McLaren preview the Japanese Grand Prix

Stoffel Vandoorne

Suzuka was built by the Honda Motor Company in 1962. Its innovative figure-of-eight design was the brainchild of Dutchman John Hugenholtz and the layout has changed little over the years.

The biggest alterations came in the early 1980s, when a chicane was added at the end of the lap and the Degner curve was made into two separate corners. This year’s race is the 29th Japanese Grand Prix to be staged at the track.

Fernando Alonso: “Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the calendar, and along with a lot of the other drivers I always look forward to racing in Japan every year. It’s one of the classics and its configuration is completely unique. It has a bit of everything – it’s demanding, fast, and a big challenge for a driver and for the engineers, so it’s the perfect racer’s circuit. It’s an important race for us given our connections with Japan, and for me personally it’s a special place. I’ve always found Japanese culture fascinating and the incredible support from the fans make this race weekend one of the most exciting and crazy of the season. I always try to make the most of our time there, make a couple of trips to the must-see places in Tokyo and really get a feel for this incredible location. I’ve had a couple of difficult races recently, so I’m looking forward to getting back on track and working with my engineers to turn our fortunes around. I feel that we’ve definitely had the pace there in the car – and Stoffel has been able to demonstrate what we’re capable of – but bad luck and struggles in traffic have meant we haven’t been able to score the points we’d hoped for on my side. Both of us will be pushing hard for the Japanese contingent of our team, our partners and of course our fans, and I hope we can finally show the progress we’re making with our car.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “After two really positive races, I’m really looking forward to heading back to Japan. It’s one of my favourite countries and I always enjoy spending time there. The culture, food and people make it really special, and for a long time I’ve been looking forward to experiencing the Suzuka circuit in a Formula 1 car for the first time. For me, Singapore and Malaysia were a real boost, and we were really able to get on top of every session and maximise what we had available in our package. We know there has been potential all season, but for one reason or another we weren’t able to show it – so having two strong results back-to-back has been really encouraging and I’m keen to see how we will do in Japan. It’s a much tougher circuit for our car than Sepang, and requires a lot more outright power. The advantage is that I won’t be coming to this circuit fresh this weekend, as I’ve tested and raced at Suzuka a few times before – the last time I was there I won in Super Formula. I’m working very hard with my engineers and we’ll be putting in the same level of preparation for this race, so I hope we can keep pushing forward and have another strong weekend.”

Eric Boullier: “Everyone at McLaren Honda is excited to return to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, in a country that has effectively become our second home. Suzuka is one of the most iconic tracks on the entire calendar, and of course an important venue for us and our partner Honda. Naturally, our aim is to do everything we can to support both them and our amazing fans there, who are among the most passionate of any country we visit all over the world. After some encouraging signs in the past couple of races, we would like to continue the progress we are making and, particularly at this special race for the whole team, enjoy a strong result on both sides of the garage. Our spirit is strong, and we’re working hard together to maximise every race weekend in an effort to make a dent on the constructors’ championship before the end of the year. We know Suzuka won’t be the easiest track on which to shine, but every team up and down the paddock loves it for its formidable twists and turns, and its unique set of challenges that make it all the more rewarding to get right. We’re all aware of its characteristically power-dependent nature, but there are technical sections, such as the flow of corners in Sector One, where our package should be better able to show it strengths, and it’ll be good to see just how fast these 2017 cars go on this track.”

Yusuke Hasegawa: “After having another positive weekend in Malaysia, we have built up good momentum heading to our home grand prix in Japan. We always enjoy going back to our home circuit and being waited for by warm and cheerful Japanese fans. The atmosphere encourages us a lot and we hope we can give them a great race. Many drivers mention Suzuka as one of their favourite circuits, and I think this is because it has both technical and power-hungry features. For engineers, it’s a very exciting track as we are able to show our ability in terms of finding the perfect set-up, although we also find it very challenging. The balance of the car will be very important, so we need to make sure we set up the drivability in accordance with McLaren’s chassis requirements. It will be our last Japanese Grand Prix as McLaren Honda, therefore it is a special race for the team. I myself have strong feelings for this race and I‘m hoping to make it as memorable as possible for both the team and fans. “