Japanese Grand Prix 2009 Preview


Formula One visits The Land of Rising Sun as it returns to Suzuka, where Jenson Button and Brawn GP can clinch the 2009 titles.

After two years at the Toyota owned Fuji the circuit F1 has returned to the figure-eight track that has been host to some of the most memorable moments in the sport's history.

The track has many of most famous corners on the calendar, with the formidable 130R, the long Spoon Curve at the far side of the circuit and the esses towards the start of the lap as particular highlights.

These high speed turns of Spoon and 130R, along with the long first corner, demand that a car be well set-up to get the best out of a lap and will put extra strain on tyres, while other corners on the track present overtaking possibilities. Brawn's Rubens Barrichello lists the Casio Triangle – the official name for the chicane at the end of the lap – along with the turn 11 hairpin as overtaking chances.

Of course, if you're brave you can overtake elsewhere as shown in past races by two men who have fared very differently in the news this week.

In 2005 Kimi Raikkonen went round the outside of Giancarlo Fisichella, then in a Renault, at turn 1, while Fernando Alonso managed to pass Michael Schumacher at 130R.

It is no surprise the track is accepted by drivers as one of the best of the year.

And the return to the circuit comes just in time as, with the right result the Japanese crowd could see a champion crowned.

In the teams' title race Brawn have a near insurmountable lead of 42.5 points, and with only 36 more points available after Japan Red Bull need to score seven more points than their rivals if they are not so see the remnants of Honda's ill-fated F1 team take the title on would have been considered home ground 12 months ago.

Button, on the other hand, faces a tougher challenge if he is wrap up his first world title this weekend, needing to outscore Barrichello by five points thanks to his greater tally of wins.

However, the team seem not to be letting the pressure get to them, making it thought the preview press release with only one mention of “championship”.

Instead Button is one of many drivers to come out in praise of the 5.8km circuit. “Suzuka is such a fun circuit,” he says. “It’s a very fast-flowing lap and a real drivers’ circuit just like Silverstone and Spa. I think everyone has missed having it on the calendar for the last few years.”

His (distant) title rival is even more glowing in his praise, with Sebastian Vettel describing it as “the best track in the world”.

Vettel is also one of the drivers who has yet to race at Suzuka, a list that includes the current world champion, presenting another challenge to many drivers. However, it is not just the younger drivers who will experience the new at the track, which has undergone extensive resurfacing since the last F1 race at the track.

Away from the title race attention may well be focussed on Toyota, for whom not only is the Suzuka race their home race but it is also the first race since Timo Glock's surprise podium and the decision not to continue his contract sent rumours flying about the team's future. And with German now in the silly season shop window he may be more determined than ever to continue this sudden form. I would love to be challenging for the podium again in Toyota’s home race to give something back to our team. “That would be a great result,” he said. “Standing on the podium for Toyota in Japan would be perfect.”

Qualifying is scheduled for 2pm (local time) Saturday, with the race 24 hours later, with the only weather concern a chance of showers on Saturday.