Japanese GP: McLaren preview

The West McLaren Mercedes team travels to the Suzuka circuit for the culmination of the 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Japanese Grand Prix. The inaugural Japanese event took place in 1976 at Mount Fuji. After two races, a 10-year...

The West McLaren Mercedes team travels to the Suzuka circuit for the culmination of the 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Japanese Grand Prix.

The inaugural Japanese event took place in 1976 at Mount Fuji. After two races, a 10-year absence followed before the Grand Prix returned to the calendar in 1987 at Suzuka. Located between Osaka and Nagoya, south-west of Tokyo, the circuit was constructed in 1962 as a test track, and this year holds the 18th Japanese Grand Prix. The event has historically been located towards the end of the season, and consequently has been the scene of numerous championship deciders.

In 2001, the West McLaren Mercedes team secured a double points finish at Japan, with David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen taking third and fourth positions respectively. Following consecutive victories in 1998 and 1999 at the event, Mika was crowned Drivers' World Champion. Since the SAP United States Grand Prix, the West McLaren Mercedes team has been testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, with David, Alex Wurz and Darren Turner at the wheel. Kimi Raikkonen has spent the time training and acclimatising in Hawaii.

DAVID COULTHARD

"Suzuka is a classic Grand Prix circuit and one I always enjoy racing on. It poses a genuine technical challenge and includes one of the most exhilarating corners of the year, the 130R. You take the long turn without lifting as it sweeps you round to the left. The circuit has a low grip nature and therefore requires a medium to high downforce configuration. The tight chicane at the end of the lap provides the prime overtaking opportunity. It was a positive result at the SAP United States Grand Prix, we took a step forward, and are hoping this development will continue at Japan in front of the enthusiastic fans that always attend the event."

KIMI RAIKKONEN

"I am looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix, as the track offers a perfect combination of challenges. These include medium and high speed corners, gradient changes and sweeping straights, which make Suzuka exciting to drive and, hopefully, spectate at. Among these challenges is the 'S-Curve' complex, this demands a well-balanced car if you are to put in a quick lap time, so a productive free practice is important. At 3.617 miles/5.821kms, the track is the second longest on the calendar and has the figure of eight format that is unique in Formula One."

MARTIN WHITMARSH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, McLAREN INTERNATIONAL

"The 2002 Japanese Grand Prix marks the 100th Grand Prix of our Title Partner West. It also brings to an end a mixed season for the West McLaren Mercedes team and we would like to go out on a high by securing a positive result. The Suzuka circuit always seems to produce exciting races, and hopefully that will be the case again this year. It is an abrasive track, which can lead to high levels of tyre degradation, however it is light on brakes. The West McLaren Mercedes team demonstrated at the SAP United States Grand Prix that we have continued to progress and develop our package, and we will maintain this impetus through the winter in preparation for the 2003 season."

NORBERT HAUG, VICE PRESIDENT, MERCEDES-BENZ MOTORSPORT

"Suzuka is a very challenging circuit for both car and driver. The track features a varying range of fast and medium fast corners and the only underpass of any Formula One venue. Two weeks ago at Indianapolis, we took a step forward with regard to our performance and we aim to keep that momentum in Japan to finish the season with a good result. The 2002 Japanese Grand Prix is our 100th Grand Prix together with Title Partner West. Our successful Partnership started with David Coulthard's victory at Melbourne in 1997 when the West McLaren Mercedes Formula One car became the latest member of the successful Silver Arrows racing cars."

-mclaren-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Kimi Raikkonen , Alexander Wurz , Darren Turner
Teams Mercedes , McLaren