Robert Kubica is aware that the Fuji Speedway, home to the Japanese Grand Prix for the second consecutive year in 2008, will provide one of the sternest challenges of the campaign for Formula 1's 20 drivers – and also possibly his final opportunity to maintain his title offensive.
The Polish star has on a number of occasions this season performed minor miracles behind the wheel of his BMW-Sauber – a car that now looks to have been relegated to just the fourth-best on the F1 grid in the wake of Renault's recent resurgence and Singapore success.
That notwithstanding, the 23-year-old has notched up rostrum finishes in six of the 15 grands prix so far this year – most notably his breakthrough victory in the top flight in Montreal – and points in a further six outings, keeping him just about in touch with Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa's see-saw duel for the crown at 20 points adrift of the former's world championship lead.
Back in 1999, underdog Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Jordan threatened to pinch the coveted laurels from Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes right at the close. Nine years on, Kubica – robbed of a strong result by the safety car intervention in Singapore – is aiming to go one better and complete the job.
"This season we go to Fuji for the second year in a row," the man from Kraków related. "I guess everybody remembers last year's Japanese Grand Prix as the weather conditions were crazy. It was extremely wet and visibility was poor.
"From a driver's perspective the track is very interesting. There are some challenging corners with different radii and also some blind corners. Under dry conditions it was very enjoyable to drive, although the last sector is quite slow as there are a lot of tight corners.
"As always in Japan, I think the fans will bring a unique atmosphere to the Formula 1 track. Usually they come to the track early in the morning and leave it after us!"
Few doubt how hard Kubica and the entire BMW-Sauber team will be working to claw back ground on McLaren and Ferrari in Japan, however, and the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's technical director Willy Rampf acknowledged that a 'strong points haul' is very much on the agenda following the squad's Singapore frustrations.
"After the spectacular night race in Singapore, Formula 1 will be returning to normality in Fuji," the German stated. "Last year was our first race there, and though it was dominated by a very wet track, we still managed to gather some information in terms of the car set-up.
"At around 1.5-kilometres, Fuji boasts the longest genuine straight of any grand prix circuit – it means there are real overtaking opportunities. At the same time, the medium-fast and fast turns require plenty of downforce, which calls for a compromise in the aero set-up. In Fuji we drive with medium downforce, comparable to Valencia.
"Bridgestone supplies the two medium tyre compounds, which shouldn't pose us any major problems. After Singapore's turbulent race, where the safety car phase threw a spanner into the works, we want to achieve a strong points haul with both cars in Japan."