Q&A with Toyota team ahead of Fuji race
What are your thoughts heading to Fuji Speedway?
For us it is an important event in general because it is definitely a home race for us and we want to enjoy a strong result in front of our home fans. So we are all looking forward to going to Fuji Speedway and hopefully we will be competitive, with a good performance and a good result. The final races this season are vital in the fight for fourth in the Constructors' Championship and we have to make the most of every opportunity to score points. It is a race I am really looking forward to.
Do you enjoy driving at Fuji Speedway?
It is an interesting circuit and the facilities there are really good. As a track the main characteristic is the exceptionally long straight, but then you also have a twisty infield so you have to make a compromise on set-up between high speed on the straight and good grip in the corners. That makes it quite challenging, and I enjoy a challenge!
Do you enjoy a lot of support from the Japanese fans?
As a team we get a lot of support from the Japanese fans because Toyota originates in Japan. Also, they have always big fans of me personally and they have given me great support throughout the years. They always give me a fantastic welcome to Japan and they are really warm and supporting. I really enjoy going to Japan because I have a lot of support and my fans in Japan are very close to me. Every year we meet and have an evening together; we have a chat and spend time together. It's great fun and it's wonderful to enjoy such loyal support. It gives extra motivation for me to get a good result for them.
Have you driven at Fuji Speedway before?
This will be my first visit to Fuji Speedway because last year I missed the Japanese Grand Prix as it clashed with the final GP2 races of the season - when I won the title in Valencia. I have driven in the Japanese Grand Prix before, back in 2004, but that was at Suzuka. Obviously I have already studied the lay-out at Fuji and I have driven the track on a computer game, but that is not really the same thing as seeing it in real life. It looks like an interesting track and my first impression is that it has a massive straight!
Are you looking forward to you first Japanese Grand Prix as a Panasonic Toyota Racing driver?
Absolutely. The Japanese fans are so enthusiastic for every driver and team but I expect it to be a really special feeling to be there as a Toyota driver. Our Japanese fans give us great support all through the year but to see so many of them in the grandstands cheering us on will be cool. I know how eager our Japanese fans are for us to succeed and I can promise them that we will be pushing as hard as possible. We have the potential to get a memorable result and our priority is to score a lot of points to help our fight for fourth in the Constructors' Championship. I am feeling confident.
Is the Japanese Grand Prix busier than usual for you?
It will definitely be a busy week. I stayed in Singapore for a few days after the race and then I flew to Japan on Tuesday to do some promotional work. It is our home race so there is a lot of extra interest in the team and the drivers, which is great.
Tadashi Yamashina (Chairman and Team Principal)
Are you looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix?
I am very much looking forward to racing at Fuji Speedway. Last year was the first time in 30 years that the track hosted a Grand Prix and I was very impressed by the circuit. It is not only a home race for the team but it is my home race personally and I will meet several friends and colleagues while I am in Japan. That makes for a very special atmosphere. Of course we will also welcome some of Toyota Motor Corporation's top management to the track so I hope we can give a very strong performance.
Is there extra pressure on the team for the Japanese Grand Prix?
I would not say we have any extra pressure but of course we receive a lot of encouragement from Toyota Motor Corporation; they make a lot of very positive comments and they are very interested in the team's performance. Inside the company we put ourselves under positive pressure to do well at every race, and even more so at a home race like Fuji. Team work is very important for Toyota and every part of the company works as a team, so the support and encouragement we get from top management helps us. They are pushing us but it is not negative pressure.
What are your goals for the Japanese Grand Prix and the remainder of the season?
We want to score a lot of points in the Japanese Grand Prix and hopefully fight for the podium. For the rest of the season it is very important to close the gap on the leading teams because at the moment this is bigger than it should be. We will fight to finish on the podium again and we will continue to pursue our ultimate ambition, which is to win races.
John Howett (President)
The Japanese Grand Prix is a home race for Panasonic Toyota Racing, but is it the home race?
For our team, there are three home races. The German race is naturally considered to be our local event because we are based in Cologne; obviously it is more local when it is at the Nurbürgring but nevertheless Hockenheim is also a home race. The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa is only an hour from our factory but it is also the home event for Toyota Europe, which is based in Brussels. Then we come to Fuji Speedway and the Japanese Grand Prix. It is a very important event for us and it is obviously a home race because Toyota originates from Japan. At all these home races we enjoy a lot of local support and we are especially keen to get the right results.
How Japanese is Panasonic Toyota Racing?
Toyota has a corporate culture rather than a national culture; we have manufacturing plants on all continents and we sell cars in virtually all countries of the world. As a team, Panasonic Toyota Racing is, I would say, global - we are too multi-national to say we are Japanese, German or even European. Perhaps you could say our spiritual heart is in Japan. We have a healthy contingent of Japanese team members but we operate independently of our parent company. Basically we agree a budget and a strategy prior to each year and they trust us to pursue those targets.
Do you believe Panasonic Toyota Racing will finish fourth in the Constructors' Championship?
I am confident we can finish fourth this season because I know we have the potential and the will to achieve our targets. However, this team does not exist to finish fourth; we exist to win. Therefore we have other targets over the remainder of the season. We aim to improve our performance relative to the other teams and that means fighting for podium finishes - we are aggressively developing the car in order to do that. At the same time we must continue the strong progress we have made on the 2009 car. This is not an easy task but nothing about Formula 1 is easy and we are ready for the challenge.