F1 Power Rankings: Japanese Grand Prix

It’s amazing how much can change in the span of just two hours. Nico Rosberg rolled out to the grid ahead by 22 points and an electrical glitch left him trailing by three points after the two-hour Singapore Grand Prix. Now, it’s Rosberg playing catch-up as we reach a string of tracks that play into Lewis’ hands. It looks like luck may determine who wins the World Drivers’ Championship this year.

f1-lewis-hamilton-helmet-2014#1 Lewis Hamilton
In his pre-race quotage, Lewis cites the Senna/Prost battles of the 80s. This weekend will end well: “Suzuka is one of the races on the calendar that drivers love the most – and arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world. There’s so much history and there have been so many defining moments there – like those unforgettable battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost… All the greats of Formula One have won at Suzuka since the sport first came there in the 1980s and I’m determined to add my name to that list this weekend.”

f1-nico-rosberg-helmet-2014#2 Nico Rosberg
Let’s listen to Keke’s kid talk about the disappointment that was Singapore: “To have the chance for a top result basically taken away before you even reach the grid is hard to swallow and, of course, it was a lot of points lost in the Championship battle. I can’t fault the effort of the team, though. I go to the factory and I see how hard everyone is working, so it’s clear that they want the results just as much as us drivers do. I have faith in my colleagues to improve our reliability and I know they will get it right.”

#3 Daniel Ricciardo

#4 Sebastian Vettel

f1-valtteri-helmet-helmet-2014#5 Valtteri Bottas
Expect a lot more quotes like this today: “Suzuka is my favourite circuit on the calendar. The high speed corners make it a very special track to drive and a lot of fun. For a driver it’s quite a challenge with no room for a mistake, but it’s fast which just makes it even better to drive. You need good downforce and stability which could bring the field closer together.”

#6 Fernando Alonso

f1-felipe-massa-helmet-2014#7 Felipe Massa
Expect a lot more quotes like this today too: “We have good momentum at the moment and our car will hopefully be better than in Singapore. The Japanese fans are some of the most passionate fans. On a Thursday in the rain the stands are still full. I also love Japan and look forward to seeing more of the country.”

#8 Sergio Perez
While most guys talk about the setup, Checo says that the key is confidence: “Suzuka is such an exciting circuit. It’s a classic full of great corners in every sector. It’s a track where confidence with your car is especially important because you need to find the flow of the lap, especially in the first sector from turns two to seven where you have to be totally committed.”

#9 Kimi Raikkonen

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2014#10 Jenson Button
Now, JB calls the Esses at Suzuka unique but has he been to Silverstone or COTA? “It’s also one of the best circuits we come to; a real challenge and incredibly unforgiving, which makes it all the more rewarding when you get it right. For me the Esses are the best section of corners in the world – totally unique to Suzuka, which makes racing here so exciting. Being such a tricky, high-speed track you need good downforce, rhythm and total focus to get the most out of a lap.”

#11 Nico Hulkenberg
The Hulk talks about the local culture and food. I miss F1 food talk: “It’s also a fun weekend outside of the car: the fans really show their love for the teams and drivers, and they’re very sweet and respectful. When we travel from the hotel to the track they are always there standing on the side of the road waving at us with both hands. I’m also a big fan of Japanese food, so it’s a good chance to enjoy the local food, especially the teppanyaki.”

f1-kevin-magnussen-helmet-2014#12 Kevin Magnussen
After coming home dehydrated last time out, K-Swag (I’m drying to gift him a nickname) is hoping life is a little easier this time: “After Singapore, I’m hoping the conditions in Japan won’t be quite so difficult to manage! It was a really tough race and we deserved more than we came home with, but I’m confident that we can begin the weekend in good form and build on the improvements we’ve already seen in the past few races.”

#13 Jean-Eric Vergne

#14 Daniil Kvyat

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2014#15 Romain Grosjean
Romain talks about how to overtake at Suzuka: “There are a few good areas like the first corner, but only if you get a good exit from the last chicane. But probably the best one is in to the chicane itself, after the long back straight and 130R. If you get a tow here you can get inside under braking. There is also a small chance at the hairpin and maybe in to Spoon Curve too, but you have to be brave and usually rely on the guy in front to co-operate.”

f1-pastor-maldonado-helmet-2014#16 Pastor Maldonado
And Pastor talks about all the good crashing spots at Suzuka. Just kidding. Everywhere is a good crashing spot: “If everything gets hooked-up then Suzuka is a pleasure. I really hope we can have a good weekend because at Suzuka it makes it even more of a pleasure to get it right. I think that for a driver it is at least comparable with Spa, maybe even better on some corners. I just love racing at Suzuka and indeed in Japan as a whole.”

#17 Adrian Sutil
Sutil talks us through the Suzuka Circuit: “The first sector especially is tricky, as it has a sequence of left-right-corners which can be driven very fast. From a technical point of view, this part of the track is quite challenging, so we need to have a stable car with a lot of downforce, and a front that responds quickly while turing in. The last sector is good for overtaking due to the DRS zone. In general the track is narrower compared to the more modern ones, and the run-off areas have gravel and grass, which does not allow room for mistakes. Moreover, I believe it will be difficult to go flat out through the very fast 130R left corner due to the reduced downforce of this year’s cars.”

#18 Esteban Gutierrez
Steve is looking to score points at Suzuka for the second year in a row: “I actually have many tracks that I like a lot, but this one is really unique. The layout of the circuit is very different to other ones, so the set-up of the car is also special. The track has many fast corners which can be challenging from an aerodynamic point of view, but there are also some medium speed ones. The first sector is simply amazing, it is a sequence of left-right corners, and it is fantastic driving through it. Also the very fast left corner, called 130R, is a very nice one.”

#19 Jules Bianchi

#20 Max Chilton

f1-kamui-kobayashi-helmet-2014#21 Kamui Kobayashi
It’s time for Kobayashi Maru’s home race: “I’m very excited to be back in front of all my Japanese fans and racing at Suzuka; I’ve been waiting for this race for over a year. The Japanese Grand Prix and Suzuka have always been very special for me: it’s where I experienced my first F1 Free Practice sessions back in 2009 and where I also achieved my first ever Formula 1 podium finish in 2012 and, this year, I am able to come back to Suzuka thanks to the support I received from my fans.”

f1-marcus-ericsson-helmet-2014#22 Marcus Ericsson
Old Marcus has had success at Suzuka… in Japanese Formula 3. I don’t think things will go as well this time: “I can’t wait to go back to Japan for my first Formula One race! It’s a country that brings back very good memories – I won the Japanese Formula Three championship there back in 2009, becoming the first Swede to win this title.”

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