Romain Grosjean gets excited about what is probably his favourite Formula 1 race track, Suzuka.
Why do you love the Japanese Grand Prix so much?
Romain Grosjean: Suzuka is probably my favourite track in the world and for many, many reasons. Of course 2013 holds a great memory as I led the race for a while. Mainly I love it so much because the track is a massive challenge and also the spectators are so passionate about F1. There is not a single corner on the track that is not a big challenge. When you finish a lap at Suzuka you really appreciate it because you know the car and you have been really tested and that you can be proud if you have got the maximum from everything.
What are the specific challenges of Suzuka?
RG: It's the kind of track where you find time and improvements, however small, all of the time. It is a very special race track in this respect. Sector one is unbelievable and after you have finished it you can breathe a little bit... but not for long. There is no margin for error with very little run-off area and the track is quite narrow, especially at the top of the hill. I love it. Every metre of the Suzuka track is special and every metre a challenge. The Spoon Curve is especially fantastic, a real thrill to drive in an F1 car.
Where is best for overtaking opportunities at Suzuka?
RG: 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. Suzuka is quite a narrow track so it is not that easy to overtake, but it is a great challenge and very satisfying when you manage to execute one.
What about the whole experience of being in Japan?
RG: You have to mention the fans. They certainly are special and unique. Suzuka is probably the only place we go to where you arrive at the track on a Thursday and the grandstands are almost full! They replay the race afterwards once, twice, three times and the fans stay at the track until we have gone home. They are brilliant fans, very loyal and knowledgeable about the sport. It is in their culture now and you can't imagine a Grand Prix not happening in Japan. We have to have a race there anyway because I like to receive my mini-Romain every year from the fans. Fantastic!
How do you think the circuit will suit the E23?
RG: Suzuka is a track that highlights the good aspects of a chassis and it will certainly be a better place to exploit the positives of the E23 than Singapore. At Suzuka the driver can make a difference to some extent, especially through sector one, so I will be pushing very hard here to get the very maximum we can.
What's your overview of the Singapore Grand Prix?
RG: We tried a strategy which didn't work. That's the easy thing to say afterwards, and if it had worked we'd have been pretty happy. We worked well as a team over the weekend to improve the car and qualifying was pretty rewarding after some tough sessions earlier. The race was pretty hard, but we did everything we could but sadly it didn't work for us. I hope we're in the right position for a good collection of points in Japan.
When can we expect an announcement about you and 2016?
Pastor Maldonado talks about the confirmation he continues with Lotus F1 Team for 2016 as well as the challenge and fun of the Suzuka circuit.
Congratulations on the confirmation of your continuation with the team, this must help you focus more on the rest of the season?
Pastor Maldonado: It's one less thing for my management team to worry about. It's true that we did have a contract for next year but as we've seen before, Formula 1 is sometimes not too friendly towards contracts. It's great for the team to be able to confirm their faith in me and I'm really looking forward to continuing our relationship and racing with them for a third season. Before that we have another six races to go in 2015 so that's my focus now, starting with Suzuka this weekend.
How much do you look forward to racing in Japan?
PM: Very much indeed. It is always nice to know you are going to be challenged by a circuit. 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.
What are the highlights of driving a lap at Suzuka?
PM: There are so many. The start of the lap is incredible with the sweeps up the hill, right-left-right-left. It is really fast and you need a very good and nimble car to change direction quickly. They are really challenging corners where you need maximum concentration and bravery. The run-off is quite small, so it is really satisfying to get them right. When I first drove this track in 2011 it was a big deal for me because I knew that I could find a lot more time in the car. The corners are like this because you never get them 100% right the first time, you learn and learn which is what a great race track should be like I think. Then you have the Spoon Curve which is magnificent and 130R which is still challenging despite being flat-out now. All in all a great, great circuit and with some really steep gradients too. Almost a perfect track!
What is the best memory you have from Suzuka?
PM: Well apart from the first time I actually drove the circuit, it was when I had a really good race in 2012. I qualified down in 14th but managed to overtake quite a few and get some points for eighth position. I remember having a good fight with Nico Hülkenberg in the Force India all race long.
How do you evaluate your Singapore Grand Prix?
PM: If you look at where we started we did make good progress through the field and looked to have some good opportunities. Unfortunately, after the contact from Jenson my rear diffuser was damaged and the downforce helps work the tyres better. This meant we weren't able to preserve the tyre performance as long as we hoped and we made an additional pit stop. It was a good race from the car, with some fun battles.
Jenson wasn't happy with the contact?
PM: No driver's happy if there's a car in front of them and they want to get past, especially if it damages their car trying to overtake. We both got damage to our cars; he was behind me trying to get past, I was defending my position. That's racing, The stewards reviewed it and determined that there was no further action necessary.