| 1 October 2004
Japan plays host to the penultimate round of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship season next weekend and the BMW WilliamsF1 Team heads to Suzuka with hopes of securing valuable points to augment their position in the Constructors’ Championship.
Preparation for the Japanese Grand Prix has been relentless, with Ralf Schumacher, Marc Gené and Olivier Beretta sharing testing responsibilities in Jerez de la Frontera this week, providing developments which will be taken to Japan. Suzuka is an unforgiving circuit that demands the utmost precision from the drivers and engineers, and promises to be another engaging round of the Championship.
Juan Pablo Montoya:
Apart from the unfortunate technical failure I had last year, I have always done reasonably well at Suzuka. I like the circuit a lot and driving there is good fun. The track should suit our package, which makes me fairly confident for a good result. It was good to collect some points in China and I am aiming to score some more in Japan, as we really need to strengthen our position in the Constructors’ Championship.
I have not been testing this week, but I did fly back to Europe after China in order to honour some PR commitments in the UK. The last month of the season is going to be particularly demanding, with two long haul races and several sponsor days inbetween, nevertheless I am looking forward to the remaining Grands Prix.
I think Suzuka is one of the most interesting tracks on the Formula One calendar, so I am very much looking forward to racing there. Of course it won’t be easy though, you need a perfect car to perform well in the fast sectors of the circuit, so we will have to find a good set-up but, in my opinion, we have a good chance of doing that. In Shanghai we demonstrated that we are definitely competitive, despite the unnecessary accident with David Coulthard.
I lived in Japan for a year while I competed and won the 1996 F3000 championship, so I have good memories of the country and I am looking forward to returning.
Sam Michael (Technical Director, WilliamsF1):
Suzuka is one of the greatest circuits on the Formula One calendar, one which demands that the drivers and engineers get everything right to secure a quick lap time. The track has everything, high speed corners, a chicane and a hairpin. It also has some good overtaking opportunities. As high speed stability is so important, the set-up on the car is usually compromised in the slow speed sections to ensure that the driver has the confidence to push hard in places like the Esses. Good braking performance is also required for the hairpin and chicane corners.
We have been testing at Jerez, in Spain, with Ralf, Marc and Olivier working mainly on set-up and tyre compounds. We have a small aero change for the Japanese Grand Prix and Michelin are bringing two strong tyre choices to help us challenge. Strategy is usually straightforward in Suzuka but it can always change from the previous season due to different tyre developments.
Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director):
The last two Grands Prix will mark the close of a very difficult season for us. We entered 2004 with high expectations based on positive winter testing, but the first races immediately showed that our competitors had made bigger steps forward over the winter than we had. We also suffered from bad luck from time to time this year, but luck is never something you can rely on.
Preparations for 2005 are already in full swing in Munich and Grove, but for now we are focused on the last two races of the season in Japan and Brazil where we want to achieve a positive end to the season. Suzuka is an extremely demanding circuit for the drivers and the technology. The BMW P84 engine will be subject to particular loads in Suzuka, especially in the high speed 130R turn where the oil system has to withstand a lateral load of 4g. So far, the BMW engine has proved a powerful and reliable unit in 2004, so it should be able to meet the challenges awaiting it in Japan.
Stats and facts:
The city of Suzuka lies on the south eastern coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu and has a population of approximately 184,000.
Suzuka is regarded as one of the toughest circuits in Formula One. It is the only one with a figure of eight configuration and includes every type of turn, from the tight Spoon Corner to the high speed 130R. The race track is situated in the middle of Suzuka Land, a theme park built for the families of Honda employees.
2004 marks the 18th Japanese Grand Prix to be held at Suzuka. Prior to Suzuka’s first Grand Prix in 1987, two Japanese Grands Prix were held at the foot of Mount Fuji in 1976 and 1977. In 1994 and 1995, the Pacific Grand Prix was staged at Japan’s Aida circuit.
On the circuit’s inauguration in 1987, Nelson Piquet claimed his third World Drivers’ title driving a Williams, while Gerhard Berger, in a Ferrari, took the first victory. The 1994 Japanese Grand Prix was another memorable event for WiliamsF1. In a race that was abandoned due to heavy rain, Damon Hill beat Michael Schumacher, putting him level in the points table with Schumacher and therefore keeping the title contest open until the final race in Adelaide. In 1996, Damon Hill took his third win for WilliamsF1 at Suzuka.
During the practice session of the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix weekend, the Formula One paddock was shaken by aftershocks from an earthquake.
In 2003, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team travelled to Suzuka with a slim chance of winning the Constructors’ Championship. However, Ralf Schumacher’s prospects of a good result were seriously compromised during qualifying when the onset of rain prevented him from posting a good lap time. He consequently started from 19th on the grid and, though he managed to set a new lap record of 1:33.408m, he crossed the line in twelfth place. His team-mate, Juan Pablo Montoya, qualified second on a dry track but was forced to retire from the lead on lap nine of the race due to a hydraulics problem.
Rubens Barrichello claimed pole position in 2003 with a lap time of 1:31.713m. He went on to win the Grand Prix therefore securing the Constructors’ Championship for Ferrari.
A lap of Suzuka measures 5.807 kilometres while the total race distance is 307.573 km (53 laps). The Grand Prix starts at 14.30hrs local time on Sunday 10th October.