Japanese GP: McLaren preview

Team McLaren Mercedes arrives at the legendary Suzuka circuit this week for the penultimate race of the 2005 season, the Japanese Grand Prix, heading the Constructors' Championship by two points from Renault. The team took the lead for the first...

Team McLaren Mercedes arrives at the legendary Suzuka circuit this week for the penultimate race of the 2005 season, the Japanese Grand Prix, heading the Constructors' Championship by two points from Renault.

The team took the lead for the first time this season at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen secured the 14th one-two finish for the Team McLaren Mercedes partnership and the 40th in McLaren's Formula One history.

There are a maximum of 36 points to be won over the remaining two races, with China taking place seven days after the Japanese race. The Constructors' title could be won by Team McLaren Mercedes in Japan if the drivers score a one-two finish and Renault take only one point. As a result of the two point advantage held by Team McLaren Mercedes going into the race, Renault cannot win the Constructor's Championship at Suzuka.

Following Juan Pablo's victory at Brazil, Team McLaren Mercedes has now won nine out of the last 12 Grands Prix. The team has led 586 of the season's 1,071 laps, which equals 2,830 lead kilometres out of a total of 5,166 (54.8 percent) over the 17 races so far. Kimi has a record of 369 laps and 1,688 kms (32.7 percent) in the lead whilst Juan Pablo's record is 217 laps and 1,143 kms (22.1 percent). Fernando Alonso led for 281 laps and 1,395 kms (27.0 percent).

Although Japan's motorsport tradition - with Formula 1 and motorcycle racing - started in the early sixties, the first Formula One Grand Prix in the country was not held until 1976.

Mario Andretti won the race in a Lotus-Ford, while James Hunt in a McLaren-Ford clinched the Drivers' World Championship with a third-place finish. He beat Niki Lauda by one point as the Austrian retired after two laps in torrential rain due to safety reasons.

One year later, James Hunt drove his McLaren-Ford to victory and the runner-up position in the championship behind Niki Lauda. After the first two Grands Prix, which took place at the Mount Fuji track, it took ten years until Formula One returned to Japan at the Suzuka circuit.

Since 1987, Suzuka has been the regular venue for the Japanese Grand Prix, which is being held for the 21st time this year. The Suzuka circuit was established in 1962. Today it is more than a race track, the attached resort offers a variety of hotels and restaurants as well as a leisure park. On many pictures published from the Japanese Grand Prix, the big wheel is the most significant landmark.

At Suzuka, Team McLaren Mercedes won the Drivers' Championships in 1998 and 1999 with Mika Häkkinen and clinched the Constructors' title in 1998.

Kimi Raikkonen:

"We will give it our all to win the Constructors' World Championship by aiming to score the best possible results in Japan and China, and I think we have the package to achieve this. Juan Pablo and I had a good battle in Brazil and I am looking forward to continuing it this weekend! The Drivers' title fight is over for this year and now we want to win the Constructors'."

"Suzuka is a great track; it is fun to drive and really allows you to push the limits. 130R corner was modified before last year's race, but it is still a good challenge. It is quite difficult to overtake here though."

"There are tight hairpins, sweeping corners and long straights, so set-up is a compromise, mainly with the slower sections to ensure we can be flat out through the esses, which is key for a quick lap time. It is a low grip track though, so we do need quite a bit of downforce to handle this."

Juan Pablo Montoya:

"With two races remaining, myself and Kimi need to take as many points away as possible from both Grands Prix to clinch the Constructors' World Championship. The car felt really quick in Brazil and there are some modifications coming on board after the recent tests, so we need to maximise this on track."

"All the different sections of Suzuka have their own unique characteristics. You know you have to be smooth with good balance and power through the esses, traction and braking stability for the chicane and high downforce at Spoon and 130R. So we need a compromise and we have a medium downforce set-up. As with Brazil, the fans in Japan are crazy about Formula One; they are always so excited, which is great fun."

Pedro de la Rosa:

"Suzuka is my favourite track by far and I would say it is like my second Home GP as I raced in Japan for three years before Formula One. The Suzuka Circuit is long, fast and has many types of corners to both sides, right and left, which makes it very demanding for the driver and for the tyres. I expect our package to be very competitive at this very special track, where I will focus as always on tyre selection with Michelin."

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes:

"We have some developments coming onto MP4-20 for Japan and China and we are continuing to push hard. We have a fast car and a strong team and we want to finish the season with a title that befits our current performance. Following the typhoon that was forecast last year, everyone is hoping for a less eventful Grand Prix weather wise!"

"Suzuka is a technical track with characteristics similar to Spa, for example the elevation changes. There is an abrasive track surface, so it can be fairly tough on tyres and as a result we will be selecting from the mid-hard compound Michelin range."

Norbert Haug, Vice president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:

"Suzuka is the second longest circuit on the calendar after Spa-Francorchamps. The first sector with the uphill Esses is a unique challenge and also the rest of the track requires excellent driving skills and a good handling car. Suzuka really shows the strengths and weaknesses of each driver/car combination like probably no other circuit."

"We have achieved 11 podium finishes at Suzuka in the 10 years we have been working together with McLaren. Everybody in the team is working very hard in order to continue our trend of the last five races."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren