Heikki Kovalainen will return to the scene of his first ever F1 podium result next weekend and he will be hoping he can again get onto the rostrum at the state-of-the-art Fuji International Speedway.

Kovalainen, who finished a disappointing and somewhat frustrating tenth in his McLaren-Mercedes MP4-23 in Singapore last time out, has been on the podium just three times this year.

With ten points finishes however from the 15 races, he has managed to notch up 51 points, something that leaves him only five points behind Nick Heidfeld and six points behind reigning champion, Kimi Raikkonen, who is currently fourth in the drivers' standings.

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Now he will want to add to that tally - and in the process help his team-mate Lewis Hamilton by taking points off Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica, as well as help cement McLaren's slender 1 point lead over Ferrari in the constructors' championship.

"Last year's Japanese GP was one of those races where everything went right for me, one of those races where you can perform to a higher level than the car," Heikki recalled.

"I didn't qualify too well [and was only 12th on the grid] but I kept my head, drove sensibly, didn't make any mistakes and battled with Kimi to finish second - my first Formula 1 podium.

"It was the highlight of my season. I'm looking forward to getting back to a circuit now where I've got plenty of good memories. I love Japan and I'm also looking forward to visiting Tokyo."

Asked about the 4.563 kilometre venue, which only returned to the Formula 1 schedule in 2007 after last hosting the Japanese GP in 1977, Heikki added that it is not especially difficult.

"There is no single corner at Fuji that particularly contributes to your laptime. It's relatively easy to understand the corners, and it's not a particularly tricky circuit," he confirmed.

"But it's still a place where you can't afford to make any mistakes, you have to be absolutely precise and extract the maximum from your car to be fast. And that's not easy: you've still got to understand the car and find a good set-up: finding the ideal compromise is the tricky bit."

McLaren-Mercedes CEO Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile concurs that Fuji is not especially tough, unless of course it rains.

"It's not a particularly extreme circuit; it's not a place that really places a premium on the car or the driver - unless it's raining, of course. But, as a result, it's a circuit where you really benefit from solid, clever engineering rather than raw power or efficient aerodynamics," he noted.

"This year, we're bringing a number of smaller components to the car ahead of the race and will be working hard with our engineers to ensure that we can maximise our track time in order to get our cars well-balanced. Of course, we are reliant on good weather - and we learnt last year that this is not always forthcoming when you're racing on the side of a mountain!"