(Frederic Le Floc'h DPPI for Renault Sport F1)
Infiniti Red Bull Racing head to next weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit hoping for a repeat of their result there last season where reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel took victory. At the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend, the German who has suffered a difficult season in 2014 (as the car does not suit his driving style) secured his best finish so far this season as he ended the race on the podium in second place with team mate Daniel Ricciardo finishing the race in third place.
The Japanese Grand at Suzuka is the first of an F1 double header as the following weekend sees the sport travel to Sochi for the first time for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix and speaking about the upcoming events Sebastian Vettel stated:
'Suzuka has been a very positive place for me in the past, I’ve 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 that’s ultimately what we want as drivers. It will be quite slippery at the beginning of the weekend and I’m 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.'
Vettel is currently in fifth place in the championship, 57 points behind team mate Daniel Ricciardo who has taken three wins so far this season and is currently in third place in the championship. Speaking ahead of the F1 double header the Australian commented:
'Suzuka is all good, but for me the first sector is just a delight. It’s 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 you’re hanging on, it’s so narrow and there’s no room for error but you want to push as hard as you can. Then just as you straighten up the car, you’re on the brakes, throwing it into this cambered right-hander and hoping you’ve got it right because if you haven’t then it’s all over. Getting to do that 53 times in a row is a pretty good way to earn a living. What you maybe don’t see on TV is that it’s a real rollercoaster, dropping into valleys and climbing up again, so that you’re rarely on a level surface.
It’s always different in real life but I hope it can be a fun track. I don’t think we’ll know until we get there, but let’s hope it’s a good challenge for us.'
Q and A with Infiniti Red Bull Racing Engineering Co-ordinator Andy Damerum on getting ready for a new circuit and it entails:
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 you’re 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 we’ll have but we don’t know what the roughness of the surface will be until we get there. It’s going to be after Free Practice 1 when we’re going to get a better understanding of what the circuit’s 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 it’s a double header with Japan. Other than that, not really, it’s going to be new for everybody. You turn up with your own expectation of what the circuit’s 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.
© Ben Johnston 2014