After 20 years of racing at the Suzuka circuit in Japan, Formula One changes tack this weekend and re-visits Fuji Speedway. Fuji hosted the first ever Japanese Grand Prix in 1976, but its time on the calendar was short lived and the race was...
After 20 years of racing at the Suzuka circuit in Japan, Formula One changes tack this weekend and re-visits Fuji Speedway. Fuji hosted the first ever Japanese Grand Prix in 1976, but its time on the calendar was short lived and the race was dropped a year later due to safety concerns. Brought by Toyota in 2000 and given a major facelift by renowned architect, Hermann Tilke, today's facility stands tall among its rivals with a challenging new track layout and modern infrastructure.
Located just 60 miles outside the hustle of Tokyo and with the stunning Mount Fuji as its backdrop, this year's new venue, which none of today's F1 drivers have experience of, will no doubt prompt some exciting action for the first of a pair of Asian races. Currently lying fourth in the Constructors' Championship with just three races remaining, AT&T Williams will be looking to extend its lead over its main rivals and close the gap to Renault in front of a home crowd for engine partner, Toyota.
"I am looking forward to racing at Fuji Speedway. With the huge renovation work and design input from Hermann Tilke, the legendary Fuji should now be a pretty cool track. Not having been to Fuji before, I have done some practice in a simulator, but the real learning happens when you are out on the track. For me, less than a dozen laps will be enough to start feeling comfortable. At Fuji Speedway, we'll be on Toyota's home ground, so it would be great if we could do well there in front of the Japanese audience."
"I'll be flying out to Tokyo a week early for sponsor events and to recover from the jet lag. Dealing with the big time difference is not only about sleeping, but also about eating. You sometimes wake up at 4am and your body is screaming for a huge steak! Anyway, it's an unknown track, but again I am confident we can do well and continue our form of the last few races."
"I very much like going to oversees races and particularly to Japan because I love the culture there. This time, though, it will be a bit of an unknown trip for me, not because we're going to a new track, but because my wife Julia is expecting our third son and he's scheduled to arrive in the days between Japan and China. Naturally then, I'm leaving home with a bit of an uncomfortable feeling."
"As for the circuit, I always like driving new tracks and usually manage to learn them quite quickly. Fuji Speedway will certainly be a challenge when it comes to set-up and aero settings because the long fast straight, combined with the slow speed last sector, demands a big compromise. From a Championship perspective, we will have to wait and see where we stand in comparison to the others, but I hope to be able to snatch some points."
Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams F1:
"Fuji is effectively a new circuit for Formula One as the circuit layout we will race on next weekend is quite different to what was used last time F1 raced there 30 years ago. The old track layout prompted higher speeds and had only three or four corners between the long straights. The new layout mainly consists of slow speed corners and has a lot of changes of direction."
"The one very long straight could influence the amount of rear wing that we run here. As it's a new layout, I'm sure there will be some changes needed after Friday's practice sessions. The only thing that hasn't changed is Mount Fuji itself which still provides a spectacular backdrop."
"Weather forecasts predict rain for most of the weekend. This can obviously always change, but we will expect it regardless. Fuji also has high altitudes; it's approximately 570m above sea level, which is close to that in Brazil. This causes a loss of downforce, drag and engine power because the air is not as dense."