Next weekend, Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda will be competing in the final round of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. The last stop of the season will see the team racing in Japan in front of the thousands of fanatical supporters that...
Next weekend, Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda will be competing in the final round of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. The last stop of the season will see the team racing in Japan in front of the thousands of fanatical supporters that descend upon the Suzuka circuit each year.
Widely considered one of the only true driver's circuits remaining on the calendar, Suzuka was originally built as a test track for B*A*R's engine partner, Honda, and is a real test for both car and driver. The technical track features a unique figure- of-eight layout, and a challenging mix of fast and slow corners.
The Japanese circuit also contains one of Formula One's classic corners, 130R, which has been revised this year to provide a faster, more sweeping curve which turns in quicker, and also removes the bump in the centre of the curve that affected the balance of the cars.
The team has been using the time since the US Grand Prix to fit in some last minute testing before the final race of the season, and the imminent six week test ban. Third driver, Takuma Sato and test driver, Anthony Davidson, both undertook driving duties for three days at the Mugello circuit in Italy this week.
The Suzuka circuit is a favourite with both Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button. A highlight at the track for Jacques was when he finished sixth in 2000, but unfortunately both B*A*R's were forced to retire from the race last year. Jenson has competed at the track in an F1 car three times, finishing in sixth place last year, seventh in 2001 and fifth in his first year there in 2000.
"It has been a highly disappointing season with a lot of bad luck. This continued in Indy last weekend when both Jenson and I were not able to finish the race. It is difficult when you work very, very hard and do not get the results that you know you can achieve. The Japanese GP will be challenging and a lot will depend on how the tyres perform compared to the opposition. It would be nice to finish with a positive result in Suzuka."
"In general Suzuka is an amazing track. It is one of the most beautiful race tracks that we still have on the Grand Prix calendar. I don't really like the chicane and the hairpin is not fun, but it's okay and it's logical. There are a lot of difficult and demanding high-speed corners. It is difficult to get a rhythm. When you do a good lap at Suzuka it feels really, really good. Out of all the tracks we currently race on, Suzuka is my favourite track. I like racing in Japan. It's the last race of the year and it should be an exciting end to the season for the championship."
"Along with Silverstone, Suzuka is my favourite circuit on the calendar. I first raced at the track in 1996 in go-karts and then when I went back there in an F1 car in 2000 it was fantastic. I also really like Japan as a place, the culture is extremely different to what I am used to, but it is a place that I enjoy very much. The fans are great, they really get into the spirit of things, and there are so many of them, which is good to see. The first year I competed in an F1 car I finished fifth and then last year I was sixth so I am looking for an even better result this year."
"The characteristics of the circuit should suit our car and we have been working really hard to push the development forward, so I am optimistic for a good race especially after leading in Indianapolis last week. It was great to be out in front and I know everyone in the team will push as hard as possible to score more Championship points in Suzuka, not least because it's the 'home' race for Honda and Bridgestone."
David Richards, Team Principal:
"The whole team was extremely disappointed following the Indianapolis Grand Prix, a race which could have seen us achieve our best result to date. Our task of finishing in fifth place in the Constructors' Championship has been made harder following Sauber's result in the last race, but the team will continue to work hard and fight until the final chequered flag. Honda will also be pulling out all the stops for their home race and will be running its 'Suzuka Special' engine. We have shown what we are capable of and we are determined to finish the season in Japan in the position we deserve."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:
"Suzuka is the last race of the season and an extremely important race for B*A*R's championship position. The circuit itself has many challenges, both the continuous linked curves of sector one which requires the car to have a good change of direction and stability, and the intimidating 130R very high speed corner. The track is aggressive on tyres and we will be taking a relatively hard compound to this race. This week we have been testing at Mugello which is a circuit which bears some similarities to Suzuka on tyre choice and set-up."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"We have had a productive test in Mugello, fine-tuning the specification for the Suzuka engine. It's always a special feeling to race in front of our home fans at our home track, and with the competition so close for fifth place in the championship, we are looking forward to an exciting finish to the season."