Japanese GP: Minardi preview

The Suzuka Circuit was completed in 1962, and to this day, remains a Honda-owned facility. Although not particularly well known by western motor racing fans, the track, which is approximately 30 miles from Nagoya, is one of the most challenging ...

The Suzuka Circuit was completed in 1962, and to this day, remains a Honda-owned facility. Although not particularly well known by western motor racing fans, the track, which is approximately 30 miles from Nagoya, is one of the most challenging visited by the Formula One teams. It possesses the breathtaking 130R corner -- a gut-wrenching, high-speed bend on a par with Eau Rouge at Spa -- as well as the only "figure-of-eight" crossover layout of any current Grand Prix circuit.

Slightly disappointingly, though, there is only one obvious overtaking opportunity at Suzuka -- on the entry to the chicane, above the downhill start-finish straight. Over the years, the Japanese track has been the scene of high drama, most famously in 1989 and 1990, when Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna had World Championship-deciding clashes, the title going Prost's way the first time, and Senna evening the score and emerging the victor the following year.

LAST YEAR

The final Grand Prix of the 2001 season was arguably the best of the year for Minardi. After trouble-free practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, drivers Fernando Alonso and Alex Yoong produced strong qualifying performances. Inspired by the "near-perfect balance" of his car around the high-speed Suzuka Circuit, Alonso claimed an excellent 18th place on the grid, while Yoong finished 22nd, but would have improved on that result had he not been caught in traffic on his third run of the afternoon. The momentum carried on in the race, with Alonso taking the chequered flag in 11th place after a fighting drive, and Yoong completing his first-ever Formula One race in 16th position.

THIS YEAR

Mark Webber

"I'm really looking forward to driving a Formula One car at Suzuka. I drove there in a sports car in 1998, and although that was a while ago, I remember it as being a very good, but very tough circuit. It is going to be a demanding track, because you need a lot of efficiency in terms of downforce, but if we can achieve a good balance in the car and the tyres are working well, then we could have a nice result there."

Alex Yoong

"After the US Grand Prix, I headed back to Malaysia for a few days before flying to Japan. While there, I took the opportunity of having discussions with several of my sponsors concerning possible plans for next year. These were productive, and we will continue them once I return to Kuala Lumpur from Japan. As for Suzuka, I've done a few races there in recent years, and I think it's probably the most physically challenging circuit we visit, as well as being the best on which to race. Like most teams, we are likely to run our cars in full-downforce configuration because of the predominance of quick corners. It's just possible 130R might be flat this year, but somehow, I doubt it."

-minardi-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Fernando Alonso , Alex Yoong , Alain Prost , Ayrton Senna
Teams Minardi