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Race Preview: Japanese GP

Michael Schumacher takes the Mercedes GP car out for Friday Practice at Suzuka (©

// Japan

It's the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, but before we dive into the race preview, let's spare a minute to talk about the latest shakeup in driver movements. As an F1 fan, you may know by now that Hamilton has made the final decision to depart McLaren and join the arms (or is it arrows?) of Mercedes for a three-year contract beginning in 2013. Hamilton has been groomed by McLaren for the last 13 years, one imagines that a decision like this is made with mixed emotions. In the case of Schumacher, to be essentially kicked out of Mercedes, just seems unfortunate for a 7-time WDC.

While McLaren uses Mercedes engines, McLaren has a noticeably faster car than Mercedes and has won more races this season than the factory team. Is this a wise decision from Hamilton and his management team? Can Hamilton shine at Mercedes? More importantly for this weekend's race, will the dynamic of the team change and therefore the performance of Hamilton suffer as a result in Suzuka?

The Championship title is still an open race at the moment, even with Alonso consistently leading with championship points, the 2nd and 3rd drivers on the leaderboard continue to shift between the top drivers. In terms of the track, it so happens that this year is the 50th anniversary of the famous Suzuka circuit. This classic figure-8 format has a great history of races, most notably the controversial drama between Ayrton Senna and Alan Prost in 1989 and 1990, which lead to Prost taking championship title in 1989 and Senna taking championship title in 1990.

With an abundance of low, medium and high speed turns, the track is quite demanding on the tyres for the duration of the this 53-lap race. Pirelli will be supplying this weekend's rubber with Hard and Soft tyres to help the cars conquer the terrains of this circuit. If the teams manage their tyres well, it may even be possible to do get away with one stop!

Even though Schumacher has won six times at this track and will retire and the end of the season, he hasn't really be able to break through this year except for one podium appearance. The fight may well be between Alonso and Vettel, who both have won twice at the track already. Button, Hamilton, Raikkonen all have won previously here as well, and will be brining the fight to Vettel and Alsonso to do their part to change up the championship scoreboard.

Have you made your predictions for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix? Will you be enjoying the race with sushi and sake?

As we await qualifying to begin later tonight, enjoy this Japanese GP Race Guide video, featuring Jenson Button of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, presented by Hilton HHonors.

Eccelstone Confirms November Race Date

Just received this press release from COTA, still not 100% official until FIA WMSC meets again later this fall, at this point it seems like Bernie Ecclestone is waging a PR war to help get the USGP back to fall where is rightfully belongs...


Ecclestone Statement Confirms United States Grand Prix™ in November
U.S. Race Date Among Numerous Schedule Adjustments

AUSTIN, Texas – August 10, 2011 – Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone was quoted today in the media confirming earlier reports of a revised 2012 F1 schedule, placing the United States Grand Prix on November 18, 2012. The schedule, which contains numerous adjustments from the calendar issued in June by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, is not considered official until the World Motor Sports Council ratifies it at its meeting later this year.

“I have been hoping for a late season race date since this project began and see this as a very positive sign from Formula One that it wants its U.S. event to be an over-the-top success,” said Tavo Hellmund, Chairman of the United States Grand Prix. “Mr. Ecclestone has dozens of competing issues to consider when it comes to the race calendar. He has to balance the interests of the teams with those of the promoters and even consider the unique situation of each host country. To put our race near the end of the schedule puts us in a prime spot to welcome the world next year – and I could not be more personally and professionally appreciative.”

In a statement released earlier today, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell praised the new race date and Formula One Management for its sensitivity to the area’s environmental quality. The proposed date also allows for an opportunity to optimize the project’s construction staffing and scheduling. “The Mayor’s input regarding Central Texas’ air quality during the summer months was obviously important to Formula One management, and to their credit, they listened and have responded,” said Steve Sexton, president of Circuit of The Americas™.

Sexton also commented on the additional benefits a November date offers, “First and foremost, we want our fans to have a great experience when they come here. The prospect of milder weather makes that more likely. It also gives us time to better prepare our staff and the thousands of volunteers who will be supporting Formula One race week festivities.”

Wayne Hollingsworth, a member of the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee’s Board commented on the race date by saying, “Our application to the Event Trust Fund is complete and has been submitted. We appreciate the support the Comptroller’s staff has provided to us to make that possible. While we have not fully analyzed the implications of a potential change in race dates, we believe that any such change, if implemented by FIA, will not affect the eligibility of the Formula 1 Event for the Major Event Trust Fund, but would merely affect the timing. And if the event date does in fact change, per the statutory requirements, we will update our application based on the new date and look forward to receiving approval later this year.”


The Austin American Statesman  is reporting some more details here as well...