SUZUKA: Suzuka has been a very positive place for me in the past, Iíve won the race three times and I also won the World Championship there in 2011 which was a fantastic experience. Suzuka as a whole is a fantastic circuit, probably the only circuit you can compare it to on the calendar is Spa. It is a very challenging circuit, especially the first sector where there is a lot of high speed corners. I really enjoy those, but later on you also have the spoon corner, which is very technical and a big challenge, as well as 130R. The fans are very special and the atmosphere is incredible, the crowds really appreciate what people in F1 do, so it is great to see that.
SOCHI: The track is unique as it is the only one on the F1 calendar to be located on an Olympic site. As for the circuit, there are definitely similarities to other tracks, perhaps the best comparison is Singapore. But unlike Singapore, the layout is more fluid, so it will be much faster. Some sectors remind me a bit of South Korea or Abu Dhabi. Generally, I think it has a very successful mix of corners with different characters, some of them will be very difficult, and thatís ultimately what we want as drivers. It will be quite slippery at the beginning of the weekend and Iím expecting a few driving errors, not only because the track is new for everyone, but also because the surface is still so green. So it will be a while until we feel comfortable on the track.
SUZUKA: Suzuka is all good, but for me the first sector is just a delight. Itís a dream. You have those fast changes of directions through the Esses, hard around the Dunlop Curve and then, arguably the best bit, turns Eight and Nine: Degner. Through Eight youíre hanging on, itís so narrow and thereís no room for error but you want to push as hard as you can. Then just as you straighten up the car, youíre on the brakes, throwing it into this cambered right-hander and hoping youíve got it right because if you havenít then itís all over. Getting to do that 53 times in a row is a pretty good way to earn a living. What you maybe donít see on TV is that itís a real rollercoaster, dropping into valleys and climbing up again, so that youíre rarely on a level surface.
SOCHI: I think firstly, itís always exciting to go a new venue, particularly a new circuit. As a driver itís always nice to have something fresh and new and obviously Russia provides a new layout for us. I drove a few laps on the simulator already and I think it should be interesting. Itís always different in real life but I hope it can be a fun track. I donít think weíll know until we get there, but letís hope itís a good challenge for us.
About the fans in Japan ...
ďThe way theyíre able to surprise you and pull out gifts and articles and pictures, of just random things - pictures of me I never knew existed! Normally their gifts are quite creative, definitely not the best thing but the most funny or random gift I received there was an electric nasal hair trimmer! And I didnít think I had many aggressive nasal hairs but obviously one of my fans thought so. Some actually have made some replica mini helmets for me which are pretty cool. Theyíre crazy but at the same time very respectful and very polite which is nice. Theyíre good fun!Ē
ďThe Japanese fans are very committed, they know everything about us drivers and even wait until late into the night at the circuit to see the drivers and get an autograph. Also after the race on Sunday they stay until the evening to watch the race replay on the big TV monitors ...they sit in the Grandstands even if itís cold and wet. They are really very passionate but not aggressive and that makes them even more adorableĒ
Engineering co-ordinator on preparing for a new circuit
How much information do you get when a new circuit comes onto the calendar?
We do have access to a lot of data from the circuit before we go there, this is available to all teams from the circuit architects so we will have a good understanding of what the layout of the circuit will be like.
What information do you use in terms of modelling the track for simulation?
We can model the circuit data on our simulator, and using the image and video resources available youíre able to build up a picture of the grandstands and surroundings. This will give visual aids for the drivers. So going to a new track, we will be fairly settled on the layout of the circuit. Through the simulations we do we can try to work out the best set up for the car for that circuit. So there is quite a lot we can try and do to prepare.
Can you do anything in terms of tyre data based on existing knowledge of the compounds being used?
We know already ahead of the race what two compounds weíll have but we donít know what the roughness of the surface will be until we get there. Itís going to be after Free Practice 1 when weíre going to get a better understanding of what the circuitís like and its challenges.
Is there any change in procedure for the team travelling to the race. Does the garage build happen earlier to see the finished facilities?
Normally at new circuits we will get there a day ahead, to familiarise ourselves with the area, with the garage etc. and also with Russia itís a double header with Japan. Other than that, not really, itís going to be new for everybody. You turn up with your own expectation of what the circuitís going to be like from a virtual world, but none of us have been there before.
The anticipation and excitement when you turn up to a new circuit is definitely there.