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Japan preview quotes - Haas, Manor, Mercedes, Red Bull & more on Suzuka

06 Oct 2016

From Malaysia the teams and drivers fly rapidly north to the iconic race track that is Suzuka. Those involved in this weekend's 2016 Formula 1 Emirates Japanese Grand Prix look ahead to the action...

Haas

Romain Grosjean

“It’s always difficult to say exactly why [Suzuka is my favourite track in the world]. I think it’s the flow, the corners, the high-speed nature of the track. There’s a risk as well with all the gravel and the narrow parts of the circuit. Overall though, it’s not one thing, and sometimes you don’t know why you like something, you just do.

“It’s one of those tracks where you need quite a lot of downforce and a really good car in the high-speed corners. There are some important low-speed ones as well. It’s about getting the right confidence in being able to push to the limit in those tricky sector-one turns. It’s not an easy track to set up the car, but definitely a really good one to be on.

“It’s about finding the right balance with the car. Your car’s performance dictates your performance at the end. It’s more or less the same everywhere. You can try to drive around and be quite consistent more easily than at other tracks.

“It’s a pretty crazy atmosphere from Thursday onward. All the grandstands are full. After the race, they’re still there watching the replays of the grand prix on the big screens. They always have really cool fashions on display, with some crazy accessories. They love Formula One and they’re very passionate. It’s a very electric atmosphere. It’s great to see that passion and so many people cheering for teams like us.”

Esteban Gutierrez

“My first time in Suzuka was in Formula One in 2013 and it’s where I scored points, so I want to do it again. I’m extremely hungry to get a top-10 finish. Everyone on the team is pushing very hard for it. The crew is very motivated. Everyone keeps the same approach even though it can be sometimes a little bit frustrating, but instead of the frustration, it’s even more motivation for us to do a better job and get into the top-10. We have been extracting the most from the car and we expect to keep doing it.

“There is a lot of cornering at Suzuka, so you focus on having a good car there and the rest you try to cope with it. You want an optimal setup for the first sector. It’s a very nice track. It’s a track every driver enjoys but, obviously, it depends upon having a good car. It’s a track that I enjoy a lot. The driver can make a difference because Suzuka requires a lot of precision. You have a lot of sequences of corners, so the more precise you can be and the more aggressive you can be, the quicker you’ll be into the corners. You want to be very precise without losing the rhythm.

“The fans are very passionate, very intense in a very positive way, and I really enjoy being there. The attention is massive to all the Formula One drivers. They have a lot of respect and are very well educated, and I love that about the culture.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“Japan is high speed and there are some challenging corners, but it’s a nice place to be and I hope we can find a good setup and show what we can do. Power is always important, but much more important at races like Spa, Monza and Suzuka. The latest update from Ferrari was very good. It helped us a lot at Spa and Monza. We got into Q3 in Monza thanks to the power upgrade from Ferrari. I think it will help us in Suzuka as long as we find a good balance for the car.

“Once you find the quickest way around the track by balancing top-end speed versus downforce, the driver is quite happy because he wants to be quickest around the track. For them, the happiest is when they get a good lap time. You need to be a brave man around Suzuka. You’re at high speed and when you go off, sometimes it’s not a soft landing. You need to be brave, but you also need to be very technical to set the car up. Suzuka is definitely a track that tests driver skill.

“I think it’s very special. If you are a fan at Suzuka, you are a diehard fan. They will be lining up outside. It’s quite amazing how much they love it. I think a lot of people look forward to it because it’s so different from anywhere else.”

Manor

Pascal Wehrlein

“Every destination is a new experience for me but some stand out more than others. This is definitely one of those. Already, I met a lot of fans as they are camped out at the hotel and they gave me a super-excited welcome, which was nice. I also got some great and funny gifts; the fans are really creative, I have to say. I’d love to go to Tokyo one day, though I won’t get the chance on this visit, but the crowds come from all over the country to this race, so I hope we can reward their enthusiasm and support for our team with a good performance this weekend.

“This is a very technical and challenging track for car and driver, so the first thing is to master the circuit. After that, we started to get our new developments working better by the time we got to race day in Sepang, so hopefully we can continue that progress. We need to find a little more pace from them, so that’s the big focus for Friday. After that, we’ll see.”

Esteban Ocon

“The first thing I did when I got here was to run the track. It’s a very technical circuit – the figure of eight, the great mix of low, medium and high speed corners. I wanted to see it for myself as soon as possible and it’s a very impressive track that I think I’ll enjoy. There are a lot of variables to think about here - it’s a high downforce circuit, so we need to get the best compromise set-up because we suffer a little aerodynamically. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my programme on Friday now.

“I’ve had some very positive moments over the past four race weekends, including a strong qualifying in Sepang last weekend. But a clean race has so far eluded me, so I’d like a more complete weekend here in Japan, to show more of what I’ve learned and my performance as an F1 driver. That would be nice.”

Dave Ryan, Racing Director

“Yes, we’re in good shape here and ready to get started on Friday. This is not an easy circuit to master, and it isn’t one we marked out as suiting our car particularly well, so we’ll have to see how things go to some extent. We do have a small mechanical step here though, which should help us. We’re looking forward to the support of the fantastic crowds here, who always create an amazing atmosphere which has helped the team through difficult times here.”

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg

“Sunday was not great for us, unfortunately. My race was almost over before it even began and I feel for Lewis, as I've been there myself and it sucks big time to have all those points taken away from you just like that. For the guys too, seeing all their hard work destroyed in a couple of moments must be pretty brutal - especially right at the end of such a physically demanding weekend. But you cannot underestimate how strong this team is. We'll hit back even harder. Of course, the result in Malaysia went in my favour in the title battle. That's a fact and I cannot pretend otherwise. But I haven't been thinking about the points situation all season and I'm not going to start now. I'm here to win races and that's the aim every time. Suzuka is the next opportunity and I'd love to stand on top of the podium there. It's one of the truly great, classic race tracks, where all the legends have won, so it would be an honour to add my name to that list. I need to improve on my last performances there, where it hasn't ever really come together. But I think I've shown this season that I've learned a lot from the past two years, so I'm confident I can get on top of this challenge. Hopefully it will be a great weekend and a good close battle for those awesome Japanese fans.”

Lewis Hamilton

“Of course, last weekend was a massive disappointment. Not just for me personally but for the whole team. But there's no use dwelling on these things. That's just negative energy. All we can do is focus on the next race, taking things one step at a time and doing the best job we can. There's no substitute for hard work and I've never been afraid of that. The guys are hurting from what happened too and I know they'll be working just as hard to get things right next time. It's not the lowest point I've had. There have been lower moments for sure. Regardless, I will find strength from within to fight back over these next five race weekends. If I can perform like I did last weekend and the car holds together, then good things can still come my way. I love the Suzuka circuit and I've been quick there for the past two years, so hopefully that trend will continue. I know I'll have some fantastic support in the grandstands to lift me up and give me that extra boost. The energy from the fans in Malaysia was the best I've ever seen there and now we're going to Japan, where they just seem to find another level every year. It's insane how crazy they go for the sport and I get a real buzz out of that. Fingers crossed I can make it happen to pay them back for all the love and strength they send my way.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“Last weekend was a particularly tough one. But words won't change that now. We pick ourselves up, brush the dust off and look ahead to the next race. With regards to Lewis, we've talked amongst ourselves and said "how is this possible?" But there is no rational explanation or pattern in these failures. If there were, we would resolve it. We've had that discussion with him and he understands that we are feeling his pain too. Despite his frustration, he has been trying to pick the team up and we admire him even more than ever for that. We will bounce back from this together. It's tough when these things come at a crucial point in a Championship battle. It's a massive blow to his campaign. But the Championship isn't over yet. There are still five faces to go. It will be tough of course, as Nico is driving better than ever before. He proved that in Singapore and then again with a great recovery in Malaysia. We will let them battle it out on track over the next five races - hopefully without any reliability woes - and then see where we are. One thing is for sure - we are not going to talk any more about winning Championships before it has happened. We will keep both feet on the ground and do the best we can in every area until the job is done.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“Malaysia was a bitter pill to swallow. We let Lewis down in a big way. We are continuing to investigate the issue with his engine are doing everything we can to ensure that it is first understood and then contained for the remainder of the season. As it stands, despite the failure of this engine, Lewis now has the same stock of Power Units as Nico for the remaining five races - including used Power Units which he can fit for free practice sessions. So, hopefully there will be no further impact to his programme. Looking ahead to Suzuka, we have the same tyre compound allocation as nominated for Malaysia with the Hard, Medium and Soft. However, this is a very different race track to Sepang. It's one of the most demanding circuits of the season for the handling of a car, with many drivers also considering it one of the most demanding of driver skill. There are some quite tricky lines and sequences to get right - particularly the 'Esses' and the famous '130R' corner. Japan has some of the most enthusiastic fans that we see in the entire season and we really look forward to the incredible welcome that they give to the teams. Their passion for the sport is fantastic to see, so we hope to put on a great race. History has not often failed us in that respect at this iconic circuit, so it should be an exciting weekend ahead.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

“Japan is an incredible place and a country I always love visiting. The support we receive is phenomenal and makes the whole experience even more special. I love the people, the food and the culture, and our few days there for the Japanese Grand Prix are something I look forward to each year. I hope we can start the weekend on a positive note and keep pushing forward – we’ve maximised our package well over the past few races and it would be fantastic to finish in the points again at the team’s second home race.”

“Like me, many drivers love going back to Suzuka every year and it’s easy to see why. It’s a classic ‘drivers’ circuit’ and its configuration is unusual, demanding and very unforgiving, so putting together a good lap is really satisfying, and all these characteristics make it really popular with both drivers and fans. It’s a difficult circuit to set up the car perfectly for because the track temperatures change so much with the unpredictable weather, but we know this circuit well and will use the Friday sessions to dial the car in to the conditions and get the most out of it.”

Jenson Button

“The Suzuka circuit is incredible – almost in a class of its own on the calendar. It’s as close to a ‘perfect’ track as you can get in terms of having all of the different elements you would want as a driver. It’s fast, technical, difficult, rewarding, and really fun to drive, so it’s up there among the best. My win there in 2011 is definitely one of my favourites because to do well there you have to put so much into it, and when you get a good result it’s the best feeling.”

“The Japanese Grand Prix is always one of my highlights of the year. I love going back to Japan and the fans there make it incredibly special. They give us 110% support throughout the whole week, right from the minute we arrive in Tokyo, and as drivers we really feed off that enthusiasm. As it’s another home race for us, we’ll be very busy in the lead up to the weekend itself, and it’s an important grand prix for the whole team, so I hope we can fight hard and get the best result we can to give something back to the enthusiastic fans.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“I know I can speak for the whole team when I talk about the Japanese Grand Prix being one of the most important milestones in the Formula 1 calendar for everyone at McLaren-Honda. It marks the end of the sequence of races in east Asia and, with Silverstone, a venue that very much feels like a second home.

“Suzuka circuit is steeped in a huge amount of racing history, and one that McLaren-Honda has played a significant part in, both as one team and as individual entities. Its fast, flowing corners and technical demands mean it fully deserves its legendary status and, combined with the unrivalled support we receive from the ever-enthusiastic Japanese fans, the warm hospitality and fascinating culture, it’s easy to see why we look forward to returning to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix each year.

“Our double points finish in Sepang was great encouragement and reward for the relentless hard work happening behind the scenes in Woking and Sakura, and we’ll take this motivation to Suzuka, where we hope to achieve similar results. The race itself is sure to be dramatic – it often is at this prestigious circuit – so we hope to maximise the potential our package has shown recently and put on a good show for the incredible fans.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“Suzuka is a very special place and an important race weekend, of course for Honda but also for me personally – I have great memories of racing there with Formula 1 in years gone by. I am thankful for all the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic F1 fans, who expect a lot from us, but are very understanding at the same time. I hope that our team's progress encourages more spectators to join us at Suzuka and help increase McLaren-Honda's fan base.

“Suzuka is a track highly rated by the drivers for its technical and complex nature. In order to succeed there, there must be a good balance between the power unit and chassis. We will do our utmost to set up the car to hopefully score more points and be within reach of the top three teams. I hope that we can have a race that we can be proud of, and that our fans can be proud of, too.”

Force India

Vijay Mallya, Team principal

“We head to Suzuka off the back of a very strong weekend in Sepang. Scoring twelve points strengthened our fourth place in the championship and showed, once again, that the VJM09 is a car that is competitive on any kind of circuit. I think we were a little unlucky with how the race unfolded, but we made the most of the situation and came away with some important points. It means we can arrive in Suzuka confident of another competitive performance. The team is working extremely hard, the drivers are extracting the performance from the car, and we are looking forward to the challenge that awaits us this weekend.”

Nico Hulkenberg

“Suzuka is one of my favourite tracks - it's just got a great flow. You go from one corner straight into to the next and it's a proper old-school track; it's so much fun to drive, especially in qualifying when you have low fuel, soft tyres and lots of grip. You have some high-speed sections, but the main feature is the great rhythm you get as you drive through the lap.

“The track has several great corners: the best section is the Esses, which are pretty cool and so quick - it's three or four corners at once. They're all hooked up, so if you make a mistake in one you can just forget about the rest, you've already lost so much time.

“The other highlight of the Japanese weekend is the fans. They are incredible: it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, or what the weather is doing, they are there outside the hotel or at the track waiting for you. It's great to see their passion and knowledge for our sport. They always bring us presents - most often candy, but I once got a very cute teddy koala bear!”

Sergio Perez

“The trip to Japan is always good fun and every year I try to visit Tokyo for a few days ahead of the race. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world and I love to explore it: the Japanese culture is very interesting and I really like their food! I always have a good time there.

“Once you get to Suzuka, things are much quieter: the city is small but the circuit is spectacular, it’s the real attraction. The fans are also brilliant – there are very few in the world who can match their enthusiasm. Some are very loyal: there’s one Japanese fan, who always waits for me when I am leaving the track or leaving the hotel, and I always make sure I stop for a photo. As a whole, they are very knowledgeable and passionate and are one of the highlights of the weekend.

“The circuit is a huge challenge and it’s unforgiving. The speeds are high and the best part, for me, is sector one – it’s so impressive. Suzuka is without any doubt one of the best tracks in the world. You need a car that is balanced enough for you to feel completely at ease with it. The other thing to remember is the crosswinds because it can often by very windy there. One lap you can have the perfect balance and the next it can be thrown off by a gust of wind.

“It’s a track I like and where I have enjoyed some good results – it’s definitely one of the weekends I enjoy the most. Sadly, every time we go there we are reminded of Jules’s tragic accident.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas

“If I had to choose one track as my favourite, it would have to be Suzuka because of the high speed nature of the circuit. It’s a proper race track really built for Formula One cars. On top of that, the atmosphere is very special. The Japanese fans get so excited about the race. There’s a lot of support for me there, which I really appreciate. It’s always nice to go to Japan, it’s a favourite for a lot of people because it’s such a great track and overall a great weekend with a really good atmosphere – one I always look forward to.”

Felipe Massa

“I think Suzuka is one of the best places to race. I love the layout and the high speed sections. Sector one I think is the most incredible sector in the world. I really love Japan. I love the people and I love to go there to spend some time in Tokyo. I’m really looking forward to my last Formula One race in Japan and I can’t wait to enjoy it with the amazing Japanese fans.”

Pat Symonds

“Japan is my favourite circuit, which is a view shared by many of the drivers and engineers. It presents so many challenges to us from the fast first corner and 130R, to the very difficult continual changes of direction that are found from turn two up to turn seven. Couple this with the long high-loading through the Spoon Curves (T13-14) one can begin to understand how it challenges the cars, drivers and tyres. For Japan, Mercedes are also introducing their final power unit upgrade of the year, which will be available to all its customers, and is one which we hope will allow us to improve our performance for the remaining races of the season.”

Red Bull

Max Verstappen

“After Malaysia we go to Japan and I will spend a couple of days in Tokyo before heading to the track, which will be nice. Japan will always be a special place for me because I made my F1 debut there during Friday practice. Suzuka is a really cool track as well, especially Sector 1, it’s very fast and that’s what drivers enjoy. There is not much run off either, so you have to be very precise; it’s a proper old-school track, very challenging and demanding.

“Japan has some of the most passionate fans, they’re very sweet and the support we get from them is really nice. They give us all kinds of gifts as well, which they put a lot of effort into. I really enjoy Japan and it’s always good to go back there.”

Daniel Ricciardo

“Japan I have always loved, it’s tough for a driver, a proper racer’s circuit. The first section you have to connect all the dots because all the corners flow really nicely if you get it right. I love the food and people in Japan. I’m going to spend some days in Tokyo between the races and hopefully see a lot more of the city, try some more authentic food and experience a bit of the culture. There is Jiro’s sushi restaurant that I really want to try, it had a documentary made about it and is apparently really special so would love to eat there.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director

“Suzuka is a race that everybody looks forward to coming to: there’s little left to say that hasn’t been said already about the amazing welcome we receive each year from the Japanese fans and the depth of their enthusiasm and knowledge. For the first time we bring the soft tyre to Suzuka, which should provide a different aspect to the strategy, so we may have some tactical thinking right from qualifying on Saturday. Whatever happens, we’ll be seeing the hard tyre used during the race, as was the case in Malaysia, and also high wear and degradation: which always additionally provides varied strategic opportunities.”