The final round of the Formula One World Championship takes Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda to the home of its Japanese partners Honda and Bridgestone this weekend for one final push before bidding farewell to a challenging 2002 season. Built as a test...
The final round of the Formula One World Championship takes Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda to the home of its Japanese partners Honda and Bridgestone this weekend for one final push before bidding farewell to a challenging 2002 season. Built as a test track for Honda in 1962, the Suzuka Circuit is located 30 miles from Japan's third largest city, Nagoya. Originally part of a motorcycle theme park, Suzuka Circuitland was the first full-scale racetrack in Japan and also houses the Honda racing museum, hotels, restaurants, an exhibition centre and an amusement park. A ride on the famous Big Wheel is the best way to see the characteristic figure-of-eight track, which is one of only a few ever built.
The team will be pulling out all the stops to give its legions of local fans something to celebrate at the end of what will be an emotional weekend for Olivier Panis, who will compete in his final Grand Prix for B.A.R. After 2 years together, there is nothing that the team would like more than to see Olivier depart on a high note.
This year the final race of the season also has greater significance for Bridgestone, as the tyre manufacturer's home race will also be its 100th Grand Prix since entering the World Championship in 1997. B.A.R has enjoyed a productive partnership with Bridgestone since 1999 and will be aiming to produce a good result for the company's many employees who are travelling from Tokyo to watch this race.
Following a good result at the United States Grand Prix, B.A.R brought its 2002 season test programme to a close with a productive 3-day test in Barcelona (1-3 October). The team's objective at the Circuit de Catalunya was to put some more mileage on the latest evolution of the Honda engine in preparation for the Japanese Grand Prix, together with a tyre test for Bridgestone, an aerodynamic assessment and a software evaluation. Test drivers Anthony Davidson and Ryo Fukuda between them covered over 1000km and both the car and the engine proved to be reliable.
With 6th place in the Constructors' Championship only two points away, the team is determined to put in a strong performance this weekend.
David Richards, Team Principal
"The Japanese Grand Prix is a very important race for us, not least because of our partnerships with Honda and Bridgestone. We will have a lot of support from our many Japanese fans and I hope we can reward them with a good result by the team here."
"Honda have continued their development programme right through to the last race and were working hard in testing last week to deliver a further step forward for Suzuka. After a strong weekend in Indianapolis two weeks ago, we are optimistic that we can repeat that performance this weekend."
"This is also Olivier's last race for B.A.R and while we are sad to see him go I have no doubt that we will see an extra push from the team to give him the best possible send off."
Jacques Villeneuve on the Japanese Grand Prix
"The Japanese GP is a special race for the team but it is also one of my personal favourites. I have lots of good memories of Japan from when I lived here for a year early in my career and it is always great to come back."
"Indianapolis was a good weekend for us and it would be nice to finish with a positive result in Suzuka. The Honda engine felt good during the US Grand Prix and it looks like we could be quite competitive here also. It's important for us to finish the season on a high. It's also my last race with Olivier as my team mate. Olivier and I have had a great working relationship together at B.A.R."
"Suzuka is one of the most beautiful circuits that we have on the GP calendar. It's quite technical, very challenging and the high-speed corners are a lot of fun to drive. It would be nice to get a good result for the team here."
Olivier Panis on the Japanese Grand Prix
"The Japanese Grand Prix is my last race with Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda so it's a very important race for me. It would be fantastic to finish in the points here and leave on a positive note. For me, that would be the best way of thanking the team for all their hard work over the last couple of years."
"This is also a big race for our partners and it would be great to do well on their home turf. Honda have done a very good job to continue improving until the end of the season and I'm optimistic that we can be competitive here at Suzuka."
"I love coming to Japan. Suzuka is my second favourite circuit after Spa because it has a great rhythm and is very enjoyable to drive. It's very distinctive because of the figure-of-eight and my favourite part is the first chicane after the first corner into the S-curve."