They're now in Japan, the track at Suzuka where season champions are frequently decided based on the race's late placement on the season's calendar and if a racer has been dominating races with a rack-up of points. According to the FIA, on Thursday, drivers Charles Pic (Caterham), Pastor Maldonado (Williams), Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso), Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing), and Jenson Button (McLaren) talked with reporters. We have a sampling of the Q&A for you plus also the TV schedule for American television viewers.
Current champion Sebastian Vettel and also this season's leader in points was asked whether we are now in an era where he dominates like his countryman, Michael Schumacher used to do. Mr. Vettel responded this way:
"Well, that’s a compliment, first of all. I think it’s very different. I think there’s probably one race which was a bit of an exception. If you take Singapore, the gaps we had and were able to build up were incredible, to lap two seconds quicker than the cars behind us, but obviously it depends on who was behind us at the time and which tyres (they had) and so on, but anyways, what I want to say is that if you take Korea which I think is more similar to Spa, the gap was something between three and six seconds for the whole race. If you look at ten years ago, it was more like thirty to sixty seconds which is a big difference. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice cushion to have in the car, when you see that you’re three seconds down the road, but equally you know that if you make one stupid mistake – in Korea, for example, a lock-up which was very likely and three seconds is nothing compared to thirty or sixty."
He was also asked about related comments from Mercedes driver and 2008 Formula 1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton. After the Korean Grand Prix Hamilton spoke about fans possibly falling asleep after the start of races now to wake up already knowing who won, but later on, Lewis clarified his remarks that Vettel is a multi-champion in the sport who is deserving of respect.
Vettel responded that he had not heard the original Lewis comments after the Korean Grand Prix, but about the respect remark, he had this to say:
"Yeah, I was told. Obviously it’s very nice to hear something like that. I think I can only give it back, I think. There is respect amongst the drivers, obviously there’s a lot of stuff that gets written and said but I think that the most important thing is when you go up to another driver, whether you feel respected or not and I think that is the case. I think Lewis is one of the best drivers currently in Formula One. I get along quite well with him lately so I can only say ‘thank you very much’ and give it back."
Jenson Button, 2009 World Champion, was asked his thoughts on the circuit at Suzuka:
"I love this circuit. I think most of us do. It’s a very unforgiving circuit. Very fast and flowing, especially from one up until, well, actually, after the second Degner. It’s a really good section up there. So, very enjoyable. It’s a tricky circuit to overtake on, but I think the DRS zone is hopefully going to help a little bit with that. But it’s always a flat-out race, with hardly any rest. We’ve got the hard and the medium tyres here, so it’s going to be pushing all the way, which is what we love as racing drivers, especially around a circuit like Suzuka. So, hoping for a good weekend."
A reporter asked Vettel about his adventure going up Mt. Fuji in 2008 and also about his helmet for the Japanese Grand Prix. He replied:
"Yeah, climbed the... well, climbed is not really the... you don’t need a rope to go up there. We started very early, together with Alexander Wurz, it was a fun trip and we climbed or we walked up so we reached the summit as soon as the sun came up which was very special. There were a lot of people telling us off because it’s too cold and it’s too late in the year but actually it’s not a problem, so it was quite cold at night but not too bad. It was a very nice experience to be up there, it’s very high, close to 4000 meters above sea level, so it was a unique experience.
Regarding the helmet of last year, I’m not sure... I think it’s at home. Always in Japan, the last couple of years we came here with a special helmet design. I’m using an Arai helmet which is a Japanese manufacturer and obviously it’s their home Grand Prix, not just for my helmet but also for many other helmets. It’s nice to give a little bit back to them, but also to the fans, to come up with a special idea and I think also this year’s helmet looks very nice."
Americans looking to watch the 2013 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix should tune in to the NBC Sports Network. Here is the TV schedule. All times are Eastern, and live broadcasts are marked LIVE and with an *:
Friday, October 11, 2013
*1:00 a.m. - 2:30 a.m. Practice -- NBCSN -- LIVE.
Saturday, October 12:
*1:00 a.m. - 2:30 a.m. Qualifying - NBCSN -- LIVE.
Sunday, October 13:
*1:30 a.m. - 2:00 a.m. Pre-Race Show. NBCSN -- LIVE.
*2:00 a.m. - 4:00 a.m. Japanese Grand Prix. NBCSN -- LIVE.
*4:00 a.m. - 4:30 a.m. F1 Extra Show NBCSN -- LIVE.
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Qualifying Re-broadcast.
1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Pre-Race Show Re-broadcast
1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Japanese Grand Prix Re-broadcast.
3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. F1 Extra Show Re-broadcast
Going into the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, the leader in the season's championship is Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull with 272 points and 8 wins; second is Fernando Alonso of Ferrari with 195 and 2 wins.
The constructor championship leader is Red Bull with 402 points followed by Ferrari with 284.
After Japan, there are only four races to go in the season: India, Abu Dhabi, the United States, and Brazil.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Ann Kirk, Ph.D. is the author of several books and is currently working on a new work about racers and racing with an Irish historic racer living in upstate NY. Check out her blog about the sport at Motor Sport Muse.