Toyota’s Ralf counting on home advantage at Japanese GP

  • Other Sport
  • Thursday, 05 Oct 2006

TOKYO: Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher wants to use “home” advantage to lift his team out of the Formula One wilderness at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka this weekend. 

“I’ve spent more than one year of my life in Japan. So I feel very familiar with Japan,” said the 31-year-old German, who made his F1 debut the year after he won the Japanese F-3000 championship, called Formula Nippon, in 1996. 

“Here I am really looking forward to the Suzuka GP. It is one of my favourite circuits,” added Schumacher, who finished second in the 2004 Japanese GP won by his older brother Michael. 

The younger Schumacher, who moved from Williams in 2005, also took pole position and finished eighth at the Honda-owned, technically demanding Suzuka track last year. 

“We want to show a good result in Japan, if we can,” he said ahead of the 17th and next-to-last race of the season. “Our target is going for points, if not going to the podium.” 

Toyota have struggled to strike the tyre-chassis balance in their machines this season and had only one podium finish – Schumacher’s third in the Australian Grand Prix in April. 

Schumacher, who won six GPs before moving to Toyota, has scored points in just six races this season to be 11th in the drivers’ championship with 18 points. 

His teammate Jarno Trulli stands 13th on 12 points with his best result a fourth place in the US Grand Prix in July. The 32-year-old Italian finished second twice last year, the best results yet for Toyota since their F1 debut in 2002. 

“It took us the season’s first three races to match Bridgestone tyres with the chassis but we have continued to tackle the biggest problem, which was aerodynamic,” said Toyota motorsports general manager Yoshiaki Kinoshita. 

“It feels like we just made it in time for Suzuka,” he said. “The weather remains a cause of concern. But I hope it will shine and we will have a great race to stand on the podium.” 

Schumacher agreed that the machine has improved with structural changes. 

“Maybe it’s not so obvious if you look at it from outside. But it really shows a good trend,” he said. “We should have the right package and the weather conditions should stay a bit more reliable than last week.” 

Both Schumacher and Trulli retired in a rain-hit Chinese GP last weekend with mechanical problems after securing 16th and 17th on the grid. 

The weather in Suzuka is forecast to be mostly cloudy and unstable over the weekend with a typhoon in the Pacific expected to stimulate a rain front. – AFP 

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