Suzuka is your favourite circuit of the year. Why?
Robert Kubica: "It's hard, it's the most challenging circuit and it's very, very fast. If you count the number of really high-speed corners, taken in fourth gear or above, I think it's the most of any circuit on the calendar. The first sector is incredible: the Esses are like a rollercoaster, flipping the g-forces from side to side through very long corners, and it's tough to keep the correct line, especially because if you make a mistake in one corner, you carry it for a long time through the next corners. Plus, there are a couple of low-speed corners, and the chicane where you have very heavy braking and it's possible to overtake.
Why do you think we saw so many mistakes last year?
RK: Partly it was down to the weekend: all Friday was wet, on Saturday morning people needed to do some laps, and then they pushed to the limit only in qualifying. But the biggest point is that you have a very small margin for mistakes in Suzuka because there are no tarmac run-off areas, so as soon as you make a mistake, you're in the gravel. Often, when you're outside the car you don't realise that the drivers are making mistakes, because you see them put a wheel over the kerb and on the run-off area, then they come straight back on the track. But Suzuka doesn't work like that: if you go off with one wheel, you don't come back.
Is that requirement for total precision what you enjoy?
RK: Of course. I like more this kind of track, this way of driving and this way of racing.
In Singapore, you qualified and raced behind the three teams battling for the championship. What level of performance do you expect in Suzuka?
RK: I think it will continue along similar lines, and we have some tough competitors around us. Of course, we will try our best, but I don't think the end of the season will necessarily be the easiest one for us. We do not have big new developments coming, so it will depend a lot on how much development other people bring to the car. This will have a big influence on where we end up and how good our end to the season will be.
Vitaly, sum up your feelings after your first F1 night race in Singapore...
Vitaly Petrov: "It was a challenging weekend for me and frustrating not to get the result we could have done. The start of the race was very good and I moved up to tenth, and it was a good tactic by the team to call me in when the safety car came out. After my pit stop I was in a good position with Webber and Glock just in front of me, but then there was the incident with Hülkenberg, which cost me three positions and destroyed my race. Without this I could have finished maybe eighth.
How have you spent the time between Singapore and Japan? Did you go back to Europe?
VP: Yes, I came back straight after the race. I did some training as usual and then I came to the UK to visit the factory for a few days to meet with my engineers and discuss what happened in Singapore and to learn from it. Of course, we have also been doing our preparation for Suzuka and the engineers have given me some data from last year to look at.
Are you excited about going to Suzuka, one of the classic tracks on the calendar?
VP: I know it's a very famous circuit and it's nice to go there for the first time. It's hard for me to say more because I really don't know what to expect. It will be a totally new experience for me, but I know already from talking with my engineers that it's quite a tricky circuit. I hope the car will be good there, but the start of the lap looks very quick and challenging with lots of changes of direction. If you get one corner wrong, you really suffer in the other corners. I think it's also important we make sure the f-duct works well there because a lot of the lap is full throttle and the straights are quite long.
You're coming to the end of your first season as an F1 driver. Are you happy with how things are going?
VP: The recent races have not been easy for me, and I think it's down to my lack of experience and some bad luck. I'm working hard and improving, especially with my feedback and understanding the car, but this has not been translated into the results. Now I need to show the team what I can do in the final races and show that I deserve to stay here next year.
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