driver favourite, as drivers can be absolutely on the limit without the car totally stuck to the ground through maximum downforce. It’s not just having sufficient downforce, it’s ensuring that this is delivered in a balanced nature. Getting the suspension set-up spot on is essential here too. You need to extract all the grip that’s possible from the car. Looking at the E22, we think that it should be reasonably matched to all of these challenges especially as we’re generally quite good in high speed turns.”

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel

2013 Qualifying - 2nd, 2013 Race - 1st

"Suzuka has been a very positive place for me in the past, I've won the race three times and I also won the World Championship there in 2011 which was a fantastic experience. Suzuka as a whole is a fantastic circuit, probably the only circuit you can compare it to on the calendar is Spa. It is a very challenging circuit, especially the first sector where there is a lot of high speed corners. I really enjoy those, but later on you also have the spoon corner, which is very technical and a big challenge, as well as 130R. The fans are very special and the atmosphere is incredible, the crowds really appreciate what people in F1 do, so it is great to see that."

Daniel Ricciardo

2013 Qualifying - 16th, 2013 Race - 13th

"Suzuka is all good, but for me the first sector is just a delight. It's a dream. You have those fast changes of directions through the Esses, hard around the Dunlop Curve and then, arguably the best bit, turns Eight and Nine: Degner. Through Eight you're hanging on, it's so narrow and there's no room for error but you want to push as hard as you can. Then just as you straighten up the car, you're on the brakes, throwing it into this cambered right-hander and hoping you've got it right because if you haven't then it's all over. Getting to do that 53 times in a row is a pretty good way to earn a living. What you maybe don't see on TV is that it's a real rollercoaster, dropping into valleys and climbing up again, so that you're rarely on a level surface."

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez

2013 Qualifying - 14th, 2013 Race - 7th

"The track in Suzuka is one of my favourites. I actually have many tracks that I like a lot, but this one is really unique. The layout of the circuit is very different to other ones, so the set-up of the car is also special. The track has many fast corners which can be challenging from an aerodynamic point of view, but there are also some medium speed ones. The first sector is simply amazing, it is a sequence of left-right corners, and it is fantastic driving through it. Also the very fast left corner, called 130R, is a very nice one. I have good memories from Suzuka, as last year, I scored my first points in Formula One there. The fan base in Japan is great, and I am impressed with how enthusiastic and passionate the people are about racing. Once we drivers arrive there, the fans make us feel special, and they appreciate what we are doing. This is a good motivation for us."

Adrian Sutil

2013 Qualifying - 17th, 2013 Race - 14th

"The Japanese Grand Prix is a nice event with many great fans at the track. For me it is a very special Grand Prix, as in the past I lived in Japan for a year. Due to the fact that I won the Japanese Formula 3 Championship in 2006, I have great memories, and it is always a special feeling to come back. The track in Suzuka is with its many fast corners one of my favourites. The first sector especially is tricky, as it has a sequence of left-right-corners which can be driven very fast. From a technical point of view, this part of the track is quite challenging, so we need to have a stable car with a lot of downforce, and a front that responds quickly while turning in. The last sector is good for overtaking due to the DRS zone. In general the track is narrower compared to the more modern ones, and the run-off areas have gravel and grass, which does not allow room for mistakes. Moreover, I believe it will be difficult to go flat out through the very fast 130R left corner due to the reduced downforce of this year's cars. All in all, I would say this track is challenging and fascinating."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Sauber head of track engineering

"The Suzuka circuit is another one of those drivers‘ and engineers‘ favourites, due to the diversification of the challenges faced throughout a lap. After a flowing and high-speed biased sector one in which the aerodynamic performance dominates, sector two demands stability and traction. Sector three at the end of the lap is dominated by the straight, in which the drivers negotiate the ultra-high speed 130R corner, and the very-low speed chicane. Due to the abrasiveness of the tarmac and the high lateral energy through the high speed corners, Pirelli has allocated the hard and the medium compounds. In the last few years, the Sauber F1 Team has produced some of its best races at Suzuka. This is a source of pride, and keeps us motivated in working hard for results that so far this season we haven't been able to achieve."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

2013 Qualifying - 7th, 2013 Race - 6th

"Suzuka is one of the best circuits of the year. I think it's quite similar to Spa in terms of the feeling you get inside the car. It's just a great place to experience a Formula One car and it's a lot of fun. There are some big corners, especially the ‘S' curves, which are very technical. Finding the right balance is very important for being quick in these long, sweeping corners. The last couple of years I've scored good points in Japan so I want to add some more this year.

"It's also a fun weekend outside of the car: the fans really show their love for the teams and drivers, and they're very sweet and respectful. When we travel from the hotel to the track they are always there standing on the side of the road waving at us with both hands. I'm also a big fan of Japanese food, so it's a good chance to enjoy the local food, especially the teppanyaki."

Sergio Perez

2013 Qualifying - 11th, 2013 Race - 15th

"Suzuka is such an exciting circuit. It's a classic full of great corners in every sector. It's a track where confidence with your car is especially important because you need to find the flow of the lap, especially in the first sector from turns two to seven where you have to be totally committed. The key is to be precise, but it's very technical and not easy to hit every apex. Because there are so many high-speed corners, it's not easy to follow cars closely and overtaking is very difficult. It's possible, though, and I remember having a good battle with Lewis [Hamilton] two years ago.

"We meet great fans during the season wherever we go, but I would rate the fans in Japan as some of the best. They have a lot of love for Formula One and they have always been very kind to me. It is always fantastic to come back to this country because they help make this race a special one."

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal

"We haven't had the best of results in Suzuka over the years, but hopefully with this car and these two drivers we can come away with some points. We brought an aero update to Singapore and, in terms of race pace, it worked well. Suzuka will give us another chance to evaluate those parts because it's a track that is dominated by medium-speed corners. There are also a few more bits and pieces coming before the end of the year, so we're continuing to push hard and not giving up."

McLaren

Jenson Button

2013 Qualifying - 10th, 2013 Race - 9th

"Coming to Suzuka feels like a second home race for me. Japan is such a special place and my win here in 2011 really stands out as a personal highlight. The fans there really set it apart and there's an incredible atmosphere about the whole place all weekend.

"It's also one of the best circuits we come to; a real challenge and incredibly unforgiving, which makes it all the more rewarding when you get it right. For me the Esses are the best section of corners in the world – totally unique to Suzuka, which makes racing here so exciting. Being such a tricky, high-speed track you need good downforce, rhythm and total focus to get the most out of a lap. Despite not getting to the finish in Singapore, we're definitely on an upward curve in terms of developing the car. Suzuka will be a tricky one for us, but I'm still really looking forward to it."

Kevin Magnussen

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

"Suzuka is one of those legendary circuits - I can't wait to get out there! I'm really looking forward to driving onto the track for the first time and tackling the famous corners you always hear about – the Esses, the Degners, then Spoon and 130R. After Singapore, I'm hoping the conditions in Japan won't be quite so difficult to manage! It was a really tough race and we deserved more than we came home with, but I'm confident that we can begin the weekend in good form and build on the improvements we've already seen in the past few races.

"Suzuka looks like a really challenging circuit, very fast with some really tricky corners to get right, which makes overtaking a bit more difficult than at other tracks. I can't wait to get to the track and start working with my engineers to get the best set-up. After the difficult race we had last time out, I'm going to give it my absolute all to get the best possible result here for the team."

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

"Although on paper our results from Singapore were very disappointing, the team has quickly refocused and we've taken many positives from the weekend which we aim to carry into Suzuka. More than anything, our performance proved our total determination to succeed and fight right until the last moment. Despite coming home with just one point, our lap times and race pace compared to the front-runners is certainly more promising than earlier in the year, so this is what we must focus on at Suzuka to keep up this momentum.

"For McLaren, Suzuka is a very special race. The Japanese people are so welcoming from the moment we step off the plane, and the whole team enjoys coming back to Japan each year. It's a circuit that the fans and drivers love, and its traditional slot towards the end of the season means we usually see some incredibly tense on-track battles. Suzuka is an interesting challenge in terms of set-up - getting the car's balance right will be the key to success. Our engineers are working hard to make sure we get the most out of our car this weekend, and our aim is to build on our improvements in Singapore and come away with a result that is more representative of our recent progress."

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

2013 Qualifying - 3rd, 2013 Race - DNF

"Singapore was a good weekend for me. It's the first time in quite a few races that I've not had to fight through the pack to get a result which made life a lot easier. In the final stint, I had to clear Sebastian quickly after making the extra stop. But the car just felt fantastic and I could push whenever I needed to throughout the race. Of course, it was disappointing for the team to have another retirement but I know they have made this a priority moving forwards. It's levelled things up in the Drivers' Championship, so hopefully we'll now have a straight battle right to the flag in Abu Dhabi. Suzuka is one of the races on the calendar that drivers love the most - and arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world. There's so much history and there have been so many defining moments there - like those unforgettable battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. I've never won at this circuit and have only made the podium once, on my first visit way back in 2009. I've had a couple of chances and last season was probably the best of those. This year, though, we have an exceptional car and I'm really hoping I'll finally have my shot at the top step. All the greats of Formula One have won at Suzuka since the sport first came there in the 1980s and I'm determined to add my name to that list this weekend."

Nico Rosberg

2013 Qualifying - 6th, 2013 Race - 8th

"I said at the time that Sunday in Singapore was probably the toughest moment of my year so far and, looking back on it, I still think that is true. To have the chance for a top result basically taken away before you even reach the grid is hard to swallow and, of course, it was a lot of points lost in the Championship battle. I can't fault the effort of the team, though. I go to the factory and I see how hard everyone is working, so it's clear that they want the results just as much as us drivers do. I have faith in my colleagues to improve our reliability and I know they will get it right. Next up we have the Japanese Grand Prix - which really is one of the special races in motorsport. There's so much history at this race - especially at Suzuka. It's definitely one of the best tracks in the world. The fans, too, are just unbelievable. They go absolutely crazy for Formula One and it's so nice to see their enthusiasm for the sport. They show us so much support - the teams and all of us drivers individually - so we all really enjoy going there and seeing them all. I'm looking forward to this weekend - particularly with the car we have at the moment which should give us a good chance to get a great result."

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"Singapore was a bittersweet event for the team, with both of our drivers producing strong performances throughout the weekend but only one leaving with the result he deserved on Sunday. Whilst it was good to see the pace of our car used to full effect by Lewis in the race, Nico's problems left us under no illusions that our reliability must improve. With five races to go and three points separating Lewis and Nico, it is now a straight fight between the two of them and each will be looking to gain the first advantage in Suzuka, one of the best driver's circuits in the sport. We are also now entering arguably the most intense phase of the racing season: the final quarter. Inside the team, motivation is stronger now than at any point so far this year. Every single one of us wants to finish 2014 in style."

Paddy Lowe, Mercedes team executive director (technical)

"We left Singapore with mixed emotions. Lewis produced a fantastic drive in difficult circumstances with the safety car to take a great victory. Credit must go to the team in terms of the strategy - which was bold but absolutely the right call. It demanded a lot from Lewis in terms of his performance in the final phase of the race - but as always he delivered faultlessly. On the other side of the garage, it was very disappointing to have lost Nico's car in Singapore. This was down to the failure of a part which we have been running faultlessly since its introduction six years ago and so demonstrates the challenge of ensuring reliability in a modern Formula One car. Clearly, this is an area in which we need to perform a lot better in the future. Reliability is something we have been working on intensively over the past 12 months and we will redouble our efforts moving forwards. Now, we look ahead to Suzuka. It's a fantastic track - unique in its figure-of-eight configuration with some spectacular corners, and a very well-liked circuit amongst the drivers. It demands the utmost skill from the driver in order to get the right lines - particularly through the 'S' Curves - and good all-round performance from the car in terms of power, braking and cornering. We hope that will play to our advantage and that we can bring home another good result. The Japanese fans are some of the very best on the planet - we particularly look forward to seeing what interesting costumes they produce each year. Their enthusiasm for the sport is second to none and we hope to reward them with a good show."

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne

2013 Qualifying - 18th, 2013 Race - 12th

"Suzuka is one of the best tracks on the calendar. The fans really make it something special, with an unbelievable atmosphere. A combination of that and the track itself, makes this one of the best Grands Prix of the year. I'm looking forward to it. I don't expect this year's new technical regulations to require much of a change in terms of how we approach it. I am not sure how it will suit our car. If I have to pick one part of the circuit I like best, it would be the high speed esses that start the lap and, with having less downforce this year, the 130R might be more of a challenge than in the past."

Daniil Kvyat

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

"I've never even been to Japan before, so this week will be a very interesting experience for me. From what I hear the other drivers say, Suzuka is a very exciting track, so I'm looking forward to discovering it for myself. Certainly, from the simulator, I'd say it's going to be very enjoyable to drive and extremely challenging. It has a lot of fast corners, which is what I like best, so hopefully it will be a good race weekend for me. I like Japanese food and I am looking forward to experiencing it in its home environment. I've also read a bit about Japanese culture, which has made me curious to see the country for myself."

Max Verstappen

"I am very much looking forward to taking part in a Free Practice session at a Grand Prix for the first time. It is good preparation for next year, even if it's not something I could have imagined a few months ago. To already be participating in a practice session is of course a dream come true. I have actually been to Suzuka before, to take part in a go-kart race on the track that is located next to the main circuit's back straight. My dad has raced at Suzuka many times and he told me it's not an easy track to start on. For me it will be a very valuable experience, spending some time in the car and also getting used to working with everyone in the team, to prepare myself for next year. I am not going there to break any records, I just want to gain experience. I have spent one day driving this track on the simulator, which helps a bit, but it's no substitute for driving it for real. My first impression is that it's not an easy track and for example it looks hard to get the combination right in the first esses. I have one and a half hours to drive there and I'm looking forward to doing a good job, for myself and for the team."

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"Japan is one of the highlights of the year, not just for ourselves but for the whole of Formula One. The fans are absolutely brilliant, with huge enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport, which is almost unparalleled anywhere in the world. Suzuka is a real drivers' circuit, and because of that it is a considerable challenge for the tyres, with some of the biggest lateral energy loads of the year. As a result, it would probably be realistic to look at between two to three pit stops, with tyre management forming a key part of the race. However, we'll obviously know more about that after free practice. It's a track where several forces are often acting on the tyre at once, and the increased torque but decreased downforce of this year's cars will only place more demands on mechanical grip. If a tyre can perform well in Suzuka, it can perform well almost everywhere."

Williams

Felipe Massa

2013 Qualifying - 5th, 2013 Race - 10th

“Japan is one of the best circuits on the calendar. The first sector is amazing and the elevation changes really add to the excitement of the track. We have good momentum at the moment and our car will hopefully be better than in Singapore. The Japanese fans are some of the most passionate fans. On a Thursday in the rain the stands are still full. I also love Japan and look forward to seeing more of the country.”

Valtteri Bottas

2013 Qualifying - 13th, 2013 Race - 17th

“Suzuka is my favourite circuit on the calendar. The high-speed corners make it a very special track to drive and a lot of fun. For a driver it’s quite a challenge with no room for a mistake, but it’s fast which just makes it even better to drive. You need good downforce and stability which could bring the field closer together. One thing all drivers say about Japan is just how amazing the fans are, and I am looking forward to seeing them again and hope they enjoy the race.”

Rob Smedley, Williams head of vehicle performance

“Japan is one of the last remaining old school tracks. It is incredibly important to get the cars set-up right and very difficult for the drivers to get the perfect lap. The track is one which tests all aspects of the car and so is very tough to get right. Tyre management is key, so we hope we have done all of our homework and getting on top of track conditions throughout the weekend will directly affect qualifying and the race. I personally enjoy Japan, the fans are immensely enthusiastic about the sport and incredibly welcoming of the teams.”

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

“I’m very excited to be back in front of all my Japanese fans and racing at Suzuka; I’ve been waiting for this race for over a year. The Japanese Grand Prix and Suzuka have always been very special for me: it’s where I experienced my first F1 Free Practice sessions back in 2009 and where I also achieved my first ever Formula 1 podium finish in 2012 and, this year, I am able to come back to Suzuka thanks to the support I received from my fans. This means a lot to me and I would like to thank them all once again. I only have positive feelings going into this weekend. Unfortunately, this year I have to admit that I won’t be fighting for a podium, but I will do my best to reward my fans with a strong performance in order to thank them for their enormous support - I look forward to meeting them all there.”

Marcus Ericsson

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

“I can’t wait to go back to Japan for my first Formula One race! It’s a country that brings back very good memories - I won the Japanese Formula Three championship there back in 2009, becoming the first Swede to win this title. Suzuka is also one of my favourite Japanese circuits and during my successful Japanese F3 season I managed to be on pole, win the race and set the fastest lap there; it’s a track I know very well. This will be the first time I drive it in a Formula 1 car and I look forward to racing through the high-speed corners. It’s a very demanding and challenging circuit, but that’s what makes it even more fun and one of the best tracks in the world.

“After a very positive end to the weekend in Singapore where we were able to stay ahead of our main competitors, I’m hoping to continue fighting out on track and make the most out of the weekend ahead in Japan. The good results are making me feel even more confident every time I get in the car; we need to make sure we make the most of the next five races and build on this momentum.”

Roberto Merhi

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

“I’m very happy to be driving in another FP1 session with Caterham F1 Team. I want to thank the team for this opportunity - after my first outing a month ago in Italy, I am now looking forward to another 90 minutes in the car. I will not be starting from zero like last time, so I will be able to get up to speed quicker. I have never driven in Japan, so I will need to learn the track at the same time as I continue to get used to the car, but it’s a dream come true to be able to drive at such a special track like Suzuka, I just can’t wait for it to be Friday!”

Marussia

Max Chilton

2013 Qualifying - 19th, 2013 Race - 19th

"It's great to come back to Japan. I love everything about the country, although with the back to back with Sochi I won't get to see as much of it this year. Suzuka is a fantastic track, one of the highlights of the calendar. It's such a technical circuit and it has an enormous amount of history attached to it. I've watched some great battles here over the years. I had a good weekend in Singapore, so I feel really fired up for this race and hopefully another good fight with Caterham. With only five races remaining, it's important that we make each one count to ensure we maintain our current hold on 9th in the Constructors' Championship. In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to seeing the Japanese fans again; they're an awesome crowd."

Jules Bianchi

2013 Qualifying - 22nd, 2013 Race - DNF

"I really enjoyed my first experience of Suzuka last year, but it was a less than straightforward weekend, so I'm hoping for better things this time around. The race itself was short-lived, as I was hit from behind on the opening lap, so I'm really looking forward to the race here. Suzuka is a great track; a big test of car and driver and some of the corners here are fantastic. I think we all remember seeing some really incredible racing here, especially in the Prost-Senna era, so it is a very special place, made all the more so by the fans, who are always very excited and passionate about the sport."

John Booth, Marussia team principal

"We had a tough race in Singapore, where we weren't quite able to assume our usual position ahead of Caterham, despite being quicker at most points in the race. Hopefully, Suzuka will suit us a little better, where another strong two-car finish, underlining our reliability and normal race performance advantage, is the objective. This is one of the truly great circuits and one I wish I'd had the opportunity to drive myself. It is very demanding, of car and driver, and has some fantastic corners, plus its most stand-out feature, the unique figure-of-eight layout. It will be a challenging weekend, and indeed a challenging couple of weeks, with the back-to-back with Sochi."

Mattia Binotto, Scuderia Ferrari chief operating officer - power unit division

"Suzuka is one of the classic rounds of the season, on one the most beautiful tracks on the calendar, where the power from the power unit has a significant influence on lap time and also on driveability: one only has to consider the hairpin before Spoon Curve, or the final chicane. We are now about to embark on the final five races of the season, hence we are looking at managing the five power units available per driver. Therefore, as is the case with Marussia, it will be vital to run extremely reliably, ready to make the most of any opportunity deriving from problems that might be encountered by other teams."