How would you describe Suzuka as a circuit? Jarno: It is a very technical and very challenging circuit. There are a lot of high-speed corners and quick changes of direction, so it is a very nice lay-out for a driver. Spa is very similar but I ...
How would you describe Suzuka as a circuit?
Jarno: It is a very technical and very challenging circuit. There are a lot of high-speed corners and quick changes of direction, so it is a very nice lay-out for a driver. Spa is very similar but I would say a little bit harder because it is longer. There are many different types of corner so you need your car to be strong in all areas and, as a medium-high-speed track, aerodynamics are very important. I am really looking forward to going back to Suzuka after two enjoyable trips to Fuji Speedway because it's one of the sport's great tracks.
Timo: Suzuka is a mega track, one of the best in the world. I am really looking forward to driving there again as it has been five years which is way too long! The main thing about Suzuka is that it is high speed and in a Formula 1 car that is a lot of fun. It is a really interesting circuit, with lots of different types of corners as well as up and downhill sections. It's certainly not easy.
What is your favourite part of the track?
Jarno: The track is too good to only choose one part! The combination of fast corners at the start of the lap is great fun in a Formula 1 car then you have the quick left-hander of 130R followed by hard braking for the chicane which is quite challenging.
Timo: For me the most exciting part of the track is the first sector, turns three, four and five going uphill. You're hitting over 300km/h so the speed and direction changes are really nice. It's just an unbelievable combination of corners. In the past I think 130R was quite challenging but now it is flat-out, even with the new aerodynamic rules.
What memories do you have of Suzuka?
Jarno: I have some good and some bad memories of Suzuka. Generally I have not been particularly lucky there. I remember back in 2003 I was fastest in first qualifying but in the second session it rained at the wrong time and I had to start at the back. But even so I was really quick in the race and finished fifth; if I had started in the top six I think I could have won it. One of my best memories of Suzuka is making my Toyota debut there in 2004. It was a really special experience to go to Japan for the first time as a Toyota driver and in first qualifying I was on provisional pole; seeing the reaction from the team and the fans was great. Obviously the car wasn't that competitive in race trim but it was good motivation to see what was possible.
Timo: I have only been to Suzuka once before and the first thing I remember is getting to the airport and realising my mobile phone didn't work. It was my first time to be anywhere in Japan I wasn't expecting that! I had to get another one. Apart from that I just remember the track being really, really impressive.
When was your first visit to Suzuka?
Jarno: I actually visited Suzuka for the first time many years ago before I reached Formula 1. It was in 1994 for a kart meeting and I won the Ayrton Senna Memorial Cup, which was a very proud moment for me. I can't remember too much about the visit but obviously it was a different experience for an Italian who has spent most of his time in Europe.
Timo: My first race at Suzuka was in 2004, the year they had to postpone qualifying until Sunday due to the typhoon. That was a really surreal experience, not only because we were back in our hotel on a Saturday afternoon when we should have been qualifying but also because it was the first time I saw a typhoon; it was very impressive. I was watching the TV to see if it would really hit Suzuka or not. In the end it rained a lot but it wasn't as bad as expected. I didn't have the best race because my car at the time wasn't so competitive. I would have preferred to have a wet race but it stayed dry and I just got the car to the finish, in 15th.
What experiences have you had of the Japanese fans?
Jarno: The great thing about Japan, whether you go to Suzuka or Fuji, is the number of supporters we have there. As Toyota we have a lot of fans but I personally have a big fan club in Japan. I really enjoy spending some time with my fans in Japan during race week and I hope I can do the same again this year. They make it a special race for me because it feels like a second home Grand Prix. I have a lot of friends in Japan and I hope to celebrate with them on Sunday!
Timo: Last year I was really surprised how many fans were at Fuji supporting me and Toyota. They are so enthusiastic and they really love Formula 1. It's a great feeling to drive around a track and see Toyota flags and banners giving me support. It is really motivating and I can't wait to be back in Japan to experience it again. One thing I remember about being at Suzuka is that the fans surround you all the time. At the hotel there are always hundreds of fans waiting outside and if you drive in and out of the circuit they are everywhere, just wanting to say hello and give you their support. They are crazy, nice people and they create a really special atmosphere.
What are your targets for the Japanese Grand Prix?
Jarno: This year we should be competitive and we hope to be very strong so I hope to race well in our home Grand Prix. We are strong enough to be in the top six and we should be aiming to get near the podium. I hope to give the Japanese fans a good show and a result they can enjoy.
Timo: One day I would love to win the Japanese Grand Prix for Toyota; that is a dream. I don't know if that will be possible this year so my target for the weekend is to fight for the podium; if I can stand on the podium in front of the Toyota fans that would be perfect.
What are you particularly looking forward to this weekend?
Jarno: That's easy: spending time with my fans and driving at Suzuka again.
Timo: Aside from driving at Suzuka again, I am looking forward to two things; it will be great to be in Tokyo again because it's a really cool city and I have spent a lot of time there the past couple of years. It's good fun so I'm happy to have a short time there before the race. The other thing I am looking forward to is sushi; I am really a fan and the best sushi in the world is obviously in Japan.