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Japan preview quotes - Mercedes, McLaren, Marussia, Lotus...

23 Sep 2015

Fresh from tackling the streets of Singapore, the paddock heads rapidly north east to the epic challenge that is Suzuka. Those involved look ahead to this weekend’s 2015 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix…

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

“It’s fast, it’s flowing, and it’s got everything. High-speed, lowspeed, inclines, drops. Wonderful circuit. I think probably the first sector [is the key to getting the lap right]. If you can get a good balance on the car and link up all the left-right, left-right corners, which normally puts you in a good position for the rest of the lap. So, if you want to prioritise the car set-up, it’s in that sector.

“I love going to Japan, and I’m absolutely fascinated by Tokyo. I turn into a complete tourist, gawping at the place, the people, the food - it’s just so incredibly cool. Personally, I really like hanging out in the tiny bars: crazy little places maybe only five square meters. It’s a really good experience. I recommend it.”

Daniil Kvyat

“It’s a very special track. It’s got great history, a good feeling and also a lot of proper balls-out corners, which I like. It’s a really cool circuit. Also, it’s where I was announced as a Red Bull driver last year so that’s a good memory. Of course last year’s race was very, very difficult because of Jules Bianchi’s accident and we will all naturally be thinking of him when we are driving there this year.

“There are plenty of places that are really fast: the double left of Spoon; 130R can be pretty challenging in the wet. The ‘Esses’ are very tricky; if you get any bit of it wrong it compromises your whole lap. You have to be brilliantly precise. To be honest I find the whole lap really interesting though; I like it a lot. I love high-speed corners and Suzuka has a lot of those, so it’s very easy to enjoy. If you get the flow and the lines right it’s a great feeling.

“Japanese fans are very warm and welcoming and the atmosphere there is great. You always get given some odd gifts. Last year I got given a lot of fans - not people, things to, you know, cool you down! You also get a ton of stuff to sign. I really appreciate that the fans make an effort. They are passionate about Formula One and they really show it.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

“I am really looking forward to Japan. It is a place I know well as I lived there for a year during my time in the Japanese Formula 3 in 2009. It will be nice to go back and meet all the passionate fans. I really like the track a lot and it is a lot of fun to drive there. I am looking forward to the Suzuka track’s challenge. With the aero update, I am confident we will be able to be in a strong position to fight for points there.”

Felipe Nasr

“It will be my first time driving a Formula One car on the circuit in Suzuka. I have always heard positive things about the track, and I cannot wait to drive there. The circuit is at the same time a real challenge for us drivers, as there are many medium and high speed corners, up and downhill sections, as well as tricky braking zones. The Japanese fans really stand out. There are so many people who are passionate about Formula One there. I like the atmosphere a lot. In Suzuka we will continue to work on our update package. We will validate the data from the race weekend in Singapore in order to make a further step ahead.”

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering

“After quickly debriefing following the Singapore Grand Prix and recovering some energy, the Sauber F1 Team’s focus shifts to the long, high-speed corners of Suzuka. This track can be considered as a landmark in the F1 calendar; it features a variety of challenges for the engineers and, more importantly, the drivers, who can count on the very enthusiastic support of passionate fans. The high levels of lateral acceleration in the fast corners and the abrasiveness of the tarmac are such that Pirelli has allocated the hard and medium tyres for the event, which is a solid choice in line with the previous races there. Everyone in the team looks forward to keeping fighting hard for more points.”

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen

“It will be special to go back to Suzuka! I remember last year, first time at a real Formula One circuit with a Formula One car on such a challenging track… It’s a great track to drive and I can’t wait to get out there again. The first sector is great, with a lot of high-speed corners and I like the 130R. You need to find the right rhythm and stay in total focus to get the most out of the lap. The environment and the people are also very nice! They really like F1.”

Carlos Sainz

“Suzuka seems to be very similar to my favourite tracks, Spa and Silverstone, so I think I’m really going to enjoy it there. Probably it will become one of my favourite tracks once I’ve driven a lap of it on Friday. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about the Japanese fans. They seem to be very passionate… I’m really looking forward to it!”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“Suzuka is one of the most aggressive circuits we face on the Formula One calendar from a tyre perspective: it’s right up there with Silverstone and Spa. There’s been some resurfacing in recent years that has taken away a bit of the asphalt roughness that it used to have, but this does not diminish the overall challenge of Suzuka in any shape or form. It’s not unusual to face extremes of weather in Japan: either very wet, or dramatically hot. We’ve seen both over the years - and quite a few conditions in between - so it’s a very tough circuit all round. The drivers absolutely love the experience of driving here, and over the course of the weekend we are always privileged to meet some of the most passionate and dedicated fans we see anywhere all year. They are a vital part of what makes coming to Suzuka so special. Of course, like everybody else, Jules Bianchi will be in our thoughts more than ever over the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas

“The Japanese fans are the most fanatical in the world. They support you in a unique way, so it’s always a pleasure to go there. As a track it’s one of my favourites and I really enjoy the old-school fast corners. The first sector stands out as the most fun. The weather can always play a part so you always need to keep that in mind strategy wise. We will be going to Suzuka confident that we can be competitive and get a strong result.”

Felipe Massa

“Suzuka is like Spa in that it’s a historic track with fast corners, varying terrain and quick changes of direction. It isn’t the easiest track but that’s why the drivers enjoy it so much. The Japanese fans are very dedicated to Formula One and are very friendly which creates a very welcoming atmosphere. The weather can play its part and be very unpredictable but we need to make sure that we are competitive whatever the conditions.”

Rob Smedley , Head of Performance Engineering

“The Japanese Grand Prix is a great circuit and well suited to our car. In qualifying last year we showed great pace and dominated the second row. The team continues to get stronger throughout this year and we can go back there expecting another good performance. It’s important to capitalise on our car performance and score more points than our closest rivals. It’s one year since Jules’ [Bianchi] accident so it will be difficult to head back there. We will be remembering the incredible talent and great guy that he was.”

Force India

Sergio Perez

“We have taken a lot of encouragement from the result in Singapore, which was my third points finish in a row, and I think we can score well in Japan too. When you see how the VJM08 has developed and the results we are achieving, it tells you that we can be competitive on every track and Suzuka shouldn't be any different."
"Suzuka is one of those tracks that gives you a very special feeling. It’s quick, with some great corners, and it’s a real challenge to hook up the perfect lap. You need to have confidence and be very committed, especially in the first sector which has a fantastic flow. When you have a car that is working well it’s one of the best places to drive a Formula One car.

“Visiting Japan is always interesting and you can see how much the people love Formula One. The fans are very kind and have always given me a lot of support. It’s definitely a special race.”

Nico Hulkenberg

“The benefit of back-to-back races is that you can get back in the saddle right after a disappointing race. Singapore was a missed opportunity to score a lot of points but I've put it behind me now: I would rather focus on the positives and on the good pace we showed until the accident.

"The week we spend in Japan is always good fun. All the drivers love Suzuka because it’s a classic, old-school track with some very special corners: the Esses, Degner, Spoon and 130R. It’s very fast, with high g-forces and you really feel the grip and performance from the downforce. In that sense, it’s also very physical on your neck.

“The challenge of Suzuka is making sure you find the right rhythm. The lap is technical and you have to be precise because almost all the corners flow into the next one. That’s why a small mistake can be very costly in terms of lap time if you lose the flow of the whole lap.

“I’m a big fan of Japanese cooking and culture. You also see how much the race means to the fans because they wait for us at the hotel every morning and are always very respectful. ”

Vijay Mallya, team principal

"We come to Japan after three consecutive points finishes and determined to keep up our momentum. The updated VJM08 has shown it can compete well on all kinds of circuit so the challenge of Suzuka, which is a pretty unique track, is something to which we look forward. Unfortunately, Nico will have a grid penalty to deal with, but I am confident he'll make up for it.

"Suzuka is one of the classic tracks in Formula One and another important step in our battle for fifth place in the championship. The medium-speed corners that make up most of the circuit will provide a good test for the VJM08 and will give us another indication about the effectiveness of the upgrades we brought to Singapore. We are not letting go in the development race and we will keep pushing until the end, so it is crucial we gain performance with every new step we take.”

Lotus

Romain Grosjean

“Suzuka is probably my favourite track in the world and for many, many reasons. Of course 2013 holds a great memory as I led the race for a while. 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 the car and you have been really tested and that you can be proud if you have got the maximum from everything.

“It’s the kind of track where 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 overtaking areas 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.

“Suzuka is a track that highlights the good aspects of a chassis and it will certainly be a better place to exploit the positives of the E23 than Singapore. At Suzuka the driver can make a difference to some extent, especially through sector one, so I will be pushing very hard here to get the very maximum we can.”

Pastor Maldonado

“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, deputy team principal

“Competitively, we can’t wait (to race in Japan) as it’s the first opportunity to put our no points score in Singapore behind us and get back into our championship fight. Then there’s the aspect of racing in Japan itself. There is a huge appetite for motorsport so it’s really a special experience being there. We have the added stimulus that Honda has re-joined the sport after a period away. Whilst we have all seen they have experienced some growing pains in their first season back, we all know the amazing motorsport history they have and it’s good for Japan and good for Formula One to have them competing.

“The Japanese fans 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. For many reasons, we all hope to be able to enjoy a sake after a positive Japanese Grand Prix in 2015.”

Nick Chester, 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.”

Marussia

Will Stevens

“This will be a very emotional weekend for us. We’re already a very close-knit team but occasions such as this only bring us closer and that helps us through the challenges we’ve experienced on and off the race track. In the same circumstances, Jules would have gone about the business of racing in a very focused and professional way and that is exactly what I’ll be doing. I didn’t have the best weekend in Singapore, albeit we secured another good two-car finish for the team. But I need to get on top of some of the issues which hampered my performance there, so we’ll work together as a team to understand and address them so that we can bring home another good result for Jules.”

Alexander Rossi

“My F1 racing debut in Singapore last weekend really couldn’t have worked out any better for me and I learned such a lot in a very short space of time. I head to Suzuka eager to pick up where I left off and focused on taking things to the next level, with the benefit of a little more familiarisation with the car and on a different type of race track. One thing I didn’t need to learn - because I already knew - was what a great group of people I am fortunate enough to be able to call my team. They made things very easy for me in Singapore and with a difficult weekend ahead for all of us, I’m hoping to do the same for them.”

John Booth, team principal

“After the high of a positive Singapore Grand Prix, we head to Japan hopeful of a similarly strong performance this weekend. There will, however, be a rather more challenging backdrop for our team in Suzuka, after Jules’ devastating accident here last season. There is no escaping the fact that this will be an extremely emotional week for us. Many of the team members who were with us in 2014 are back with us this year, including our colleagues at Scuderia Ferrari and of course Will and Alexander, both of whom were in Suzuka last year in their roles as Reserve Drivers. It will also be a different emotional experience again from Monaco, a place full of so many special memories for our team, and Hungary, where we all had to say a very difficult goodbye to a greatly-loved friend and colleague. We think of Jules every single day; he will forever be a huge part of our team. Without doubt, our memories are overwhelmingly happy ones, celebrating his incredible achievements in our race cars and the enjoyable times we shared along the way. Jules’ funeral reminded us that he was a special gift to so many people, not least of all the magnificent Bianchi family, who are always in our thoughts and prayers. We were Jules’ team, and with that in mind I would ask everyone to understand and respect that, this weekend, we wish to deal with the experience of returning to Suzuka in a very private way. Our commitments will reflect this. It is my job to provide the team with the right environment in which to be able to do their job in spite of very difficult circumstances. This will be my primary focus. Jules has not only been constantly in our thoughts since that terrible day in 2014, but his name has also been on our car at every single race. That tribute, our incredibly fond memories of Jules and the camaraderie we have within our team are all we need to race on in his honour in Suzuka this weekend.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

“I’m full of anticipation about going to Suzuka. It’s a really tough circuit, and a huge test for the drivers, as a lot of it is really narrow and bumpy so you need absolute commitment into every corner. It has almost the opposite characteristics to Singapore in terms of set-up, so it’s a very different challenge that we’ll face next weekend.

“Like Jenson, I have a strong affinity with Japan, I love the country and I’ve always been fascinated by its culture. I’ve also loved racing there and I’ve won both at Suzuka and Fuji, so it holds a lot of special memories for me. The fans are one-of-a-kind and the circuit absolutely deserves its legendary status - it’s one of the most exciting on the calendar.

“Singapore is now behind us, but Suzuka will surely be a challenge. Our car is well balanced and feels good to drive, but on a circuit with such a high average speed it will be difficult to beat our competitors. We’ll take the samurai spirit with us to Suzuka, and as usual we won’t give up.”

Jenson Button

“Suzuka is my favourite track on the calendar without a doubt. The thrill of the Esses, the Degners, Spoon, 130R - they are a combination of corners like no other in Formula One and for a driver it’s a mega challenge.

“Japan is like a second home for me. My wife is half-Japanese, I spend a lot of time there, the country is beautiful and the people are so warm and enthusiastic, you can’t fail to love it. I still regard my win at Suzuka in 2011 as one of my best - it’s such a challenge to get right as the circuit is narrow, twisty, and technical, so it’s one of the victories of which I’m most proud.

“Suzuka is the home Grand Prix for Honda too, so it will be an important weekend for the whole team. It’s not going to be an easy race, as the track is so quick and reliant on top speed, but we’ll be giving it our absolute all for the fans.”

Eric Boullier, racing director

“Suzuka is a place that every Formula One fan regards as special - it’s a circuit that has hosted those classic races that have gone down in history, and produced some incredible racing and on-track battles that are talked about for years after.

“For McLaren, it’s extra-special, since it’s also the home of Honda, so returning there this year will be even more emotional than normal. First and foremost, to give ourselves any kind of fighting chance next weekend we must focus on our reliability after the disappointment in Singapore. From Marina Bay, one of the lowest-speed tracks on the calendar, we go to Suzuka, one of the fastest, so preparation will be key.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the drivers and cars cope with the challenge of the downhill grid, and the famous figure-of-eight Suzuka circuit is always a fantastic spectacle in front of the most enthusiastic fans we see anywhere in the world. All of us at McLaren-Honda are working hard to continue to show our improving pace, and we hope we can put on a good show for our fans, partners and guests next weekend.”

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport

"It is a wonderful feeling to be back home and to be racing in front of our fans. The fans are incredibly passionate and loyal to F1 and to Honda, so as the McLaren-Honda team, we will do our best this weekend.

“That said, Suzuka is a notoriously technical and difficult circuit for all cars and drivers. We have to be realistic that the race will be a big challenge for the team this weekend. Our engineers have started their preparations for the task ahead for what will hopefully be a good race."

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

Singapore was a strange weekend but I'm chilled about it. It's been an incredible season so far and I've been around long enough now to accept that you can't win them all. So, it's just a case of leaving that weekend in the past and moving on to the next one. Japan is always a memorable weekend. Tokyo is one of my favourite cities and Suzuka is definitely one of the greatest tracks in the world - good for overtaking, with some legendary corners that have seen historic moments over the years. The fans, too, are incredible - so enthusiastic and welcoming. It was great to finally win there last year and that's the target again. Of course, returning to Suzuka also means we will have Jules in our thoughts and I'll be sending out strength to his family.

Nico Rosberg

Obviously, Singapore wasn't a good weekend for the team but I know everybody has been working hard to understand what happened and it's good that we've got a chance to get straight back on it this weekend. Suzuka is an awesome track - one of the best in motorsport and a real test of driver skill. There's so much going on around the lap with high, medium and low speed corners all thrown in together. The first sector is great fun to drive; you have to really nail the line and a small mistake can cost you so much time. You have to find a good rhythm and that's a challenge I really enjoy. I haven't had the best of luck at this circuit in the past and I'd love to change that. We'll all be thinking of Jules and his family this weekend, of course. He will be always in our hearts.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

The performance in Singapore was far below expectations and left us with plenty to think about moving forwards. But move forward is what we will do. We remain calm, learn our lessons and use the pain of those disappointments as motivation to get back on top. One bad weekend does not negate what has been an incredible season so far and we know our car is competitive. But we also recognise the constant threat from our rivals. Whether Singapore was a blip or not, we cannot take our position at the front for granted and expect not to get caught out. Suzuka is a track which should suit us better, so this will be a good indicator. Of course, as we return to Japan, we will be thinking of Jules, his family and our friends at Manor Marussia on what will be an emotional weekend for us all.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

Clearly, Singapore didn't deliver the result we would have liked. We didn't do a good enough job of getting the best out of our car and, at the same time, we don't automatically assume our car was capable of winning that race even if we had done so, as our competitors looked extremely strong. So, we came away from the weekend with plenty to analyse to ensure we come back in better shape for the future. In Suzuka, we have one of the great tracks on the calendar. It's a good all-round test of a car which credits both chassis and Power Unit performance, as well as driver skill. There are some immensely tricky sequences around the circuit, so this is an event where you see the top drivers come to the fore. There is significant history here too - including the tragic accident suffered by Jules Bianchi last year. So, we hold him in our thoughts this weekend and aim to put on a good show for the fans, who are amongst the most energetic and certainly the most creative in the world, whilst aiming for a good result to put the disappointment of Singapore behind us.