In advance of this week's Japanese Grand Prix, the Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team has conducted Q&As with drivers Sakon Yamamoto and Adrian Sutil. Adrian Sutil: Q: You have a lot of experience of Fuji Speedway, having raced there ...
In advance of this week's Japanese Grand Prix, the Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team has conducted Q&As with drivers Sakon Yamamoto and Adrian Sutil.
Q: You have a lot of experience of Fuji Speedway, having raced there in Japanese Formula 3 in 2006. How do you feel about having the opportunity to drive an F1 car at the track?
AS: I think it's very good that F1 is going there. The area surrounding the circuit is very nice, and the circuit is also a special track. It has a long straight, and also very tricky middle and last sectors. It's hard to find the right balance, because you need to be quick on the straights, but you need downforce for the last corners. In general I really like it. The last corner is really good, as you go straight towards Mount Fuji, and you see it right in front of you. The environment around it makes the track very special.
Q: Fuji has the longest straight on the calendar at 1.5km. Is there any way you can you compare the straight with Barcelona or Monza?
AS: It's like in Monza, I would say. Normally Fuji is a low downforce track, but for sure we'll see some cars running higher levels just trying to gain some time in the middle and last sector, but in general it'll be a low downforce set-up similar to Spa.
Q: How many races did you do there in 2006?
AS: I had many F3 races and many tests there, so it's like my second home track! The experience will help as I know which parts are important and how you set up the car there, what the benefits are and so on. I think it's very good to know about driving this circuit because it's not easy, and there are some special corners where you really have to be very smooth and not push, because otherwise you will be slow. I hope it will be an advantage.
Q: Last year you lived in nearby Gotemba, the town closest to the track. Do you really know your way around?
AS: I know the area, and I know some friends there, so it will be nice to come back. I won't be staying in my old apartment though - I'll be in a hotel this time, I think it's probably more safe with the traffic! There's only one way from Tokyo to Gotemba, so it's quite hard with the traffic. But we have many tracks where the traffic is bad, so it shouldn't be anything out of the ordinary.
Q: And you still have some friends there?
AS: Yes, I have many friends and also fans there, so I will see them again and I still get letters and presents from them most weeks. They were very friendly and I really enjoyed meeting them last year at the Japanese Grand Prix as well. I always make some time for them.
Q: When did you first go to Fuji Speedway?
SY: Once or twice when I was younger I visited Fuji for what was F3000 at that time. The first time I raced there on the old circuit was in F3 in 2001. It was good until I crashed! My first race on the new circuit was 2005, in Japanese GTs. On the old track you could really use a big tow and you could pass more easily. I think it was more tricky and more dangerous. The new one is safer, but it still has the long straight.
Q: What do you think of the track?
SY: Fuji is a very interesting circuit, because one side is a very quick straight, and the other is very technical, especially sector three. For a driver it's interesting, but for engineers it's a real compromise. The last part is probably best for drivers. It's a bit slow, but it's fun to drive. And also this is the part where the driver can make a difference, good or bad.'
Q: In the future the Japanese Grand Prix will alternate between Fuji and Suzuka. Do you see this as a positive move?
SY: Suzuka is also a very nice circuit, so I guess my feelings are 50:50! I will miss Suzuka, but I am looking forward to the new Fuji. For a driver, Suzuka is perfect for driving one lap. But for a race, you can never overtake. At Fuji one lap is OK, but in a race if you are quicker than the guy in front you can have a chance to overtake him.
Q: The backdrop to the Fuji Speedway is pretty spectacular. Do you like the ambience of Fuji, with the big grandstand and the mountain in the background?
SY: Yes, it's impressive. But I think that Fuji has changed a lot since I was there because they've built more stands and the facilities are better.
Q: What are you looking forward to this year?
SY: Last year I was really surprised that so many Japanese fans cheered for us when I was driving with Super Aguri. That really gave me some power. So I'm looking forward to driving in front of them again. I also think my family and some friends are coming, so it will be good!