Japanese GP -- A worthwhile goal The fifteenth round of the World Championship sees Formula 1 make a welcome return to Suzuka Circuit after a two year hiatus spent in the shadow of Mount Fuji. This year's race will be the twenty fifth running of...
Japanese GP -- A worthwhile goal
The fifteenth round of the World Championship sees Formula 1 make a welcome return to Suzuka Circuit after a two year hiatus spent in the shadow of Mount Fuji. This year's race will be the twenty fifth running of the Japanese Grand Prix and Suzuka has been its home for all but four races. Owned by Honda, who built it as a test track in 1962, it is now considered to be one of the all time classic circuits, up there with Spa in the F1 drivers' affections. It is also the only circuit on the calendar to feature a figure of eight layout. There are eighteen turns, beginning with a very fast downhill run past the pits to a quick right, followed by the famous "Esses" before the Spoon Curve and the legendary 130R, one of the most daunting corners on the F1 calendar. Despite its fast and flowing nature, overtaking is not that straightforward here, with the best opportunities coming at the final chicane, although if conditions are right, a move is possible at the first corner and at the hairpin.
While all the familiar landmarks, such as the giant wheel in the Suzuka Circuitland Amusement Park will be there, along with the politest fans in the world, sitting late into the night in the main grandstand across from the pits, there will be many new features this year, with a rebuilt paddock, replacing the rather antiquated facilities of the past. Several sections of the track have been resurfaced. As this work was carried out two years ago, there should be none of the problems usually associated with a brand new surface.
Ferrari won the first ever Japanese Grand Prix to be run at this track, back in 1987, courtesy of Gerhard Berger, but the Scuderia then had to wait a decade until Michael Schumacher stood on the top step of the podium in 1997. The German went on to win it a further four times at the wheel of a Prancing Horse and thanks to a further victory for Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari had an unprecedented run of five wins between 2000 and 2004. As for our current drivers, Kimi won with McLaren in 2005, visiting the Suzuka podium on three other occasions. Giancarlo has also finished in the top three here, coming second in 2005 (standing alongside Kimi) and third in 2006.
However, the past is soon forgotten in Formula 1 and this year, the Scuderia will struggle to get a driver onto the podium. As the drivers and team principal said after last Sunday's race in Singapore, with every passing race in this final stage of the season, the F60, with a specification that has remained unchanged for several races now, is no match for cars that other teams are continuing to develop race by race. The Prancing Horse races to win world championships and, when it became clear that this would not be an option for 2009, all efforts were switched to ensuring that the 2010 car will be truly competitive at the highest level. Looking at the positive side of the F60 package, it tends to perform much better with a race level of fuel on board than it does on the low fuel required to do well in the first two parts of Qualifying on Saturday afternoon. While the grid will be very close in terms of lap times at Suzuka, at least unlike the twisty Singapore track, overtaking is possible here and so Kimi and Giancarlo should at least be able to count on the advantage of KERS to make up places at the start, possibly boost their overtaking opportunities during the race and definitely help them defend position from other drivers' attacking moves. The deficiencies in the car package certainly do not translate into any deficiency in the Scuderia's approach to the final three races of the season and everyone will be doing their utmost to give the drivers the best possible chance of scoring points. The battle for third place is one of the closest in the series and the final step on the "championship podium" is definitely worth fighting for.
Even if the technical odds are stacked against them, both our drivers can be relied on to be a force to be reckoned with at Suzuka. The Japanese track is usually mentioned in the same breath as Spa-Francorchamps, as being a true test of driver ability. Only a few weeks ago, Kimi defied the odds to win the Belgian Grand Prix and if he did not have an easy time of it, that was down to the fact he was pushed hard all the way to the flag by Giancarlo Fisichella, who finished second for his previous team, before joining the Scuderia. "Suzuka is a very demanding track, from a technical point of view, especially in terms of aerodynamics," reckons the Finn. "You need a lot of downforce and honestly, we do not have enough to fight for the top places. All the same, we will do everything we can to get the most out of the potential at our disposal." Giancarlo is also hoping that the driver's ability could make up for deficiencies in the F60 package. "I have not lost heart and I am looking forward to putting on a good show in front of the enthusiastic crowd, including members of my Japanese fan club," commented the Italian. "I've only been with Ferrari for a few weeks, but I've found out that this team is made up of people who never give up and I am sure that, thanks to everyone's hard work, we will once again be able to secure some good results in these final three races, starting in Suzuka."