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Japanese Grand Prix * 10/11/12 October 2003 * PREVIEW
After the maelstrom of the US Grand Prix that effectively put paid to Juan Pablo Montoya¹s drivers¹ title bid, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team now has a singular focus on a strong performance at the last race of the season in Japan. This will close out the Anglo-German partnership¹s most successful campaign since its inception in 2000, and set the basis for a strong start to 2004.
While Kimi Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher enter a shoot-out for the drivers¹ crown, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team will be unified and concentrating on a solid team performance. Despite the Japanese Grand Prix being the last race of the season, the team¹s preparation has been no less relentless with a number of new aero features recently introduced to the FW25, and a demanding week of testing with three drivers at Jerez de la Frontera.
Juan Pablo Montoya:
"It's a real shame that my battle for the Drivers' Championship was lost in Indy, especially the way it happened. I obviously hoped I would still have a chance in Suzuka, but that¹s the way it is. Now my main focus is scoring as many points as possible to help our team to win the Constructors' title.
"On paper, the Suzuka circuit is the most difficult of the tracks we have raced at recently, but nevertheless I like it and I would count it among my favourite tracks. It is fast and similar to Spa, with a lot of changes of direction which tend to suit my driving style. Two years ago I qualified and finished in second position and last year I came fourth, which gives me reasonable confidence for this year. I know some of the track layout has been slightly altered since last year, but I will have to see what these revisions are like on the ground.
"Before I raced Formula One, I raced in Japan twice in CART. Although it was at the Motegi circuit, I nearly won both races, and as a consequence, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I have a good feeling racing in Japan. Before getting to Suzuka for the first time in 2001, it was somewhere I really looked forward to going as I had been told it was a proper racing circuit - a great track with great corners. And I wasn¹t disappointed!
"I expect the Japanese fans will be as excited as always, and it is amazing how passionate they are. They wait for hours at the entrance of the circuit and when you get there in your car they scream and wave. I am looking forward to getting to Suzuka to make up for the disappointment I felt in Indy."
"After the difficult race in Indianapolis, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team can now go on a full attack. Naturally its a pity for Juan Pablo that he is out of the battle for the Drivers' Championship, but our goal is now focused on the Constructors' title. I am sure we can claw back the three points on Ferrari and the teamŒs test in Jerez this week makes me confident that we can achieve this. While I don¹t have an abosolute favourite track on the calendar, I have to say that Suzuka is up there among them. The S-corner behind the paddock and the super-fast 130R are two of the most challenging elements of a track anywhere in the world.
"I also feel very much at home in Japan after my season there contesting
Formula Nippon. The start of the Japanese GP will be at 7:30am German time, on Sunday. Juan and I will be fighting exclusively for the Constructors' Championship, while Michael and Kimi will be concentrating on the Drivers' title. As it is will be so compelling to watch, I am sure the finale will be well worth an early wake up call for every Formula One fan."
Sam Michael (WilliamsF1, Chief Operations Engineer):
"Suzuka is the most exciting circuit in the championship, with the high speed
flowing corners to start the lap followed by the hairpin, the still infamous high speed 130R and the chicane, all of which places a high demand on the drivers, and rhythm is an important aspect of being quick at Suzuka.
"The Japanese circuit requires higher downforce and a stiffer than normal setup to ensure high speed stability. Braking is also important for the two stops at the hairpin and the chicane, although the chicane is a lot faster after the circuit
modifications. We have been hard at work testing in Spain with Michelin and will be bringing new compounds and casings for the final GP to give us every chance possible in the Championship.
"Engine power is important at Suzuka, to be able to run the high wing levels. This aspect also makes it difficult to overtake, although an opportunity still exists into the chicane and now perhaps into the first corner. The high fuel penalty and tyre degradation will make the strategy interesting."
Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director):
"Naturally the way the Indianapolis race went was a big disappointment for the entire team. But disappointments are part of the sport, and you have to accept this as part of the challenge. On other occasions in 2003 we had many reason to be proud of ourselves * four wins, a total of twelve podiumn finishes and four pole positions. We have digested the result of the US GP and we all now feel determined to make the most of our chance to win the Constructors¹ title in Japan.
"Suzuka is among the most challenging circuits of the Formula One calendar, not only for drivers, also for the engines. The ultra-high-speed 130R turn at Suzuka with its lateral load of 4g poses the greatest challenge to the oil system. Like all evolution steps of the BMW P83 engine, the latest one which was introduced at Indy has proven to be powerful and reliable so far."
Facts and Figures
… The Suzuka circuit has been the venue for some epic battles for not only the race but also the Championship. The last time the championship was decided in Japan was in 2000, when Michael Schumacher won his first title with Ferrari. However, in 2000, Suzuka was the penultimate race of the season, and was followed by Malaysia.
… At the inaugural GP at the circuit in 1987, it played host to Williams¹ Nelson Piquet claiming his third Drivers¹ Championship while the race was won by Gerhard Berger for Ferrari. The race in 1994 was the most memorable for WilliamsF1. Damon Hill beat Michael Schumacher in a two-part race, which was interrupted by torrential rain, and took the Championship down to the wire in Adelaide with the drivers on equal points. This was the second of three wins for WilliamsF1 in Japan and the first of two for Damon who earned his second Suzuka win in 1996.
… Suzuka has been the home of the Japanese Grand Prix since 1987, but prior to this two races were held at the Mount Fuji track in ¹76 and ¹77. The only other Japanese circuit to hold a Formula One race was the TI Circuit Aida where the Pacific Grand Prix was held in ¹94 and ¹95.
… The 2003 event will be the 19th Grand Prix in Suzuka and the 23rd GP in Japan.
… The city of Suzuka lies on the south east coast of the Japanese main island, Honshu, and is part of the Mie Prefecture. Suzuka¹s commerce is focused on food, textiles and the Honda assembly plants. Today the city is home to an estimated 184,000 inhabitants. Suzuka is also home to a medical university and Buddhist temples & Shinto shrines.
… The circuit sits right in the middle of Suzuka Land * a theme park built to entertain the families and workers from the nearby Honda factory.
… Contained within its figure-of-eight layout - which is unique in Formula One - is every conceivable type of corner * from the super tight Spoon Curve to the high speed 130R.
… During practice for the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix the Formula One paddock
experienced a weak earthquake.
… In 2002 Ralf Schumacher and Montoya qualified fifth and sixth. The German
ran in third position before retiring due to an engine failure. Montoya finished fourth.
… Michael Schumacher took in 2002 pole position (1.31,317 min), claimed the
race¹s fastest lap (1.36,125 min) and won the Grand Prix.
… The circuit measures 5.807 kilometres. The race duration is 53 laps (307.573 km). Race start time on Sunday, the 12th October 2003, will be 2:30 pm local time. This equates to 07:30hrs CET and 06:30hrs BST.
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