Suzuka: What You Need to Know

Fact File: Suzuka International Racing Course, Japan

Laps 53
Lap Length 5.807 km (3.61 miles)
Race Length 307.471 km (191.054 miles)
First Race 1987
Fastest Lap K Raikkonen 1:31.540 (McLaren, 2005)
2010 Winner S Vettel (Red Bull)

Overview:

This is your classic ‘figure of eight’ track layout (with a few kinks here and there), where the stretch between turn 9 and 10 travels underneath famous 130R section. Suzuka was originally designed by John Hugenholtz in 1962 for Honda, as a test and development track. It often lines up alongside Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone as a driver and fan favourite circuit, why it is become evident quite quickly. Suzuka is a combination of high and low speed corners, with each being different they pose a unique challenge ensuring the drivers can’t complain about being bored. In Japan teams will have to put a car on track that is strong in all areas, and thus practice will be vital for them to consolidate the optimum set up for the race.

The Lap:

The start/finish straight allows the drivers to hit speeds of 250km/h+ before braking late into the fast sweeping right of turn 1 which leads quickly into turn 2. The exit must be executed right to provide the best line into the ‘Esses’ (‘S’ Curves) of turns 3/4/5, being bumpy the brakes are seldom used so aero is relied upon. Turn 6 is tighter and turn 7 is bumpy, long corner that feeds into the Dunlop Curve. Turn 8 (Denger Curve) is one of the many fast corners that feature around Suzuka, a softer set up can ride the kerbs, but it’s the exit that matters as the make the short dash to turn 9. Using the camber in the middle of the corner to help them out, they race underneath the track passing overhead. Heading towards the turn 11 hairpin, turn 10 is a right handed kink, the hairpin is the slowest corner out there and require concentration and commitment.

Turn 12 differs in the wet and the dry, the former coverts it into a corner, whereas the latter allows drivers to go flat out. The track turns bumpy into Turn 13, the beginning of the Spoon Curve braking, then braking again and changing down for turn 14. Back on the throttle at the earliest moment for the closest thing to a back straight, the drivers will soon find themselves taking on the famous 130R. One of the fastest corners in the world, it rewards the best cars with the ride of a life, if they get it right. Reaching just over 300km/h through the left turn, their minds will already be on the braking zone for the upcoming chicane. Precision is key and the turn 16/17/18 combination delivers them back along the start/finish straight to do it all over again.

Overtaking and Strategy:

Overtaking here is usually fairly difficult, but those with a good straightline speed (along with the help of the DRS zone) can use the start/finish straight to take the car in front around the outside of turn 1. Or if the driver is feeling particularly brave they can have a go through 130R, taking a leaf out of Fernando Alonso’s book when at almost 300km/h he passed Michael Schumacher in 2005. Weather is a consideration as when the rain falls it tends to stick around on track. The nature of the track tends to collect standing water so drivers will need to bear this in mind when combatting the high Gs and windy conditions.

Tyres:

Prime compound: Medium (white)

Option compound: Soft (yellow)

DRS:

A single DRS zone located on the start/finish straight. The detection zone is 70m after turn 15, and the subsequent activation zone is 30m after turn 18 (the start/finish straight).

Why Suzuka Rocks:

It is a classic from the ground up, from that ‘figure of eight’ to the legendary corners it’s another driver favourite as it presents a challenge at every corner. Demanding so much, it gives little back, especially when a mistake is made the gravel comes calling. However, when they get it right the rewards and accolades are well earned and duly deserved, winning here showcases exceptional talent. It  also tests the team as a whole, with harmony between aerodynamics, engine and handling necessary to give the drivers a car capable of toughing it out for 53 laps. Plus it may rock for several hours after the race is finished, when Sebastian Vettel becomes the youngest double world champion and retains his 2010 title for another year. Unless he retires, it’s worth noting here that he’s the only to make it to the chequered flag for every single race…keep your fingers crossed (either way).

5 Key Points:

  • Mental and physical challenge
  • True test of talent and teamwork
  • Classic track
  • Super fast corners
  • Home race for Kamui Kobayashi

How Vettel can do it this weekend:

Tell the nice ladies and gentlemen how many points you need Master Vettel

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