Japanese GP: BMW Sauber preview

Munich/Hinwil. The mountain calls. Following the night race in Singapore - as glamorous as the BMW Sauber F1 Team's points haul was modest - Formula One now heads for the Japanese Alps to race at the foot of the sacred volcano of Mount...

Munich/Hinwil. The mountain calls. Following the night race in Singapore - as glamorous as the BMW Sauber F1 Team's points haul was modest - Formula One now heads for the Japanese Alps to race at the foot of the sacred volcano of Mount Fuji.

There are still three races on the agenda, including the Japanese Grand Prix on 12th October. Rarely has a season proved as diverse and unpredictable as this one. The battle for the top places in the World Championship rankings is about to enter its decisive phase.

Nick Heidfeld:

"Firstly, I'm hoping Fuji won't bring the kind of torrential rain we had in 2007. Basically I enjoy driving in the rain, but with last year's deluge it was just impossible. Visibility was zero, which led to a number of collisions. Somebody drove into my car as well and damaged it. Even so, shortly before the end I was in sixth place, but then an engine problem put me out of the race.

"It's a fun circuit. There are lots of uphill and downhill gradients and several blind corners. But I'm a bit hard on it as Suzuka was always my favourite GP track. One feature of the Fuji circuit that stands out is its extremely long straight.

"It's a beautiful landscape, and the road from the hotel to the track could serve as an excellent rally special stage. I hope Mount Fuji is going to show its face again. Overall there doesn't seem to be much going on in the area, but that's fine after all the hustle and bustle of Singapore."

Robert Kubica:

"This season we go to Fuji for the second year in a row. I guess everybody remembers last year's Japanese Grand Prix as the weather conditions were crazy. It was extremely wet and visibility was poor. From a driver's perspective the track is very interesting. There are some challenging corners with different radii and also some blind corners. Under dry conditions it was very enjoyable to drive, although the last sector is quite slow as there are a lot of tight corners.

"As always in Japan, I think the fans will bring a unique atmosphere to the Formula One track. Usually they come to the track early in the morning and leave it after us."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:

"The spectacular night-race premiere in Singapore is over. For the next two races we will be stopping off in Asia as well, first in Japan and just a week later in China. Some team members flew back to Munich and Hinwil from Singapore, while others stayed on in Asia for a few days' relaxation. Others, in turn, are travelling to South Korea, where Nick will be doing some demo drives with the Formula One car on Saturday and Sunday.

"The Fuji Speedway celebrated its successful comeback to the F1 calendar in 2007. The circuit is in a picturesque setting in the Japanese Alps, against the backdrop of Mount Fuji that rises majestically behind it. Last year, however, the sacred mountain could only be seen

on Friday, and in the sunshine it was the most photographed view. Unfortunately, it then disappeared behind a thick wall of fog and rain and was never seen again. The weather had a profound impact on the entire race weekend in 2007.

"After our unlucky experience with the Safety Car regulations in Singapore - the second time this season - which lost us important points, we aim to make up for lost ground in Japan. In the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships the leaders are bunched close together, which promises plenty of excitement for the remaining races."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director:

"After the spectacular night race in Singapore, Formula One will be returning to normality in Fuji. Last year was our first race there, though it was dominated by a very wet track. But we still managed to gather some information in terms of the car set-up.

"At around 1.5 kilometres, Fuji boasts the longest genuine straight of any Grand Prix circuit. It means there are real overtaking opportunities. At the same time, the medium-fast and fast turns require plenty of downforce, which calls for a compromise in the aero set-up. In Fuji we drive with medium downforce, comparable to Valencia. Bridgestone supplies the two medium tyre compounds, which shouldn't pose us any major problems.

"After Singapore's turbulent race, where the Safety Car phase threw a spanner into the works, we want to achieve a strong points haul with both cars in Japan."

Facts and figures:

Circuit/Date                    Fuji/2nd October 2008

Start time (local/UTC) 13.30 hrs/04.30 hrs (06.30 in Central Europe)
Lap/Race distance 4.563 km/305.416 km (67 laps)
Corners 10 right-hand and 6 left-hand corners

2007 Winner Lewis Hamilton, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, 2 hrs 00:34.579
2007 Pole position Lewis Hamilton, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 1:25.368 minutes
2007 Fastest lap Lewis Hamilton, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, 1:28.193 minutes

Data 2007 (race):
Full-throttle percentage: 60%
Top speed: 310 km/h
Longest section at full throttle: 20 sec / 1,445 m
Gear changes per lap: 44
Tyre wear: medium
Brake wear: low
Downforce level: medium

History and background:

The Fuji race track opened its gates in 1966. It has already hosted Formula One races in 1976 and 1977, and even then became notorious for its rain. At the start of the 1976 GP - the closing race of the season - the rain was bucketing down. Aquaplaning forced defending champion Niki Lauda to park his Ferrari in the pits after just two laps. Mario Andretti went on to win the race, and James Hunt was crowned World Champion with a single-point lead.

In 2005 the complex was given a complete overhaul in order to meet the Formula One standards set out by the FIA. 2007 saw the return of Formula One to the Fuji circuit. As of 2009, the Japanese Grand Prix is to be held alternately in Suzuka and Fuji.

The Speedway takes its name from Fujiyama or Fuji-san, as the mountain is more commonly known today. Both "yama" and "san" can mean "mountain", depending on whether one follows Kunyomi or Onyomi pronunciation.

The composite volcano rising to a height of 3,776 metres above sea level is Japan's tallest mountain. Its rock is dated 100,000 years old. Not only is the volcano a highly popular photo opportunity, it is still active, though classified as harmless. The last eruption was recorded in 1707.

Mount Fuji is in the Japanese Alps on the main island of Honshu. Its summit marks the border between Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefectures. Geologically, the volcano is located where the Eurasian, Pacific and Philippine plates meet.

Thanks to its gently sloping contours, it is relatively easy to climb. The first to do so was a Japanese monk in the year 663. Today such an expedition has lost any trace of exclusivity, with thousands of people congregating at its peak in summer.

-credit: bmw sauber

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Nick Heidfeld , Mario Andretti , Lewis Hamilton , Niki Lauda , Robert Kubica , Mario Theissen , James Hunt
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren