The Suzuka Circuit is one of the most revered racetracks in the world. Its undulations, fast sweeps and unique figure-of-eight layout require total commitment from the drivers, and victory, perhaps unsurprisingly, is confined to the world’s best. World champions have won 16 out of the last 17 races at Suzuka.
Suzuka is the only circuit on the 2012 calendar that features a downhill start-finish straight. This presents the drivers with a tricky balancing act at the start, when they have to hold their cars on the brakes until they release the clutch. As a result, there is a greater likelihood of jumped starts than at any other venue.
McLaren has a long history of success in Japan, having clinched seven world championships at the Japanese Grand Prix. This year, Lewis and Jenson go to Suzuka hoping to close the gap to points leader Fernando Alonso.
Jenson Button “All of my grand prix wins have felt special, but winning at Suzuka in 2011, at the first grand prix held in Japan since the terrible tsunami last March, was an achievement that still makes me feel incredibly proud and emotional.
“As everybody knows, Japan means a lot to me. It’s a place I love, I’ve been here so many times – for business and pleasure – and I still feel that wide-eyed awe and deep emotion for a country that exists so comfortably on so many different levels.
“Suzuka is definitely a circuit that puts hair on your chest. It’s extremely uncompromising; like a street circuit, it doesn’t allow for a single mistake, punishing you for putting a wheel wrong at almost every point on the circuit.
“But it’s also extremely quick – there’s only one line through the esses that make up the whole first section; the Degner corners are blind, hidden in dips in the track, and approached over bumps that jolt the car, trying to unbalance it. Successfully hitting the apex for Degner 1 is a bit like trying to thread a needle while running the 100 metres – difficult!
“We go to Japan with a car that I feel convinced can fight for victory – it should be another good weekend for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.”
Lewis Hamilton “When I first raced here in 2009, I couldn’t believe a place like this could still exist in Formula 1 – it still feels like a proper old-school circuit. It doesn’t have the polish or finesse of an ultra-modern track – but is all the better for it.
“It’s fantastically quick, too, and very difficult to master. It’s an unforgiving place, and it also has that special atmosphere that you only get in Japan, for some reason.
“I think that’s due to the fans – they’re what make any visit to a racetrack in Japan feel so special. They’re very passionate about Formula 1, but also extremely polite and friendly – they make you feel very special every day when you’re going in and out of the circuit.
“In terms of the championship, there’s nothing to really be gained by analysing the points tables, from now on, it’s simply gloves-off. As in Singapore, I’ll come out fighting, I’ll just be hoping for a better result next weekend.”
Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “Suzuka is a very special circuit, a place where some of the greatest chapters in McLaren’s history have been written over the past 25 years.
“Of all our achievements there, I look back at Jenson’s victory last year with particular fondness and satisfaction. It was an extremely tense afternoon, and the victory was a perfect team effort – Jenson drove with all the measured aggression we’ve come to expect, and his back-up from the team was superb.
“Despite Lewis’s retirement from the last race, our performance in Singapore was encouraging for the whole team; it showed that we have a car that can fight for victory on a wide range of circuits, and we’re confident of once again challenging at the front in Japan next weekend.”
Source: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes