Saturday, October 07, 2006

Japanese GP preview

Formula 1 drivers Tonio Liuzzi, left, of Scuderia Toro Rosso and Robert Doornbos, right, of Red Bull Racing pull rickshaws carrying Formula Una girls through the busy streets of Shibuya during an unofficial race. (Copyright-Dean Treml/Red Bull Photofiles)

(2005 Japanese GP-World Copyright: Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic)

Built by Honda as a test circuit in 1962, Suzuka is a legendary drivers’ circuit which has managed to retain much of its challenging layout, despite recent modifications. This year’s Japanese Grand Prix will mark the twentieth race that Suzuka has hosted since Formula One first came to the circuit in 1987.

The World Champion knows that it's all at stake this weekend in Suzuka. But he's confident of success.

Fernando, it was a frustrating afternoon in Shanghai. What are your thoughts as you travel on to Japan?
FA: First of all, I think the people wanted a close championship this year – and they’ve got it. The performance between both cars is very similar, so the last races will be dominated by the tyres. Michelin have done a great job in Suzuka for the past couple of years, and I have a good feeling. But we are confident at Renault, and they are confident at Ferrari. So let’s see what happens.

What about the circuit in Suzuka? One you enjoy?
FA: For sure, it is one of my favourites. For a driver, it is a very demanding track, very challenging physically and a tough race. It is one of those races that every driver wants to win – and I haven’t done it yet.

The atmosphere is pretty special…
FA: Definitely, yes. The fans are always really excited about Formula 1 when we go there, and it is a fantastic race for Formula 1. The Japanese fans have so much enthusiasm that it is hard not to enjoy yourself.

"I'm really looking forward to going to Suzuka this year as a member of the Honda family for the first time. The Japanese fans are always so enthusiastic and create a great atmosphere over the race weekend that it will be exciting to hear them cheering for me. Suzuka holds some special memories for me as I won there from pole position in 2003. The circuit itself is challenging because of the corners and combinations of the track layout and you need a good balance, especially for turns one and two. Our performance has been improving consistently over the last few races, and we had a good final test in Jerez, so I am expecting us to be competitive at Suzuka."

Charles Coates/LAT Photographic

“Suzuka is a very special weekend for the whole Honda Racing F1 Team because it is Honda´s home circuit and one of our two home races of the year. I’ve had some great support there in the past, especially since I’ve been involved with Honda, and I'm excited about going back this year. It's a very tough circuit and a real challenge for the drivers mentally and physically. You have to be precise, very consistent and it is really important to get the set-up of the car right. Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite circuits and I hope that we can put in a strong performance there for all our Honda fans.”

(c)GEPA Pictures/Red Bull Photofiles

The end of an era
The forthcoming Chinese Grand Prix will see the end of an F1 era, as the Minardi name disappears from the grid following the team’s purchase by Red Bull. So we asked Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso, both Minardi alumni, for their thoughts on seeing the famous name disappear from the grid. Giancarlo: “I am very sad to see them go. My first test was there, my first F1 race too, and I have to say thank you to Giancarlo Minardi for the opportunity. The atmosphere was fantastic, with the Italian mechanics, and we laughed all the time. It is a great team, and they will always have a place in my heart.” As for Spaniard Fernando Alonso, he made his F1 debut with the Faenza team in 2001, and has fond memories of his time there. “I think Minardi has always been an example for a lot of people. It is not the power of money that gives them their fighting spirit, it is the power of the people. They were a good thing for F1: now, it is often all about business, but with Minardi, everything was just about motor racing.”

News & photos compiled from Renault F1, Honda Racing F1 and Red Bull Photofiles, no reuse of news or photos.

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