Preview: 2008 Japanese Grand Prix

Preview: 2008 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix

This weekend sees the second visit to the revised Fuji Speedway (owned by Toyota) after many successful years at Suzuka (owned by Honda). I always enjoyed the racing at Suzuka. It was unique for being the only figure-of-8 layout in major motorsport as well as being a demanding circuit for the drivers. This was because it was designed as a test track for Honda in the 1960s by the same guy who did the original Zandvoort (not the current Zandvoort).

F1 visited Fuji twice before, in 1976 and 1977. These races I know very little about except that one of them was held in appallingly wet conditions and that one of them was a title decider between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. It might have been the same race because I remember Lauda pulled out of the wet race saying it was too dangerous.

Fast forward to 2007 and the return to a massively redeveloped Fuji for a race held in appallingly wet conditions. Modern safety rules being what they are, the cars circulated behind the Safety Car for the first 19 laps (yes, 19 out of 67, not a typo!), and it was the right decision – the conditions were dreadful with almost zero visibility. If the 70s guys had the same stuff I don’t blame Lauda for stopping in those pre-Safety Car days.

The conditions were such that we didn’t actually see a lot of the circuit redevelopment on TV, there was just too much spray. I hope we’ll get to see it this time so that we can properly criticise it on Sunday. I mean really, ditching Suzuka? What were they thinking?

The distinguishing features of Fuji are that is has a 1.5km main straight, possibly the longest in F1? I’m not sure because next week we go to Shanghai which also has a ridiculously long straight. The rest of Fuji is made up of unremarkable corners with acres of run-off, from what I recall. To be fair to the designers they wanted to stay reasonably close to the original design, and the topography of the land didn’t offer many options. The track is very close to Mount Fuji so it is in a mountainous region. We didn’t see anything of the mountain last year because of the clouds blocking the view, I really hope we get to see the place at its best this year despite my reservations about the circuit layout.

We’ll see the cars back at Suzuka in 2009 as the two circuits have agreed to alternate, just as Hockenheim/Nurburging do in Germany. I hope this doesn’t set a trend where we’ll alternate the entire calendar in future!

The 2008 Japanese Grand Prix gets under way at 13.30 local time which is 05.30am here in the UK. At this time of year I have no idea what DST is doing around the world, I think that makes it 00:30 Eastern in the US but you should check.
Wherever you are * remember it starts on the half hour *.

Qualifying is at 14:00 local, 06:00 UK, and that is on the hour as usual.

F1 News
Bridgestone have added green grooves to all tyres this weekend to promote eco issues. That’ll work, well done boys. It won’t really mean the majority of fans asking “why is there green paint all over the tyres?”, and “isn’t all this extra paint very much eco-unfriendly?”.
The softer compound will continue to be marked with a white groove as well as the green. We can add this to the long list of reasons why I’ll be glad to see slicks again next season!

Just days after I was wistfully remembering the late 90s and the days of the rumoured engine deals among the mid- and back-field teams, Force India is rumoured to be switching from Ferrari to Mercedes engines! I swear I can see the future in my dreams. I AM Isaac off of Heroes, although I blog instead of paint. Painting with words.

Ferrari has announced they will no longer use their ‘traffic light’ pit signalling system for the remainder of the year – meanwhile Honda have erected a different design at their pit boxes in Fuji for use this weekend, I’m not sure if they are testing it in practice or if they intend to use it in the race too.

Blog News
Sorry for the delay in writing this preview, I was shattered yesterday after a long and boring day learning about tax and financial statements – I will attempt to do the Chinese preview on Wednesday unless I’m still doing homework by then!

I ditched the clock thing because it didn’t work well for this site, and I rewrote the bottom panel. I now have flags of my county, nation, country and continent because unlike most people in this country I am actually proud to represent all of those things rather than just one or two.

See you Sunday.

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