F1 Power Rankings: Japanese Grand Prix

There are only five races to go in the 2011 Formula One World Championship. Sebastian Vettel leads the World Drivers’ Championship standings by 124 points over Jenson Button which means that he only needs to score one point over the final five races to win the title. McLaren says that they want to delay Vettel’s coronation for as long as possible. The only way to do that is to have Vettel taken out. Could we see McLaren sabotage or Hamilton used as a kamikaze driver (not that he needs the encouragement) for the final five races to help Button chase after the title?

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
Despite the fact that he’s officially going to lockup the title this weekend, the soon-to-be two-time World Drivers’ Champion wants to talk about the Japanese fans: “The fans in Japan are special. What they have been through in recent times is something I cannot begin to imagine, but they are so impressive. They are extremely patient and always polite and friendly and their stamina is amazing. I hope we can put on a good show for them this weekend.”

#2 Jenson Button (LR #3)
Even in the midst of a championship battle, it’s nice that Jenson can keep the big picture in perspective: “I consider Japan my second home – it’s a place that’s very close to my heart, and, obviously, it’s going to be a very emotional experience for me to be racing in Japan for the first time since the events of last March. I’m very proud that the Formula 1 world championship will put Japan on the world’s sporting stage next weekend: while the country is still collectively rebuilding itself, I’m deeply aware that sport can play a significant role in helping to restore hope and normality to communities that were torn apart by the earthquake and tsunami.”

#3 Fernando Alonso (LR #2)
The championship may be lost but Fernando still has motivation for the last five races: “There’s second place in the drivers’ table. Given how the season has gone so far, with Vettel totally dominant, failing to get on the podium only once, being runner-up would really be a great result for me and for the team. There are four of us in the running, as I am up against Webber and the two McLaren guys and I reckon we will have to wait until Interlagos to find out who it will go to.”

#4 Mark Webber (LR #4)
@AussieGrit talks about the challenges at Suzuka. He forgot to mention the importance of making a decent start: “It’s quite a narrow track, so you have to be very, very accurate. Rhythm is very important there as well; you have to make sure you have the car completely on the limit for all the corners and you have to get certain sections absolutely right. It’s a good challenge for the drivers and there are some good elevation changes as well – I’m looking forward to it.”

#5 Lewis Hamilton (LR #5)
Lewis says “attack” and “uncompromising” in his PR quotage as if we need to be reminded that he doesn’t know what brakes are: “As for the race itself, I think Suzuka will play to my strengths: it’s a track that really requires you to drive in an attacking way to be able to get a good laptime. It’s an uncompromising place. But that’s when the thrill of driving a Formula 1 car is at its highest; when you know you can’t afford a single mistake and where driving on the absolute limit is the only way to get the best time. In that sense, it’s a lot like Monaco, and maybe that’s why I like the place so much – it’s unique.”

#6 Felipe Massa (LR #6)
Old Phil Massa has run into Hamilton a few times this season and has a few thought about Britain’s golden boy: “My thoughts are that, again, I told you yesterday that he cannot use his mind… Even in qualifying, so you can imagine in the race. He could have caused a big accident. He is paying for that, that’s the problem. He doesn’t understand, even paying for a problem.”

#7 Michael Schumacher (LR #7)
Old seven-time loves this place: “Suzuka is a very special circuit, and one which has held great races, and great memories, for me over the years. I always enjoy the challenge of driving here and getting the technical set-up of the car right to get the best from the demanding layout of the track. A great first sector, high-speed turns, and interesting corner combinations all make Suzuka one of the best race tracks of the year, and definitely one of my favourites. We will be working hard to make the most of our weekend here, and hopefully we can come away with a strong performance and some more points.”

#8 Nico Rosberg (LR #8)
Keke’s kid also loves Suzuka: “I always enjoy visiting Japan for the Japanese Grand Prix, and Suzuka is truly a great race track. Personally I think it’s one of the best circuits on the Formula One calendar, along with Spa, and one which every driver loves. The layout is very challenging with high-speed corners and difficult chicanes. In the past, overtaking has been really difficult here, so it will be interesting to see how the new rules affect the racing.”

#9 Adrian Sutil (LR #11)
Sutil doesn’t talk about his uncertain status for next season. Instead, he talks about how special Suzuka is to him: “It’s a pure driver’s circuit. Some of the corners are outstanding, such as the ‘S’ curves and 130R, which is easily flat. It’s unusual to have so many amazing corners all in the same lap and getting them all right is the best feeling. Also, I spent a year living in Japan when I raced Formula 3, so it always feels like a second home.”

#10 Paul di Resta (LR #15)
Paul talks about Force India’s chances to beat Renault for 5th in the World Constructors’ Championship: “It’s definitely achievable, but I think it will be a big ask unless we get quite a bit of luck along the way. The key will be getting both cars in the points, but we’ve also seen that Renault look stronger on certain tracks. So we’re aiming at catching them but well aware they still have quite a points advantage.”

#11 Jaime Alguersuari (LR #9)

#12 Vitaly Petrov (LR #10)
Weird things satisfy Petrov: “Often, when you are outside the car you don’t realise that the drivers are making errors, because you see them put a wheel over the kerb and onto the run-off area, before they come straight back on track. But Suzuka doesn’t work like that – if you go off with one wheel, you don’t come back. It’s one of the most fearsome tracks, but when you get it right it gives you immense satisfaction.”

#13 Sebastien Buemi (LR #14)

#14 Bruno Senna (LR #12)
Bruno fell in the power rankings this week but that’s only because he says that his car sucks on slow tracks: “The low-speed nature of Singapore made it the worst circuit for us in terms of performance. That hurt us a little bit, but with the updates we have planned for Suzuka we should be strong there, and hopefully will be able to get both cars in the points again – that’s where we belong.”

#15 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #13)
This is Kobayashi’s home race so this one is extra special for him: “It is always very exciting going back to Japan to race, but when I went back last year it had been a long time since I had raced there and it felt especially good to be there… This is my home country and so many fans are waiting, so I really think it is great to do. I believe Japan is very important for Formula One and I think we can put on a good show for the sport, which is a good thing for the Japanese fans. I think my parents may be coming to see me race there as they came last year.”

#16 Sergio Perez (LR #16)
I was really hoping Sergio would talk about the differences between driving in the simulator and in real-life but oh well: “For me it will the first time I go to Japan, but I have driven the circuit on the simulator and it is obviously an exciting one. I am very much looking forward to driving through the high speed corners in reality, and I also think those corners will suit our car quite well. Personally I want to keep up the momentum I think I have, and I can feel I’m getting on top of things. I want to improve and finish the season on a high.”

#17 Pastor Maldonado (LR #18)
Pastor is looking forward to his first ever trip to Japan. He should try to avoid fugu fish though: “It will be a good experience for me as I think it is one of the most important circuits of the season. It is a historical track that hasn’t changed much over the years, so it will be really exciting to drive on. There is a fantastic combination of corners and the first sector looks quite difficult. I think it will become one of my favourite tracks as it is quite quick and I like tracks like that. I’ve never been to Japan before so I’m looking forward to getting to know the country.”

#18 Rubens Barrichello (LR #17)
This is Rubens’ whole PR quote ahead of this race. At least it goes quicker than he did in Singapore: “I love Japan and think the Suzuka Circuit is a real drivers’ circuit. The esses, behind the pit area, are my favourite part of the circuit. There is always a good buzz for us there and this year it won’t be any different with the championship set to be decided in Suzuka once again. I can only hope for points from this weekend.”

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Heikki talks about the best corners at Suzuka: “Most guys will say 130R is the corner that really stands out – it’s pretty hardcore heading in there at over 190mph and knowing you have to stay committed to avoid losing any time, but for me the best bit of the track is the whole run in S1 from T1 to T7. You go into T1 and T2 at high speed and you need to be committed to get the best out of the car through that fast, positive camber section, then from T3 right through to T7 is about the best sequence of turns we race in all year.”

#20 Jarno Trulli (LR #20)
Jarno blames his bad results on bad luck. Wasn’t Blame It On Bad Luck a Bayside song: “I’d just like to have a race without some of the bad luck that struck again in Singapore. I’d had such a good start and was holding off the Toro Rosso and both Renaults well, even running 11th at one point as we went into the first round of stops, but the puncture I suffered when Alguersuari hit me was just another one of those things. Hopefully in Suzuka I can make up for that and get as much out of the car as I did on Sunday around Marina Bay.”

#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)
Tim O’Glock talks about how he works on his fitness for back-to-back races: “I’ve been back to Europe in the break to continue to work on my fitness for the long-haul races, which means a lot of cycling in Switzerland of course. The next two races, being back to back, are tough ones for the team so I’m as prepared as I can be to support us with what I hope can be two strong race performances.”

#22 Jerome d’Ambrosio (LR #22)
Jerome has an advantage over some of the rookie class because he ran practice here last year: “I think Suzuka is one of the best race tracks on the Formula One calendar. It’s challenging, fast and very technical – everything we hope for in a race track… I think the first sector is the highlight of the lap; the Esses are incredible and it’s tough to keep the right line. There are also a couple of low-speed corners and a chicane where you have very heavy braking. Overall the layout of the circuit is sensational and I can’t wait to race here.”

#23 Tonio Liuzzi (LR #23)
Tonio is doing something special for charity this weekend: “For this Grand Prix I’ve wanted to pay my respects to the victims of the earthquake that struck Japan earlier this year by wearing a special edition helmet named Embracing Japan designed by Kaos Design, the helmet will later be put up for auction with the benefits going towards charity.”

#24 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #24)
Danny Boy is going to race at Suzuka for the first time: “I’m looking forward to driving at Suzuka for the first time. I’ve heard from many of the drivers that it is a beautiful circuit with a lot of history. I spent some time in the simulator and the first sector looks like a lot of fun with the ‘S’ curves followed by an uphill which, apparently, is a lot steeper than what you can appreciate on television. It seems like a real driver’s circuit which is always nice, a place where you can try and get the most out of the car.”

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