F1 Power Rankings: Japanese Grand Prix

We’ve reached the final quarter of the 2013 Formula One World Championship but the season is almost over. Sebastian Vettel has a 77 point lead over Fernando Alonso with five races remaining. Sure, it’s unlikely that he’ll clinch this weekend but it’s certainly a matter of when, not if, Seb will win the crown. But there are still races to run and powers to rank.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
The future four-time World Drivers’ Champion talks us through the track in his pre-race PR quotage. However, I’m much more interested in what he lists as comparables to Suzuka as the best circuits in the world to race on: “Suzuka, my favourite track! It is the most beautiful race track along with the Nordschleife and Macau, it is a dream to drive.”

#2 Fernando Alonso (LR #2)
Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembery talks about tyres and Suzuka: “Suzuka is one of the circuits where we experience the highest rates of wear and degradation all year: because of the relatively abrasive surface and most of all because of the high-energy loadings that are going through the tyres… It’s a high-demand circuit when it comes to lateral energy but relatively low-demand in terms of traction, because the layout is very flowing with one corner sequencing into another.”

f1-kimi-raikkonen-helmet-2013#3 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #5)
Even The Iceman thinks this is a special track: “Normally it doesn’t make too much difference to me where we race – as long as we have a good result then I’ll enjoy it – but this is a track I look forward to every season. It’s a proper circuit that’s been around for a many years, and you can understand why as it’s a challenge for the drivers and usually makes for some good racing too.”

#4 Lewis Hamilton (LR #4)
Old Louise Hamilton says that this is the most demanding track on the calendar. And Bernie wanted to replace this with Fuji: “It takes a while to pick up pace each year because of how fast-flowing it is. If you touch the grass at any point, it’s going to spin you off into the wall, so it’s a much more demanding circuit in terms of precision, positioning and turning points for each corner. It’s a real race track where you have to think ahead as a driver and it just needs crazy levels of downforce from the car.”

#5 Mark Webber (LR #3)
I think @AussieGrit hopes the WEC makes a stop in Japan next season: “[The fans are] extremely knowledgeable, they follow the whole season which is evident when you get there, they want to talk about your season, they want to give you gifts and photos, they even know your birthday. I’d say they’re personal, they’re personal in how they approach following you as a driver.”

#6 Nico Rosberg (LR #6)
Keke’s kid thinks that the track’s high-speed layout suits the W03: ” Suzuka is one of the most exciting circuits of the year and I love racing there. Our car has been fast in high-speed corners this season as we seem to have good downforce so I hope the fast layout of Suzuka will suit us this weekend.”

#7 Felipe Massa (LR #7)

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2013#8 Romain Grosjean (LR #8)
Grosjean explains why Suzuka is such a test: “It’s a track that really allows a driver to demonstrate their feel for the car. Not only is combination of corners pretty relentless – so you never really get a rest – but the way the layout flows together means that the smallest mistake can make a big difference to your time.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2013#9 Jenson Button (LR #9)
Button’s hidden message? Hermann Tilke is a terrible track designer: “The thing I really like about Suzuka is that it’s such an unforgiving track. On most circuits, if you run wide or out-brake yourself, you invariably end up just running onto the Tarmac run-off, so you can easily get back onto the track without any penalty. At Suzuka, if you run wide through the Esses, or go off the track at the exit of the Degners, you’re going to find yourself in the gravel. And I like that – I think it rewards those who don’t make mistakes, and it makes for better racing, because you have to stay honest and focused.”

f1-nico-hulkenberg-helmet-2013#10 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #10)
The Hulk has like the people and the food in Japan: “From the moment you get there the welcome is always really enthusiastic. The fans are polite and very cute. I especially love the way they wave with both hands, and I shall certainly try to learn this double wave as it looks great… Away from the track I also enjoy the food, especially the teppanyaki and sushi.”

f1-sergio-perez-helmet-2013#11 Sergio Perez (LR #13)
Do you have anything original to add Checo? “It’s a place which has a fantastic flow – once you commit into Turn One, you’re basically just modulating your speed all the way through until the track spits the car out over the brow at Turn Seven. The feeling through there when you nail it is incredible.”

#12 Adrian Sutil (LR #11)
Sutil talks about what you need from your car to succeed at Suzuka: “You need a car that works well in the high-speed corners. The ‘S’ curves at the start of the lap are beautiful because you can really feel the performance of a Formula One car and the incredible grip you have available. You need to have a car that allows you to find the right flow and rhythm through these corners because you can make up or lose a lot of time through this part of the lap.”

#13 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #12)

#14 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #14)

#15 Paul di Resta (LR #15)
Dario’s cousin talks about the passion of Japanese F1 fans: “It’s definitely an interesting country to visit and a great place to go racing with a lot of passion and history. It’s in Japan that we meet some of the most dedicated fans in Formula One because the grandstands are always full – even on a Thursday!”

#16 Pastor Maldonado (LR #16)
Generic PR quote of the week from the generic pay driver: “Japan is one of my favourite races of the season, not only because of the track layout but because of the huge community of fans that are incredibly passionate about the sport and create one of the best atmospheres of the season. The Suzuka Circuit is a proper Formula One track, especially the first part which is uphill and has lots of changes of direction and high speed corners.”

f1-esteban-gutierrez-helmet-2013#17 Esteban Gutierrez (LR #17)
How did Steve prep for this new track? Watched game tape (well, you know what I mean): “Suzuka is a circuit I always wanted to drive on. I know it very well from all the onboard footage that I’ve watched, and I know the track from last year when I went with the team to the GP… I can already say it will be one of my most favourites.”

#18 Valtteri Bottas (LR #18)
It’s not often that you hear about a lack of overtaking at Suzuka but I think Val is right: “It can be difficult to overtake on this track so doing well in qualifying will be important, but the weather can be quite variable so that can open up opportunities to play with the strategy. Car set-up is difficult because of the mix of corners where you have long high speed corners combined with slower technical sections where you need good mechanical grip, so you have to compromise somewhat with car set-up.”

#19 Giedo van der Garde (LR #19)
Gary is looking forward to showing off at Suzuka. Maybe he can retake his recent form edge over Pic: “On track it’s clearly one of the best challenges we have all year. It’s a proper drivers’ circuit with more medium and high speed corners than most modern tracks, and you need to be a bit brave to really attack around the whole lap.”

#20 Charles Pic (LR #20)
Chuckie lets us in on a secret about 130R: “The track itself is up there with Spa, Monaco and, for me, Nurburgring, as one of my favourites, particularly through the first sector which is very quick and where you need to be fast, smooth and precise to maximise your laptime… To be honest, 130R is probably not the challenge it used to be as it’s pretty easily flat, but when you go into there early in the race with cars all around you it’s still very quick.”

#21 Jules Bianchi (LR #21)
The rain is only going to be early this weekend? That’s disappointing: ” I think that rain is possible early in the weekend, which should make life interesting – much like some of the big moments I saw here when I was growing up – but I think it may be dry later on, which will enable us to keep pushing for our season objective.”

f1-max-chilton-helmet-2013#22 Max Chilton (LR #22)
Max’s PR quote basically reads “I watched Rush”: “This will be another new challenge and one that I have been looking forward to because it is such a technical circuit and because of all the history attached to it. I have been inspired by some of the great battles I have watched here over the years.”

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