Hot on the heels of a grand prix landmark - the success of China's first world championship race - Formula One remains in the Far East for the penultimate event of the season. This will be the 20th Japanese GP and the 18th to have taken place at...
Hot on the heels of a grand prix landmark - the success of China's first world championship race - Formula One remains in the Far East for the penultimate event of the season. This will be the 20th Japanese GP and the 18th to have taken place at Suzuka.
Although Michelin has notched up many Japanese GP successes on two wheels, it has yet to break its duck on four. The company did not participate in the first two Japanese GPs, at Fuji in 1976-77, and was not involved in F1 when the event was reinstated to the calendar in 1987, at Suzuka.
Consequently, Michelin did not contest the Japanese F1 GP until 2001, since when it has proved that it has the expertise to tame one of the most demanding circuits on the grand prix schedule. Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) led last season's corresponding fixture comfortably until a technical problem forced him to retire.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"This is one of the finest - and most challenging - races of the year. It's a real headache for aerodynamicists, who have to devise a set-up that offers the best compromise for high- and low-speed corners plus some long straights. Its late slot in the calendar makes it a good benchmark for teams and suppliers, because they can capitalise on the lessons that have been learned during a long, hard campaign to gauge their standing within F1's hierarchy."
"The atmosphere should be fantastic, with two strong Japanese manufacturers and one front-running Japanese driver - all using Michelin tyres, incidentally - and I am confident that we can build on last year's promise, when we appeared to have the race in our pocket until outside factors intervened."
Pascal Vasselon, Michelin F1 programme manager:
"The end of the season features some fantastic venues, such as Spa, Monza, Shanghai, Suzuka and Interlagos. It is an absolute paradise for drivers and a significant challenge for us. The key factors in Japan will be several sequences of quick corners, where the slightest mistake can cost an awful lot of time."
"One key facet of Suzuka is its figure-of-eight configuration, which creates an equal blend of left- and right-hand corners. This balances the tyre load so wear rates are not as severe as the circuit's high-speed characteristics might suggest."
"The track tends to evolve significantly during the course of the weekend, too, and that helps to reduce the strain on rubber by Sunday afternoon. We will have two dry-weather options available for Suzuka, from the medium- hard sector of our range."
Takuma Sato, B*A*R-Honda/Michelin:
"Everybody knows that Suzuka is a demanding circuit. It is a great venue that offers drivers a little bit of everything, although I don't know it as well as people imagine because I spent most of my formative racing years in Europe. And even if the high-speed 130R has been eased, which is a bit of a shame for drivers who love challenging corners, there is still plenty to appreciate. It is one of those circuits where a driver can really feel whether or not his car is well balanced. Consistent tyre grip is essential - and Michelin has given us that throughout the season."