After a second consecutive points-scoring finish at Indianapolis, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team driver Jarno Trulli is looking to continue his late-season momentum in the forthcoming Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka: "The points from the last races ...
After a second consecutive points-scoring finish at Indianapolis, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team driver Jarno Trulli is looking to continue his late-season momentum in the forthcoming Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka:
"The points from the last races speak for themselves," comments Trulli. "It feels like the whole Team is really starting to gel. It took me some time to understand how the Team worked, and how best to work with my engineers, but we are doing a really great job now. We have managed to balance the car well at the last races and everybody can see the result.
"Suzuka is a wonderful circuit: very technical, and definitely a place I enjoy a lot. It's among the most challenging of all the tracks we visit."
Jenson Button, who scored points in his first visit to the circuit and finished a strong seventh in 2001, reinforces his team-mate's point:
"Suzuka is a very tough track, and especially in the race. You have to be at 100% throughout physically but also mentally. Every corner is a challenge, and each one is important. Mentally, I think Suzuka is probably the most difficult circuit of all."
After the glitzy showmanship of Indianapolis, Japan might initially appear to be a slightly more low-key end to the season. However, the passionate local crowd reserves a special, distinctive welcome for the F1 drivers:
"The fans are incredible!" exclaims Button. "I know Japan is the Land of the Rising Sun, but it is the only place where I cannot actually see the sun as I'm driving into the circuit... there are so many fans, and they all get so close to the car, that they actually block out the light! They are there looking for an autograph: it's a pretty surreal experience!"
"Some of my best memories come from Suzuka," continues Trulli. "Every year, my Japanese fan club holds a party for me and I visit it every time: it's a fun evening where I can spend time with some of the supporters. This is always one of my favourite races."
However, the attraction of the Japanese race is not restricted to the enthusiastic support. Out on the track, the drivers are confronted by one of the most testing challenges in motor racing, particularly the sequence of 'esses' behind the pits (Turns 3 to 7). Trulli and Button talk us through it:
"What makes it so complicated and technical is the fact that every corner has consequences for the next," explains the Italian. "From the first corner, you have to get it right to get through all the rest: the line must be perfect. They are all linked: it's a bit like walking a tightrope where every move you make is critical."
Button elaborates on car set-up for the complex: "You need a very quick change of direction in the esses. Obviously, the balance needs to be right, but you can't set the car up too softly: sometimes you can get a rolling sensation when the car is slow to react and grip, and that will cost you time. It's part of the track where you can make up time, but lose a lot as well."
The Japanese Grand Prix will be Button's final race for the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team, and he is keen to score the points that will cement his best-ever seventh position in the Championship while also ending his two years with the Team on a high:
"Of course, it would be nice to get a good result. It was tough at times, especially last year, but I'm looking to score points for myself to finish seventh and for the Team."
For Trulli, the final race will be the opportunity to round off an impressive late-season run of results in style:
"We have had a good season - our aim was for the Team to finish fourth in the Championship, and we have achieved that target. Having said that, we are all looking forward and know that we can do much better with every element of the package next year."