The Japanese Grand Prix is the final race of the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship, taking place at Suzuka Circuit. It will be a home grand prix for Panasonic Toyota Racing, but it will not be the team's first experience of Suzuka, having tested...
The Japanese Grand Prix is the final race of the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship, taking place at Suzuka Circuit. It will be a home grand prix for Panasonic Toyota Racing, but it will not be the team's first experience of Suzuka, having tested there last year with the TF101 test car.
The 5.821-kilometre track is one of the most challenging on the F1 calendar. It has an average lap speed of 220kph and has a mixture of high-speed corners. The track has been the home of the Japanese Grand Prix since 1987, during which time it has remained relatively unchanged, although it has been shortened by 38 metres this year to make room for some increased run-off areas.
Both Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers know the track, especially Mika Salo, who drove there many times during the four years that he raced in Japan between 1991 and 1994. Suzuka is also where he made his grand prix debut in 1994.
The three TF102 racecars travelled straight from Indianapolis to Japan. Both Salo and McNish performed straight-line demonstrations of the TF102s at Megaweb - the largest Toyota showroom in the world - in front of around 2000 enthusiastic Japanese fans last weekend. This weekend also marks Salo and McNish's final race for Panasonic Toyota Racing and both drivers are looking to end the season on a high.
"The final race of the season is a home race for us, so it will be an exceptionally busy one. It will be the first time most of our Japanese fans get to see the team close-up, so hopefully we can give them something to cheer about. Having tested at Suzuka last year, we already have some track data, which will benefit us. This has been a busy year for everyone in the team and there is no more fitting place than Japan to get a good result. We will certainly try our best."
"It's unbelievable to think how fast this year has gone. It seems just like yesterday that we were celebrating our success in Melbourne. I'm looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix because I'm sure that we will have lots of local support. Suzuka is a great track to drive so where better to drive my last race for the team? I really hope we can get a good result."
"Along with Monaco and Spa, Suzuka is one of the most challenging tracks on the F1 calendar. There are some really quick corners and lots of sudden directional changes. After a slightly disappointing Indy, I am hoping to redress the balance and end the season on a high in Japan. It is Toyota's home grand prix and my last for the team, so it will for sure be a special one."
Mika Salo on Suzuka: "Suzuka is one of my favourite tracks because it's traditional. The layout has not been altered by the organisers like some of the European tracks. There are several quick corners, but there is also a hairpin and a chicane, so it's quite a challenge to put a good lap together. One of the best things about racing in Japan is the atmosphere. The fans absolutely love Formula 1 and they stay in the grandstands opposite the pits until late in the evening, just to watch what's going on in the pit garages. Personally, if I had any free time in the evening, I'd prefer to have a go on the theme park next to the track!"