Japanese GP: McLaren preview

The Fuji Speedway is the location for the first of the season culminating three fly-away races. Located in the shadow of picturesque Mount Fuji, the redeveloped track has retained some of the spirit of the original speedway. The Fuji Speedway ...

The Fuji Speedway is the location for the first of the season culminating three fly-away races. Located in the shadow of picturesque Mount Fuji, the redeveloped track has retained some of the spirit of the original speedway.

The Fuji Speedway returns to the Formula 1 calendar after a break of thirty years. Starting from 2009, it will alternate the Japanese Grand Prix with Suzuka.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso continue to lead the FIA Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship, which has been lead by a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver since the second race of the season in Malaysia. Lewis has a total of 97 points, with Fernando two behind on 95.


What is the history of Formula 1 at the Fuji Speedway?

Fuji has hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix on two occasions. The first, the inaugural Japanese race took place in 1976. That race saw an enthralling battle for the Drivers' title between James Hunt in his McLaren and Niki Lauda. The chaotic race, due to dreadful weather conditions, saw James finish in third to win the Drivers' crown.

In 1977 James Hunt again played a key part in the on track action, taking the chequered flag by more than a minute. He then proceeded to leave the track immediately to avoid the notorious traffic, missing the podium celebrations. Part of the development of the circuit has included the improvement of transport links, meaning this shouldn't be such an issue in 2007!

Fuji replaces Suzuka, which held the Japanese Grand Prix between '87 and '06. In that time the team took six wins, the most recent coming in 2005 with Kimi Raikkonen. Fernando took victory at the event last year.

What are the key characteristics of the track?

The overall nature of the original track has remained, with an epic straight, the longest in Formula 1 at approximately 1.5km, connected by a relatively simple loop. However additional corners have been added to encourage more exciting racing and overtaking. Key changes have focused on the end of the track, where some slower corners have been added to decrease entry speed for the start-finish straight.

The main straight creates slipstreaming opportunities as the cars power down toward the right hander of turn one. This section of the track will dominate the set-up, with a comprise in the low - medium range to ensure performance on the straight is maximised. Unpredictable weather is also another factor, with heavy rain often falling over the track.

Fernando Alonso:

"As this is a new track for all the teams, we are in the same position with regards knowledge of the track. In 2006 I did a couple of demonstration laps with passengers on the track and it seemed really good. It is going to be a challenge to find the optimum set-up for the cars as you have this really long, fast straight and then the rest of the track is much slower."

"To be honest, we will have to wait until after Friday free practice to tell you more, but I am looking forward to seeing what it is like. We are not in any position to make any predictions, but I am sure the Championship will continue to swing between all four drivers. Ferrari were strong at Spa, we were strong at Monza, everyone in the team is pushing hard to be strong at Fuji, Shanghai and Interlagos. We can still win races, and will be doing everything to make this happen in Japan."

Lewis Hamilton:

"I haven't even seen Fuji Speedway yet, but I am sure it will be a great place to race. Hopefully there will be some overtaking opportunities because of the really long start / finish straight. We will have to wait and see what it is going to be like as I do not really have a major image in my mind at the moment."

"I have to say when I was first asked about my feelings of Fuji, I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't be getting to race at Suzuka because everyone goes on about how great it is, but this season I have really enjoyed going to new tracks and learning them. It provides a slightly different challenge so I am looking forward to it."

"Everyone will be in the same boat and it should be quite exciting. Everything is so close in the Championship now, so we have to go out there in Fuji and get as many points as possible. It would be great to win. Also, Japan is one of my favourite countries and the fans are very enthusiastic, so it would be even better to win in front of them!"

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes:

"It is always interesting to be racing at a new circuit, it will place more importance on Friday's running and we expect to see a lot of track action as everyone becomes acclimatised to the track and its new layout. From what we understand of the track layout, it should lead to some exciting racing."

"In addition its characteristics will suit the MP4-22, but not necessarily with the margin we have seen at some tracks such as Monza and Indianapolis. Three races to go, two points separating Lewis and Fernando with the two main rivals both within 20 points, it is going to be an absorbing end to what we feel has been an exciting season for the sport."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:

"The Japanese Grand Prix's return to the Mount Fuji circuit after 30 years marks the beginning of the final stages of the World Championship, with three races in four weekends leading up to the finale in Sao Paulo on 21st October. In 1976 and 1977, the circuit was the venue for two dramatic season finales."

"The front straight of the remodelled Fuji circuit is almost 1.5 kilometres long, the longest on any current Formula 1 circuit. As we calculated, the top speed at its end will be about 315 km/h, by which time the cars will have raced at full throttle for some 20 seconds, which is one of the longest full throttle sections on the calendar."

"Whilst top speed is important on this straight, the set-up has to be suitable also for the following six left-hand and 10 right-hand corners, which are all tackled at comparatively low speeds. It will be a great challenge for drivers and engineers to find the correct set-up, particularly, because no team ever tested on this track before. It is our target for Fuji to maintain our 1-2 lead in the Drivers' Championship."

-credit: mclaren

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Norbert Haug , Lewis Hamilton , Niki Lauda , James Hunt , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren