The sixteenth round of this year's Formula 1 World Championship sees the ten teams make their second visit in recent times to the Mount Fuji circuit, located in the mountainous region around Japan's most famous landmark.
Historically, the Japanese Grand Prix has been a successful hunting ground for Ferrari, as the team has won almost a third of all F1 world championship races held in the Land of the Rising Sun, with seven victories, all at Suzuka, dating back to Gerhard Berger's victory in 1987.
Last year's race in Fuji got off on the wrong foot for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, with both its drivers relegated to the last two positions, effectively ruining the team's chances.
The race began behind the Safety Car because of the torrential rain that had in fact blighted most of the weekend. The FIA declared the race would start behind the SC, with the obligation for all cars to be fitted with the "extreme wet weather" tyre; a decision which had not been made clear to Ferrari and after the opening lap, the team was told to pit both cars to change tyres. Despite this setback, Kimi Raikkonen finished on the podium in third place, with Felipe Massa also in the points in sixth, which was not a bad result considering the difficult opening moments. On the Friday last year, with a dry track, the Scuderia's car was competitive, especially over a long run. Given that this year's F2008 has proved to be competitive at all circuits, these two factors give cause for optimism about the coming weekend, whatever the conditions. Latest forecasts predict that, while there is a strong possibility of rain on Saturday, race day should be mainly dry.
"As I said in Singapore immediately after the night race there, our target in Japan and also in the final two races will be to come away with maximum points," said Team Principal of the Gestione Sportiva, Stefano Domenicali.
"It is a simple statement but also a very difficult task! However, we have the potential to achieve this goal and we believe we can do it. Our stated objective of winning both titles was rendered more difficult after the result of the last race where, apart from the complication of dealing with the first Safety Car period, we did not help ourselves with the mistake made during Felipe's pit stop. We still believe that our "traffic light" system used for releasing the drivers from the pits does bring a performance advantage, something we have seen on a couple of occasions this season when it's use has allowed us to gain a place in pit lane. It is a good system that still has potential. However, for the rest of this season, in the light of recent events, we have decided to revert to a conventional "lollipop" for telling the driver when it is clear for him to go.
"This decision has been taken purely to give the pit crew maximum confidence at the time of the pit stops. Pit stops are always a tense moment and with the fight for the championships so finely balanced that will be even more the case over these last few races. Therefore, we do not need to put our guys under any more strain than necessary. The pit stop personnel remain unchanged from the line-up used in Singapore."
The F2008 will feature some new updates in Fuji, which constitute the latest development parts and also the final update for this season, as the car will run to the same specification in China and Brazil. These developments were given their final track sign-off during an aero test in Vairano last week, having previously been evaluated at the last test in Mugello. Both Kimi and Felipe have stayed out in the Far East since the last race and on Wednesday they will both be in Tokyo, taking part, alongside their McLaren-Mercedes counterparts, in a press conference organised by Bridgestone.