Max Verstappen will be at the wheel of Jean‑Eric Vergne’s STR9 for the Free Practice One In Suzuka.
The Suzuka circuit has some unique features, such as the fact it is one of the few anticlockwise venues on the calendar and can boast a figure‑of‑eight layout, featuring a ‘flyover’ section that crosses over turn nine. It’s rather a narrow track and overtaking is therefore difficult under normal circumstances.
However, the technical difficulty of various sections means that an opportunist driver can pounce when the man in front makes a mistake. Getting a lap of Suzuka just right is hugely satisfying for the drivers, as they will have dealt with the complexities of finding the right line through the Esses that start the lap, as well as the hairpin, Spoon Curve, the high speed 130R and that fiddly chicane right at the end, before the downhill start‑finish straight.
The many changes of direction, all of them at relatively high speed, mean the car’s set up has to be quite stiff to make for stable and rapid turn‑in, while downforce levels are quite high too. It’s tough on the tyres as well, a difficulty increased by the abrasive nature of the track surface, so that dealing with degradation is a challenge for the engineers. Having now been granted the necessary Superlicense by the FIA, Max Verstappen will be joining us to drive in Free Practice One. In Suzuka, he will be at the wheel of Jean‑Eric Vergne’s STR9.
Jean-Eric Vergne: "Suzuka is one of the best tracks on the calendar. The fans really make it something special, with an unbelievable atmosphere. A combination of that and the track itself, makes this one of the best Grands Prix of the year. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t expect this year’s new technical regulations to require much of a change in terms of how we approach it. I am not sure how it will suit our car. If I have to pick one part of the circuit I like best, it would be the high speed esses that start the lap and, with having less downforce this year, the 130R might be more of a challenge than in the past."
Daniil Kvyat: "I’ve never even been to Japan before, so this week will be a very interesting experience for me. From what I hear the other drivers say, Suzuka is a very exciting track, so I’m looking forward to discovering it for myself. Certainly, from the simulator, I’d say it’s going to be very enjoyable to drive and extremely challenging. It has a lot of fast corners, which is what I like best, so hopefully it will be a good race weekend for me. I like Japanese food and I am looking forward to experiencing it in its home environment. I’ve also read a bit about Japanese culture, which has made me curious to see the country for myself."
Max Verstappen: "I am very much looking forward to taking part in a Free Practice session at a Grand Prix for the first time. It is good preparation for next year, even if it’s not something I could have imagined a few months ago. To already be participating in a practice session is of course a dream come true. I have actually been to Suzuka before, to take part in a go‑kart race on the track that is located next to the main circuit’s back straight. My dad has raced at Suzuka many times and he told me it’s not an easy track to start on.
For me it will be a very valuable experience, spending some time in the car and also getting used to working with everyone in the team, to prepare myself for next year. I am not going there to break any records, I just want to gain experience. I have spent one day driving this track on the simulator, which helps a bit, but it’s no substitute for driving it for real.
My first impression is that it’s not an easy track and for example it looks hard to get the combination right in the first esses. I have one and a half hours to drive there and I’m looking forward to doing a good job, for myself and for the team."
Scuderia Toro Rosso