A FOND FAREWELL? This weekend Formula One completes the second part of its Asian double-header, with the 22nd Japanese Grand Prix. The race is being held at Suzuka for the 20th time - and it might also be the last for the foreseeable future. In...
A FOND FAREWELL?
This weekend Formula One completes the second part of its Asian double-header, with the 22nd Japanese Grand Prix. The race is being held at Suzuka for the 20th time - and it might also be the last for the foreseeable future. In 2007 the Japanese GP is poised to switch to the Fuji Motor Speedway, a significantly redeveloped version of the venue that hosted the event in 1976 and 1977,
Built in 1962, as a test track for Honda, Suzuka has the unique distinctions - in F1 terms, at least - of a figure-of-eight configuration and an adjacent funfair, the latter of which was built to entertain the families of workers at a nearby Honda plant. It staged its first world championship grand prix in 1987, when Japan returned to the schedule after a decade's absence, and has since been ever-present. It has staged a number of memorable championship showdowns and its challenging high-speed sweeps make it one of the drivers' favourites.
Michelin did not participate in the first 16 Japanese Grands Prix - the company made its world championship debut in 1977, but its sole partner Renault did not travel to Fuji - and only recorded its maiden Suzuka F1 success in 2005. The circumstances could hardly have been more spectacular: Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes) charged through from the back of the field and passed Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) at the start of the final lap. It proved to be the campaign's most memorable race and Michelin drivers filled the top six places.
Nick Shorrock, Formula One director, Michelin:
"Suzuka is one of the most demanding tracks on the calendar. In terms of severity it is quite similar to Silverstone - and that is where we tested to prepare tyres for this weekend's race. "Suzuka's figure-of-eight configuration might even things out in terms of wear rates, but it still puts significant mechanical forces through the tyres."
"Following the Silverstone test, our six partners selected a range of compounds and we will have 10 different products available. A small section of the famous Suzuka crossover has been resurfaced since we last raced there, but I don't expect this to make a great deal of difference. The fact that we are using V8 engines, however, has allowed us to reduce the tyre rigidity by up to one step."
"Weather conditions can be very variable in Japan at this time of year, so we had to think very carefully about the possible extremes of temperature in which the tyres might have to perform. We've taken that into account and our excellent performance in China last weekend puts us in a very positive frame of mind for the season's final two grands prix."
Willy Rampf, technical director, BMW Sauber:
"Suzuka is a very demanding track for tyres because it has so many fast corners. Degradation is traditionally high, so we use a relatively hard compound. On Friday graining is always an issue, but this problem naturally fades away as more rubber is laid on the track."
"It's always very difficult to predict the Japanese weather - you can have anything from a monsoon to 40-degree track temperatures. This presents an additional challenge when it comes to finalising our tyre choice. We are very happy with Michelin's products, though, and we're confident that we can achieve another strong result."