It’s only been a few days since Max and Daniel’s quick march through the order in Sochi but we’re ready to rock again, almost 8,000km east, at one of the season’s great events, the Japanese Grand Prix at super Suzuka.
It’s not just the thrill of watching the boys fling their cars through the ‘Esses’ or go flat out through 130R, it’s the whole experience of being in Japan, from the couple of days of R&R in Tokyo ahead of the race weekend, to the amazing food and culture, and the beautifully bonkers nature of the fans who throng the main straight grandstand from Thursday to deep into Sunday, as our drivers explain…
Drivers talk a lot about the challenge of Suzuka, is it a race you enjoy?
It's a lot of fun to race on, but I like the whole experience of being in Japan, as we don’t really go to another place like it. Over the years I have learned to enjoy seafood, so I like to visit local sushi restaurants and experience some of the Japanese culture, which is why I always spend a few days in Tokyo before the race. There’s not much not to like about Japan, the hotel is a bit funny, but it’s a race I always look forward to and on paper it should suit our car.
So what are you expectations for this year?
I had my first Japanese GP podium last year and my aim is to taste the champagne again this year. Our pace in Russia was encouraging and although Mercedes look really strong on any layout, and I think they will be for the rest of the year, we look pretty close to Ferrari. If Mercedes remain the team to beat then hopefully we can fight Ferrari for a podium finish. Time will tell, but as a fairly high downforce circuit it should work in our favour.
Always in the points and with two consecutive second places in Suzuka, the Japanese Grand Prix must rank as one of your favourite races?
We have been successful in Japan in the past, so I’m really looking forward to going back and hopefully achieving a good result for the team. You never know how competitive you will be until you get out on track, but our car has always been very good in the first sector and with a good strategy we could have a decent chance this weekend.
You mention the first sector, is that your favourite section of the track?
Yes, my favourite corner is the fast ‘Esses’ but it’s also the most difficult section of the track and you really have to focus on the car and getting the set-up right.
It’s also a circuit with a very special atmosphere, isn’t it?
I like that the Japanese people are so passionate about Formula 1, because it has such a great history there. Suzuka circuit is one of my favourite tracks of the season and it’s always a great experience to see the fans. Let’s hope the typhoon stays away and we have a weekend to remember.