Panasonic Toyota Racing is heading for home ground this weekend with the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway. Indeed, the Japanese Grand Prix itself is also heading home as Fuji Speedway was the host of the first Formula 1 World Championship race in Japan back in 1976. The 4.563km circuit, on the banks of Mount Fuji, has undergone a complete revamp in recent years and is now one of the most advanced in the world, although the impressive 1.475km start-finish has been retained and remains its most striking feature. The long straight brings a set-up challenge as engineers must find the perfect compromise for a high top speed on the straight and good grip in the twisty sections. Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli will have an updated TF107 available, with aerodynamic and suspension upgrades, and, with plenty of enthusiastic Toyota fans expected, the whole team is highly motivated to record a strong result.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 11): "I remember the old Fuji circuit from my time racing in Formula Nippon in Japan and I always enjoyed racing there. One of the most impressive things about Fuji Speedway is the location, with Mount Fuji in the background. The track itself is also very impressive, especially now the facilities have been improved. It is now one of the most modern in Formula 1 but they have kept a lot of the character of the old track, with the very long main straight. It is going to be a challenge to set the car up because with such a long straight you certainly need top speed but on the other hand the infield is quite twisty so you want downforce there. Personally, it is great to be going to a different circuit, even if I loved racing at Suzuka, and I am looking forward to the challenge. The entire team is pushing really hard to get the best possible result this weekend."
Jarno Trulli (Car 12): "I am really looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. It is the first time Formula 1 has raced at Fuji for 30 years, and of course it is a home circuit, so we want to have a strong weekend and get back in the points. The two most obvious features of Fuji Speedway are the long straight and the scenery because, with the mountains behind, it is very beautiful. I drove on the circuit in 2005 just after it was completed but I only did a few laps as a demonstration and the track was very dusty. It is an interesting circuit to drive and the facilities have been completely rebuilt so they are great. It’s hard to say too much about the track because it is new for all the teams but looking at the first corner, it is at the end of the long straight and quite wide so that should be a good overtaking opportunity. I am expecting a really special atmosphere for our home race and I hope we can deliver a good result."
Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis: "I have been to Fuji Speedway many times and I have good memories of the track. It is certainly a good track to race on and overtaking should be possible, so we can expect to see an exciting race. The long straight and the tight first corner should be a real overtaking opportunity. Since Fuji has been upgraded it is now of the very highest standard but it still retains a lot of the character of the original circuit, with the long straight and slow infield. In terms of car set-up, this calls for an obvious compromise and this will be the main challenge this weekend. We will have our last major upgrade of the season for the Japanese Grand Prix, with quite a lot of new aerodynamic parts, which we tested at Jerez last week. This is Toyota’s home race so our target clearly has to be to score points and I am confident we can achieve this."