Have you raced before at Fuji Speedway?
Yes, I raced there the first year Formula 1 returned, in 2007. But of course I have also raced plenty of times in Japan, including the Pokka 1000 endurance race, which is a very famous event in Japan at Suzuka.
What are your impressions of Fuji Speedway?
First of all, Fuji Speedway is a traditional race for sports cars because there was always a race there in the past in the World Endurance Championship. In the 1980s the Japanese were big supporters of sports car racing and even had their own Group C championship. Fuji Speedway is quite an iconic track with all that history. But it is also a difficult one because you have an extremely long straight, some fast corners in the middle then the last sector is very technical and tricky. It is hard to find the correct downforce levels and set-up. It is actually one of the most difficult tracks in my opinion to get the set-up right. On paper it doesn’t necessarily look like this but the last sector is extremely technical and this poses a challenge.
How about the Japanese fans?
From all my years in motorsport, with F1 and sportscars, I always found the Japanese fans are very special and very enthusiastic. So for this reason, as well as a few others, I am very happy to go to Japan. I hope they still remember the great days of sportscar racing and come back to see these extremely good, sexy-looking race cars because the show will definitely be very good.
And it is a home race for TOYOTA Racing…
It feels very cool to go to Japan as a TOYOTA driver. It puts a bit of extra pressure on as well and that is good for us.
Any interesting experiences in Japan?
I have climbed Mount Fuji. Actually I went there two times but one time I had to turn around because there were winds of over 100kmh. I did finally climb it with Sebastian Vettel. After the race we met at 3.30 in the morning at the hotel and we climbed up to a beautiful, stunning sunrise. You can see the circuit but you can also see the sea; it was a really stunning view. It was quite cold up there but no wind, no noise; totally silent. We had a little race to see who could get to the top first and who was fittest but we arrived together, neck and neck.