Only a few days after the drama of Sepang, the teams have taken the short trip to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Japanese Grand Prix completes the Asian leg on the Formula 1 calendar and is a fitting venue for what is set to be a captivating race.
One of the most popular circuits, Suzuka is a true test of driver and car, and a fantastic venue for some of the most enthusiastic and colourful Formula 1 fans.
It’s regarded as an “old school” track, narrow, with little run-off areas and only one clear line through most of the corners. There’s risk at every turn at Suzuka and any mistake is heavily punished. Don’t think of a harmless run-off over never-ending asphalt; picture a cloud of broken carbon-fibre and tangled wreckage. But all of this makes Suzuka so special and sets this race apart for both driver and spectator.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso says: “Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the calendar, and along with a lot of the other drivers I always look forward to racing in Japan every year. It’s one of the classics and its configuration is completely unique. It has a bit of everything – it’s demanding, fast, and a big challenge for a driver and for the engineers, so it’s the perfect racer’s circuit.”
Fast, Flowing and Exciting
Suzuka is a track for the imagination. The layout is fast and flowing, the design is a unique figure-of-eight, and the circuit is an extension of the natural contours of the land.
The excitement starts at the first corner. A fast, looping corner that blends neatly in Turn 2, the track elevates on the exit and after a short tap of the throttle comes the Esses – a left, right, left, right combination taken at a minimum speed of 130mph and something that is breathtaking to watch.
If downforce is crucial in the opening part of the lap, the second sector requires braking stability and traction around looping, bumpy corners. First up is the long Dunlop corner before the drivers punch uphill into the understated but challenging Degners – a slight nudge right followed by a slow 90-degree corner that always tends to catch a driver unaware each race.
The third sector features the infamous 130R (Turn 16), named after the original radius of its turn, that is now taken flat-out at more than 200mph.
“Japan is a fascinating country with some of the most enthusiastic fans that we see in the whole championship,” says Paddy Lowe from Williams.
“The circuit itself is one of the greatest race tracks on earth in my opinion. It has a long and significant history as one of the Formula One classics.”
“It has a unique figure of eight layout with the track going underneath itself half way around.”
“The track requires power, downforce and above all else, great skill from the drivers. It is one of the most difficult circuits for a driver to learn and master, especially the famous sequence of “esses” in sector one.”
No Penalty For Vettel
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel goes into the Japanese Grand Prix in desperate need of a victory to claw back his points deficit to Lewis Hamilton.
And luck seems to be alluding the German. The bizarre post-race collision with Lance Stroll threatened Vettel’s prospects at Suzuka amid fears his gearbox was damaged. But Ferrari inspected the unit at its Italian factory during the week and tweeted to say it was “available”.
None of this is comfort to Ferrari’s team boss Sergio Marchionne who is lamenting their recent run of form.
“The fact that yesterday [at Malaysia] both the Ferraris could have beaten everybody is undisputed,” said Marchionne. “It was also the case in Singapore.”
“Without external factors, those cars would have been first and second.”
Marchionne also said he is undertaking a full review of their component supply chain.
“We are addressing the entire chain to impose different standards,”
“It’s one thing breaking an engine on the (test) bench at home but it really looks bad when you have to be pushed off the grid (before the formation lap) from second place, it’s enough to make you pull your hair out.”