Japanese F1 Grand Prix 2011: Preview (VMM)
“I love Japan, and the Japanese Grand Prix is one of the highlights of my season.
“This year, of course, we all travel to Japan extremely mindful of the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country earlier this year. I hope that the Japanese Grand Prix can successfully show the world that the country is strengthening and rebuilding itself after the terrible events of last March.
“As for the race itself, I think Suzuka will play to my strengths: it’s a track that really requires you to drive in an attacking way to be able to get a good laptime. It’s an uncompromising place. But that’s when the thrill of driving a Formula 1 car is at its highest; when you know you can’t afford a single mistake and where driving on the absolute limit is the only way to get the best time. In that sense, it’s a lot like Monaco, and maybe that’s why I like the place so much – it’s unique.
“I think we’re headed there in pretty good shape: we know that the Red Bulls will be strong – but we also have a very quick car, and we can make it work on different kinds of circuit.
“Suzuka is another reasonably high-downforce track, which should play to our strengths. The weather in Japan in the autumn is always unpredictable – we’ve seen before that it can be beautifully sunny and hot or extremely cold and wet.
“I’ll take any conditions as long as I can race hard.”
“I consider Japan my second home – it’s a place that’s very close to my heart, and, obviously, it’s going to be a very emotional experience for me to be racing in Japan for the first time since the events of last March.
“I’m very proud that the Formula 1 world championship will put Japan on the world’s sporting stage next weekend: while the country is still collectively rebuilding itself, I’m deeply aware that sport can play a significant role in helping to restore hope and normality to communities that were torn apart by the earthquake and tsunami.
“And I think it will be a great race for everyone. In the last few races, I think we’ve shown that we have extremely good pace and that we’ve been the team most able to take the fight to Red Bull. On paper, I think it’s a circuit that will suit the Red Bulls, particularly in the high-speed sweeps that make up the first sector of the track, but I certainly don’t think people should under-estimate our package.
“We showed at Spa that we have a car that’s very effective in high-speed corners. We’ve also improved our straightline speed and we have a more efficient rear-wing for qualifying, so I think we’re feeling positive about the weekend.
“For everyone who follows Formula 1, I hope we can put on a great race to bring further strength to the people of Japan. And to everyone in Japan, I say: ganbatte!”
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Taking the long journey to Suzuka always reinforces the notion that we’re headed into the closing stages of the season.
“While there remains a mathematical, albeit slim, chance of Jenson securing the world championship, we realistically go into these last races with an undimmed resolution to win, and to ensure the world championship remains interesting, exciting and unpredictable for as long as possible!
"To that end, we’re still pushing ahead with the development of key areas of the MP4-26 – in particular, we’re focusing on areas where there will be significant carry-over of performance and learning into 2012. With the 26, the key areas of overlap development are the front and rear wings: any downforce we find this year can be carried over to the MP4-27.
“Encouragingly, we were able to successfully track-test our latest iteration of rear wing in Singapore, it proving sufficiently positive during Friday practice that it was deployed on both cars for the remainder of the race weekend. While there will be an inevitable shift of focus and deployment towards the new car, we still have enough momentum within the development system to ensure that we’ll still be introducing new parts through until the last few races of the season.
“Finally, McLaren has plenty of history in Japan – we’ve witnessed some incredible and unpredictable scenes involving our cars and drivers at both Suzuka and Fuji down the years – and, as a team, we’re all particularly proud to be going to Japan this year to play a sporting role in the redevelopment of a country that has endured terrible hardships and deprivation in 2011.
“It goes without saying that we will all be racing with the people of Japan in our hearts and minds next weekend.”
* Official photo and details courtesy of VODAFONE MCLAREN MERCEDES *
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