Japanese Grand Prix Preview – AT&T Williams
When: Friday 7 to Sunday 9 October, 2011
Where: Suzuka Circuit, Japan
Round: 15 of 19
Designed and built in 1962 by Dutchman John Hugenholz, the Hermann Tilke of his day, Suzuka is a drivers’ circuit par excellence. Its unique figureof-eight layout, its string of fast corners and the passionate yet polite Japanese fans make this one of the season’s classic races.
Aerodynamic efficiency is crucial, particularly through the eight corners that make up the first sector. Importantly, Suzuka remains virtually unaltered since it was first included on the F1 calendar in 1987. “It means a lot to be racing on the same track that Ayrton and all those guys raced on,” says Rubens Barrichello. “I think all of the drivers would agree with me on that.”
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: Suzuka is a classic track with its trademark figure-of-eight layout that proves a stern technical test for the drivers. The circuit layout leads to very high average cornering speeds and energy input into the tyres, but it is light on brakes.
Our levels of understanding regarding the driveability issues of the FW33 have increased significantly since Singapore and we are currently working hard to optimise the set-up and improve the car going into the Japanese GP. We obviously need to ensure that the car operates in the optimal aerodynamic window – this is fundamental to maximising our performance and we aim to be fighting for a points finish with both cars.
Rubens Barrichello: I love Japan and think the Suzuka Circuit is a real drivers’ circuit. The esses, behind the pit area, are my favourite part of the circuit. There is always a good buzz for us there and this year it won’t be any different with the championship set to be decided in Suzuka once again. I can only hope for points from this weekend.
Pastor Maldonado: It will be a good experience for me as I think it is one of the most important circuits of the season. It is a historical track that hasn’t changed much over the years, so it will be really exciting to drive on. There is a fantastic combination of corners and the first sector looks quite difficult. I think it will become one of my favourite tracks as it is quite quick and I like tracks like that. I’ve never been to Japan before so I’m looking forward to getting to know the country. We need to push hard this weekend to try and improve on our last result.
From Cosworth’s perspective: Suzuka has a versatile mix of high and low speed corners of different configurations around an almost 6km long track shaped like a figure 8. It is a technically, physically and mentally challenging race circuit. The ultra-fast 130R turn is arguably one of the sternest tests of the season for car and driver alike.
At Suzuka, more than most other places, success will be a result of all parameters working in harmony – chassis, engine, tyres and driver. Engine performance alone is not a key indicator of car performance around Suzuka, although it plays an important role. Drivers will need to be quick on the throttle heading out of the Spoon curve in order to maximise their run through 130R, the quickest part of the track where engine power will come to the fore. The “S” curves at the start of the lap are another special feature of Suzuka with quick change of direction crucial to a competitive first sector.
From Pirelli’s perspective: We’ve nominated the P Zero White medium and the P Zero Yellow soft tyres for Suzuka, which is one of the most thrilling circuits of the year. It’s a combination that we last used in Italy and Belgium: both of them rapid and technical drivers’ tracks, just like Japan. If anything, Suzuka will be an even bigger challenge for our tyres, as the track contains lots of quick changes of direction along with a very wide variety of corners that will require plenty of lateral grip – including the epic 130R. After a run of dry races, we’d never discount the possibility of rain in Japan either, but we’re all very much looking forward to going there.