Q and A with Kazuki Nakajima
Kazuki Nakajima will race for the team AT&T Williams F1 Team in the final Grand Prix of the 2007 season in Brazil in a fortnight's time. The 22-year old Japanese driver, this year's GP2 series Rookie of the Year, is the team's official test and reserve driver. Nakajima talks about the challenge that awaits him at Interlagos:
So, congratulations are in order Kazuki! You must be very excited about driving in Brazil?
"I'm really excited, and I have to say many thanks to the team for giving me this opportunity. Now, I'm just really looking forward to getting to Brazil and making the most of it. I'm quite relaxed at the moment, but there's still plenty of time to get nervous!"
How did you feel when you took the call?
"I had mixed feelings, I suppose. In one respect, I was really happy and excited because it's a dream come true, but the sport has also lost a great driver in Alex Wurz and I know the team were all very fond of him. Patrick told me the news; I haven't spoken to Frank yet but I'm looking forward to a conversation with him this week before the race. They aren't putting any pressure on me, they've said it's not a test for a seat next year, it's just this race. "
Interlagos is quite a challenge, how are you preparing for it?
"I'm spending a day at the factory this week on the simulator, and with the engineers talking everything through. It'll be my first time racing on the track and many people have told me it's very bumpy. It's also ant-clockwise, so I've just been clocking the miles on the sim in preparation. Fortunately, I have quite a lot of time before the race so I can be well prepared."
As you mentioned, Brazil is an anti-clockwise circuit and therefore something of a greater challenge. Are you making more trips to the gym than usual?
"Definitely. I'm putting the hours in and training a lot harder than usual to give myself the best possible chance. I'm really working on the left hand-side of my neck as well. I'm not sure quite how tough it's going to be, but I imagine it's going to be a real challenge so I'm really pushing as hard as I can on my preparation work."
Xevi Pujolar will be your race engineer, have you worked together in the past?
"Xevi was my engineer when I drove in the US and in Malaysia for Friday's free practice. We've also done a couple of tests together so we know each other well and have a good working relationship which will stand us in good stead straight away."
What expectations are you placing on yourself for the race?
"At the moment, I'm not laying any goals out for myself. If I can get points it would be great but I know it's not that easy. I will just do my best. The most difficult aspect will be qualifying. When I watched it in China, it was just so competitive. I'll be concentrating hard to get through to Q2, but even that is a challenge. I'll just take one step at a time."
Are you flying out early to acclimatize?
"I'm flying out on Friday night and arrive on Saturday morning. On Sunday, I'm involved in a PR event in Rio for Petrobras which will give me a good chance to spend some time adapting to the time difference. It's my first trip to Brazil and I'll get to experience two of its best cities while I'm there which I'm really excited about."
Your father raced in Formula One for five seasons, what was his reaction to the news?
"He sounded like he was quite happy! Strangely enough, he made his debut in Formula One in Brazil as well, not on the same track, but it was 20 years ago this year. He also finished seventh. If I could do that it would be two points and a great result for me and for the team in their fight for fourth in the Constructors'. He won't be coming to the race because he has commitments with his racing team in Japan, but I'm sure he'll be watching."
You had a good season in GP2 this year and you've just been named Rookie of the Year. Do you feel it's given you a solid grounding for F1?
"It was a really good season for me, but it wasn't perfect. I missed out on a lot of points, particularly in Monza and at Spa, but before that I had been on the podium quite a few times. One of the highlights was the last race in Valencia when I was in pole position. I didn't win the race, unfortunately, but it was great to be on pole for the final round. Finishing the season as Rookie of the Year was also a great way to end. I've definitely learnt a lot from GP2, above all it's allowed me to improve my race craft and I'll be drawing from that in Brazil."