Japanese GP: McLaren preview

The Team McLaren Mercedes team travels to Suzuka this week for the penultimate race of the 2006 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the Japanese Grand Prix. The legendary Suzuka circuit is famous for its unique figure-of-eight configuration, the...

The Team McLaren Mercedes team travels to Suzuka this week for the penultimate race of the 2006 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the Japanese Grand Prix.

The legendary Suzuka circuit is famous for its unique figure-of-eight configuration, the only one on the Formula 1 calendar and it has developed a reputation for close racing. The track was constructed as a test track in the early sixties.

The inaugural Japanese event took place in 1976 at Mount Fuji, with Mario Andretti taking the winners spoils in a race that also saw McLaren driver James Hunt secure the Drivers' World Championship. The following year saw James Hunt take victory at the Fuji track.

After these two races, a 10-year absence followed before the Grand Prix returned to the calendar in 1987 at Suzuka, which is located between Osaka and Nagoya, south-west of Tokyo. The event has historically been located towards the end of the season, and consequently has been the scene of numerous championship deciders. These include when Team McLaren Mercedes won the Drivers' Championships in 1998 and 1999 with Mika Häkkinen and clinched the Constructors' title in 1998.

In Japan, DaimlerChrysler AG hold a 65 percent share of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC). In the first six months of 2006, the Mercedes Car Group sold 26,362 cars in Japan, which means an increase of 13.6 percent compared to the same period in 2005. During this time, the total car market in Japan decreased by 5.5 percent.

Kimi Raikkonen:

"We demonstrated the competitiveness of the MP4-21 over the weekend of the Chinese Grand Prix and it was clear that the speed was there, despite my retirement from second place which was disappointing for everyone. This level should carry through to the Grand Prix in Japan at Suzuka, which is really great to drive, and there is no reason why we should not be competing at the front again."

"There are for sure many different characteristics across the circuit and you get to really push the limits all the way round, which is fantastic. The first corner is key, you have to get it just right with the combination of braking and throttle application otherwise you will lose a lot of time in that corner but also it will affect your line into the esses complex. At turn one you have the high speed apex, then the low speed apex, and if you get the first bit wrong your line into the second section and of course the esses is wrong. You can make so much time up in this section of the track; it is great to have such a challenging section so early in the lap!"

"The circuit is also pretty fast, and to get the time there is one line that you have to stick to. Probably the best place to overtake is the final chicane, but as last year showed, there are other options. Suzuka is very light on brakes, even though there are a lot of corners, most of them are so quick you are either flat out, lifting a bit or using just a dab of the brakes, there are no massive braking zones."

Pedro de la Rosa:

"Despite a difficult race in China, where I finished fifth in the wet conditions, the pace of the car felt really good all weekend and I see no reason why this package will not continue to be strong in Japan. Suzuka is without a doubt my favourite track we race on in Formula 1 and it is truly unique. I competed in Japan for three years before I moved to Formula 1 and I have some great memories that I am hoping to add to this weekend!"

"Japan is renowned for being hard on tyres, degradation levels are severe and this is why you tend to see more three stop races, because tyre performance tends to drop off more than somewhere like Canada. It is an abrasive circuit and has massive cornering demands as they are all so fast. We had a major focus on our tyre programme with Michelin at the recent Silverstone test, where we completed some positive development and arrive in Suzuka with competitive compounds to select from."

"The fast corners that affect tyre wear are the highlight of this track, 130R is awesome to drive, it has been modified in recent years and is not quite what it was, but it is still great fun. The atmosphere is great at this track, the fans are always so excited, which is great to see, and I hope we can put on a good show for them this weekend."

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes:

"Going into the Japanese Grand Prix we are looking to translate the competitiveness of the package we had in China into the results that eluded us this weekend. The team remained in the Far East following China to travel directly to Suzuka for the Japanese race this weekend."

"Although traditionally the track is not great for overtaking, last year we saw some of the best passing maneuvers in the recent history of the sport. Kimi's pass on Fisichella to take victory on the final lap, and of course Fernando Alonso's move to take Schumacher through the 130R were impressive to say the least and we are all looking forward to what we hope will be a similarly entertaining Grand Prix.

"The track characteristics are fairly low grip, and you need a good level of downforce to be quick. Suzuka, which is the longest and third fastest track we race on, is very demanding and known as a car breaker."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:

"Everybody in the team has good memories of Suzuka; with Kimi's victory last year after he started 17th on the grid and the thrilling World Championship deciders in 1998 and 1999, which both took place in the final at Suzuka."

"The track layout is one of the most demanding in Formula One; the weather often adds more challenges and despite this -- or even therefore -- Suzuka is very popular among drivers and teams. Once a year, the entire Formula One staff lives completely different from what we experienced last weekend in China -- everything is very close together, in the narrow paddock as well as in the adjacent Circuit Hotel."

"From a sporting perspective, the Japanese Grand Prix is one of the biggest challenges of all 18 races this year. The track layout offers everything from the ultra fast corner 130R to a slow hairpin. We aim for a result like last year; however, we want to start further up the grid this time."

-credit: mclaren

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Pedro de la Rosa , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Norbert Haug , James Hunt , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Mercedes , McLaren