Group 1: Oscar Piastri, Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon and Nico Hulkenberg.
Let's start with the local hero. Yuki: Suzuka, what does this race mean to you?
Yuki Tsunoda: Yeah, first of all, the track layout is amazing. It's my favourite track. So I'm just really looking forward to driving here on track. Seems to be good weather this week. So I can feel pure kind of performance, Formula 1 as performance, here in Suzuka especially in the first sector. You know, like, last chicane is a fast chicane and, you know, that's kind of proper aerodynamic downforce corners. And yeah, also for the fans, as well. You know, like it's really far away, normally, from Japan, to feel any kind of support exactly. You know, I didn't expect... It's always a surprise the amount of people supporting Formula 1, because, to be honest, it's hard to know exactly the amount of people watching Formula 1 from Japan but yeah, even yesterday, even to two days before I went to Tokyo and did a couple of promotions and stuff and I saw lots of Formula 1 fans there and I feel I got a really warm welcome from them. So yeah, so it's nice to be here and looking forward to it.
Tell us about your history with this racetrack. When did you first come to Suzuka?
YT: I think I was 16 years old.
Alex Albon: I thought it would be younger than that?
YT: No, I was 16 years actually
AA: Six or 16?
YT: Ah, OK. You mean the track itself? So as a spectator, maybe earlier, yeah. So I think I was maybe 14, 13 years old. I think I remember when Seb was driving with Red Bull. I think that was the first time I came here, Still probably the engine sound was really loud. And so I remember I was wearing kind of earplugs. It's incredible. For me, it's the best place to watch Formula 1 from the outside, especially around Turn 1, Turn 2, even like first Sector. I can see the Formula 1 car going into the corners with a sparkling kind of a yellow spark. And I can see how fast they are. And I feel always impressed. Also Turn 7 and Turn 8, the Degner curves, that place is just incredible.
Most of the corners are incredible. Can we talk a little bit about your approach to this weekend, because you've had a very tough last couple of races, failing to complete a lap in either one. How does that change your approach coming here?
YT: Nothing I think. I just probably think... I just put down like just unfortunate, especially Monza was things I couldn't really control. Singapore, obviously there was a bit of room to improve myself but also just didn't work out in the end, just things that also happened that I cannot really control as well. So I just reset. I take it positive, just hopefully I digest every bad luck from there. And yeah, hopefully I can have a good race week here. So just reset and think positive.
And you've got the updates. You ran the updates in Singapore, didn't you? What did you learn about them during practice there and do you think the car will be better here?
YT: The car was good in Singapore. I think also the car itself, the characteristics of the Singapore track, anyway, was probably suiting us anyway. When we see Baku, normally we're fast there, it's a kind of a mechanical grip track and we're quite fast. We see here I think we can see proper aerodynamics, if we actually gain from the aerodynamic side from the car. So yeah, if we perform well, I'm quite, you know, optimistic for the second half of the season. But we're expecting good performance here as well. So yeah, hopefully we can put it all together and aiming for good results.
Alright, well, best of luck. Enjoy the support. Alex, coming to you now. Is Checo Perez, still on your Christmas card list?
AA: You should ask Yuki that as well. Yeah, of course he is. You know, it was a bit disappointing, of course, at the race last week, just points for us, especially, you know, as they come long and far away from each other, so not to be able to score points was a bit of a shame. But all forgiven. And you know, we're going into Suzuka, a track that should play a bit more into our car. But yeah, it was a bit of a... I think it was more disappointing because we didn't have many hopes going into Singapore last week and to be in a position where we could have almost scored points was exciting. And then I think, normally, as long as we kept it on track, we would have scored some points. But we didn't.
It's a return to the harder compound tyres here. Does the car normally perform well in those conditions?
AA: Honestly, tyres aren't such a big thing. It's more just about the circuit itself. I think it's, kind of, low-braking, high-speed kind of corners around here. And that's actually a style that suits us. We've got some proto tyres to test this weekend. I think that's going to be quite interesting just to see, and give us a lot of mileage, basically, as drivers, to be on low fuel or get the most out of it. But yeah, honestly, not so different.
And is it fair to say that you love Suzuka? And I cast my mind back to 2019 when you set an identical lap time to Max Verstappen in Q3.
AA: Yeah, yeah, I love this circuit. I think it's actually my favourite circuit of the year. It's kind of what Yuki said: it's that feeling that you can really drive the corners and really feel what it's like to drive a Formula 1 car, which sounds silly to say, but a track like Singapore, you don't really feel like you're driving a Formula 1 car, whereas here just the speed, and because it's so tight, so narrow, there's grass either side, the immersion in speed, the feeling of speed is a bit more than you get, for example, at Paul Ricard so it's very special.
Alright, final one from me. Just tell us about the level of support that you have here?
AA: Not as much as Yuki, that's for sure. But it's OK. It's not bad.
YT: Japan loves you.
AA: It loves me? You love me or Japan loves me? Everyone loves me! Thank you. No, it's a great place. I actually would say Singapore was a bit more my home race than here but as Yuki said, apparently I'm welcome here. I love the food. I think I've gained about three kilos in the in the three days I've been here so. So that's been good.
Sounds fun. Thank you. Best of luck to you. Nico, coming to you now. What does this race mean to you? Because you've always gone pretty well here.
Nico Hulkenberg: Is that so? 2019 didn't go so well. That was my last time here, but yeah, it's a cool place. It's a fun circuit. Definitely ranks very high on my favourite list too. And yes, it's very different. It's always exciting coming to Japan and spending a couple of days here.
Tell us what you've been up to. I think you've been in Tokyo, right?
NH: I think we all have, pretty much. I didn't see many other F1 faces. But yeah, obviously there's limited time in between and, you know, Tokyo is always worth a trip.
What is the secret to a good lap around Suzuka?
NH: Be quick. You know, connect all the sectors, have a good car balance. Obviously, there are a lot of grip-limited zones, a lot of change of directions. It's quick and flowing, as we know. So yeah, I guess, ultimately, it comes down to you know how much grip you have and a good balance. I think it's quite challenging for us here this weekend. Singapore last week, I think was definitely one of our stronger weekends, especially recently. Think here this weekend, obviously quite different characteristics and I think they will challenge us.
Hulk so many people talk about Sector 1 here. What is it like to drive? Are you hitting the brakes?
NH: I don't know yet. Let's see, but I don't think so. I think it's just lifting.
Just all about precision.
OK. Just a quick question about tyres. We're going back to the harder compounds. Is that good or bad news for you?
NH: Neither, I think. It's obviously the same for everyone. But I think that neutral. It doesn't play a main factor. Obviously, it's high energy, high deg, therefore, and I think the soft compounds would really struggle here. So, you know, it's in line with what this circuit needs.
Best of luck to you. Thank you. I think there's congratulations in order. Oscar, you've just extended your contract with McLaren. Give us your thoughts?
Oscar Piastri: Yeah, obviously very happy to have that announced already. You know, it was already around for next year but to announce it for the end of '26 now is very exciting. Very happy to have my future secured for a long time in papaya. So I'm looking forward to it.
Why two more years? Everyone seems to sign two-year deals at the minute - both Mercedes drivers, you as well?
OP: I don't know. I mean, I've still got three years after this. But it's... You know, I think everybody... It's always nice to have a sense of security. And I think, for me, it made sense from my point of view, from a team point of view as well. So yeah, just that longevity and continuation together as well. Yeah, nice confidence for us all.