Toro Rosso Honda prepare for their engine suppliers’ home race at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka this weekend.
The Italian team came away pointless in the last round in Russia but with power units that have done a low amount of mileage, hence Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat starting from the back of the grid last time out, they aim for a positive result in front of their adoring Japanese fans.
Gasly felt his did not go his way in Sochi, as the timing of the Virtual Safety Car effectively ruined his chances of points but his display in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix still lives on his mind, where he qualified seventh behind his then-team-mate Brendon Hartley before finishing the event outside the points in eleventh.
“The Russian Grand Prix weekend wasn’t the best for me, but I did think I could get some points until the VSC spoilt our strategy, as I’d already made my pitstop. However, I still feel as though things are going in the right direction so I am excited about the next race in Suzuka,” Gasly said optimistically.
“This is one of the best tracks of the year, the most exciting in terms of driving. I reckon it has the best first sector of any circuit we visit, because it is a section where you get a real feel for what a Formula 1 car can do in terms of its speed and the aerodynamic downforce it has.
“On top of that, it’s old-school with the gravel traps which mean you really can’t afford to make a mistake or your race s over. It’s definitely one of my favourites and it hols many memories too, from when I was racing in the Japanese Super Formula series, but also, each time I’m at Suzuka, my thoughts are of course always with Jules (Bianchi) because of what happened there. It’s a Grand Prix that always generates strong emotions.
“There’s another in which this is one of the best Grands Prix, as it’s here that I have always had so much support from the fans. It’s heart-warming and a pleasure to see so many fans cheering us on. Being a Honda driver in Suzuka is really special because all the Japanese give you a lot of support.
“It’s impressive and I’m keen to get back there. Last year, we toured several Honda factories and we also visited some this time before the race weekend. I was really struck by the strength of everyone’s support for us and this year, with two teams using Honda PUs, Toro Rosso and Red Bull, I’m sure there will be an even bigger crowd. I think it’s going to be a really special weekend.”
Daniil Kvyat found his home race in Russia as an event that is “always special” to him, even though his twelfth place finish was little to celebrate.
He is confident however that both he and Gasly can perform at Suzuka and bring home some useful points to close down the thirteen-point gap over fifth place Renault F1 Team in the Constructors’ Championship.
“I enjoyed being in Russia it’s always special racing in front of your home fans, although it turned out to be a difficult weekend on track,” Kvyat added.
“I can be pleased with the way things went in the actual race, to finish twelfth after starting from the back proved we recovered well and were competitive. So I am taking those positive aspects into the next round in Japan, a race that is always one of the highlights of the season.
“I think Suzuka is a remarkable track. It is a high-speed circuit with some truly legendary corners. I’d say it’s a track for the brave and corners like the Esses near the beginning of the lap, Degner 1 and Degner 2, the 130R on the way in, are all still a huge challenge, especially in the wet.
“That’s why the drivers love this track as it sets the benchmark for how fast you can go in the high-speed corners. It’s very cool and a matter of pride for us drivers to get these corners right. It is also enjoyable from an actual racing point of view as there are some opportunities for overtaking. It means that, over the years, the circuit has produced some great races.
“The atmosphere at the circuit is great and the Japanese fans make it truly unique. For us at Toro Rosso, it’s a very special race because we are powered by Honda, so it will be a bit like a home race for the whole Red Bull family. It will make it a very exciting weekend with all the support from the local fans.
“I hope we can put on a really good show for them. Unfortunately, since I first raced at this track, back in 2014, I’ve never scored points so it’s definitely time to score some this weekend and to so with Honda would be special.”
Meanwhile, Naoki Yamamoto will participate in Free Practice 1 in Gasly’s car this weekend in Japan. The reigning Super Formula champion will become the first Japanese driver to take part in an official Formula 1 session since Kamui Kobayashi in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The thirty-one year old says that he is “delighted” to have been given the opportunity to drive an F1 car, a dream that had eluded him since he was a child.
“First of all, I would like to thank Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull and of course Honda for giving me this great opportunity,” Yamamoto added.
“I am delighted that I will get to drive a Formula 1 car this weekend, something which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. To get this chance at Suzuka, a very important circuit for all Japanese racing drivers, in front of such a big crowd of Japanese fans, will make the experience even more special.
“I have prepared as well as possible for this, spending time as part of the Toro Rosso team at several Grand Prix weekends and I have also worked in the Red Bull simulator. My main aim in FP1 will be to do a good job for the team, gathering data and information which will be useful for them over the weekend.
“On a personal note, I want to enjoy the experience of driving an F1 car as much as possible and I will be trying my very best to get the most out of it. It will be a special moment and I’m glad I will get to share it with the fans at this amazing race track, where I first watched Formula 1 cars in action 27 years ago.”