Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake will tackle the legendary Suzuka circuit in round 17 of the 2023 championship - the Japanese Grand Prix.
As the season enters its final third, every point matters and the team will aim to add to its tally as it continues to battle hard on and off the track.
A new upgrade package, introduced in Singapore, will continue to be refined and understood, while the skill of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu will be tested by one of the most technical and rewarding tracks on the calendar.
The grandstands are full: fans, donning shirts and caps of all teams on the grid, cheer and clap. A choreography starts going; flags wave in the air. It's a scene that could be lifted from any Grand Prix footage, anywhere in the world: but there's something that makes it uniquely Suzuka. It's not the funny hats sported by some fans - working DRSs, full cars, papier-maché helmets; it's not those who turned up in full fireproof suit, replicas so detailed they could fool an expert's eye. It's something different - something that would not happen at any other track but happens each year here in Japan.
The sun has long set, the grandstands are sunken in darkness, the faint light of mobile phones and the bright colours of countless lightsticks the only visible thing, a dance of a thousands fireflies in the night shadows. And the only action in front of the grandstand, the only activity prompting this cheering and applause, is mechanics pushing their cars to scrutineering.
If there's anything that shows the devotion, the passion, the commitment towards Formula One of the Japanese fans, those scenes on Thursday night shall be it. It's respect, deeply ingrained, not just for the superstars of our sport, the drivers, team principals and legends of the paddock; but for each and every team member, the hundreds of guys and girls who make racing possible, those in the garage, the hospitality units, the kitchens.
Each team members gets applause when driving through the circuit gates; each gets greeted on the way out, late at night. There are respectful bows, handshakes, waves: countless "I remember you from last year" and "thank you for your work".
The biggest debt of gratitude, however, is owed to the fans. They make us feel special, they make us feel loved, they fill us to the brim with motivation: we have come to the other end of the world, and they make us feel at home. So, as we prepare to meet these fans again, we say thank you for your passion, thank you for your support - thank you for making us Big in Japan.
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative: "It's good to go back to racing just a week after Singapore: there is a lot that we have learnt about our car and the latest upgrades there, and a lingering sense of unfinished business, so we want to take the chance to get to the track immediately and put things right. We believe our new aero package is a step forward, and a track like Suzuka should highlight the benefits it brought a bit more. Singapore, especially with the changes we have made to Zhou's car on Sunday morning, taught us a lot about how to set the car up with the current package, and this should help us in every round going forward. Our confidence in scoring points is unchanged and we're still determined to make up as much ground as possible in the constructors' standings. Everyone, trackside and in Hinwil, is working hard: we trust the process and our work, and we know that doing our job at the best of our capabilities will allow us to get closer to our targets."
Valtteri Bottas: "I am very much looking forward to being back in Suzuka this weekend; it is my favourite track, and I have so many good memories from racing here in the past - especially 2019, when I won here. The atmosphere at the track is incredible, and the fans' dedication and passion are fantastic. Singapore was quite a difficult weekend for us, but as a positive, we got to learn more about the upgrades package, which should help us do a further step forward in Japan. We have seen how our direct competitors have all made progress recently, and that must be our aim, too: we still have chances to score more points and advance in the standings - starting from this race - and if we do our homework and get to maximise the potential of our new parts, I am confident we can achieve that."
Zhou Guanyu: "The Singapore weekend was one in which we turned around a very difficult start and ended up with a decent race: we may not have scored points, but the performance was good, starting from the pitlane, and there are indications that make us confident for the next few races. As we head to Japan for the second and final leg of this Asian double-header, I am looking forward to being back on track, and continue working on extracting the full potential of our new package. We expect to make a proper step forward here, as the track layout is meant to suit our car better. As always, it is often a matter of hundredths of a second when it comes to making a difference on track: we must be at the top of our game from Friday onwards and keep focusing on maximising our performances. This way, we'll manage to advance in qualifying and place ourselves in favourable conditions to put up nice battles in the field during the race."