Kazuki Nakajima is aware that – as the only Japanese driver in this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix – he will have a heavy weight of expectation upon his shoulders, but he still cannot help but be excited about his first home race in Formula 1.
The 23-year-old rookie recently renewed his contract with Williams for 2009, and he has a fond affection for the Fuji Speedway, nestled in the foothills of Mount Fuji, Japan's highest peak. On the back of the multiple world championship-winning concern's superb showing in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix last time out, Nakajima enters the weekend with high hopes – if a touch of understandable apprehension.
“I'm really excited about my home grand prix,” the former GP2 Series front-runner enthused, “and this will be the first time I've been back to Fuji for three years. It used to be my F3 team's home track, so I lived in the area for a year.
“It feels really good to be going back, and this time I'll be driving a Formula 1 car so I can't wait. I think there will be some expectation from the fans because I'm the only Japanese driver at the moment, so I'm a bit more nervous for this race. The atmosphere will be great, though, and I'll just do my best to relax, enjoy the weekend and hopefully bring home some points.”
The lion's share of Williams' points in Singapore, however, was notched up by team-mate Nico Rosberg, who produced inarguably one of the finest performances of his 50-race career in the top flight to clinch the runner-up spot – and with it his best F1 result to-date. Following a torrential downpour and post-race earthquake at Fuji twelve months ago, the young German is bidding to cause similar ructions in his unfancied FW30 this time around.
“After our second place in Singapore, we want to go to Japan with the same momentum and continue our high,” the 23-year-old affirmed. “Fuji Speedway might not be the best circuit for our car, but the weather could play a big part in the proceedings this weekend.
“Last year's race was a washout, and there's a strong possibility it will rain again this year. If that happens, we'll have a good chance of a strong finish as our car goes well in the wet. This is Toyota's home track, so I'm looking forward to driving in front of their home crowd.”
Indeed, the venue is owned by Williams' engine supplier Toyota, and as a result of its impressive Singapore haul the Grove-based outfit has now closed to within just five points of sixth-placed Scuderia Toro Rosso in the constructors' title battle – a gap that team co-founder Sir Frank Williams clearly hopes to close further in Japan.
“We were delighted with Singapore,” the 66-year-old stated, “but we are still not where we want to be in the constructors' championship, and we have three races left in which to better our position.”