Japanese GP Preview

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

We say ‘Konnichiwa’ to the Land of the Rising Sun and round 17 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, as we head to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix. The high-speed track remains one of the ultimate driving challenges anywhere in the world and is a firm favorite amongst drivers. The enthusiastic local fans are known for their incredibly dedicated support and will be sure to provide a warm welcome to the F1 circus.

An Ode to Japanese fans

We are fortunate enough to travel the world, bringing our sport to 21 – soon to be 22 – exciting locations scattered around the planet. In the process of doing so, we see incredible things, visit scenic places and get to experience the most spectacular sport in the world (we’re biased, we know, but stay with us).

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]One of the best parts of our job, however, is to experience the incommensurable passion of the fans coming to show their support: and this nowhere more so than in Japan. Heading to Suzuka (incidentally, one of the greatest venues for motor racing ever) means immersing oneself in a world of limitless energy, color and fun. Fans in Japan take their role seriously: witness the elaborate headgear, extensive merchandise collections and kooky trinkets each sports. DRS hats? You got them. Full-sized replica driver suits? Aplenty. Team-themed kimonos? We saw those too.

But it is not just the accessories what makes coming to race in Japan unique. It is the knowledge – almost encyclopedia – supporters boast: every obscure detail of their favorite drivers’ lives; of their chosen team’s history; even of the technical aspects of their cars. Every driver – and many team members too – are greeted by cheers and waves, showered in affection and reminded of their previous visits to the Land of the Rising Sun – down to the individual conversations they had with specific fans. It is a display of love unseen anywhere else. It’s something special.

Coming to Japan is to experience all this. It’s to feel the warmth of people with huge hearts, following the sport they love – and putting up a great show for it. This weekend, the spectacle will be both on track and on the grandstands.

Japanese Grand Prix: Fact File

  • The Suzuka Circuit is the only figure-of-eight configuration on the F1 calendar, with the section after the Degner Curves passing under the straight leading to 130R. Because of the crossover, it's the only Formula One track that runs both clockwise and anticlockwise.
  • The figure-of-eight layout is good for tire wear, because it means there is a very even balance between left and right-hand turns. Of the 18 corners in total, ten are right-hand and eight are left-hand turns.
  • Drivers go into the first corner without touching the brakes. In Qualifying, they don't start braking until the car is cornering at close to 5G, generating some of the highest steering wheel torques of the season.
  • From Turn 1 until the end of the Esses sequence, the car is in constant cornering for almost 2km with six direction changes.
  • The majority of the 5.807km lap of Suzuka is spent with some lateral g-force going through the car. Only around 1.2km of the lap are spent driving in a straight line.
  • Suzuka has a wide variety of corner types. The flat-out 130R is one of F1's quickest corners, taken at 315 km/h, while the Turn 11 hairpin is one of the slowest at 75 km/h.
  • The lack of straights at the Suzuka Circuit mean it is one of only two tracks, alongside Monaco, to feature just one DRS zone.
  • Suzuka has the only downhill grid on the calendar.
  • Braking for Turn 11 is particularly challenging, because drivers are mid-way through the fast right-hander of Turn 10 when they begin applying the brakes. They are still cornering at 3.5G when they hit the brakes, starting the braking zone while turning right before then turning left for the hairpin. This is why lock-ups are so common at this corner.
  • Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport has won every Japanese Grand Prix since the beginning of the hybrid era in 2014.

Quotes

Suzuka Circuit
Suzuka Circuit

Toto Wolff, Mercedes Team Boss
Claiming a 1-2 in Sochi after three races without a win was a great feeling. We delivered a strong race in Russia, made the most of our opportunities and both Lewis and Valtteri drove flawlessly. We brought home 44 points, built the gap in both championships and are highly motivated to keep our foot on the throttle for the remaining five races.

However, the win in Sochi doesn't change the fact that Ferrari had a stronger start to the second part of the season than we did. We'll bring some minor upgrades to the car in Japan which will hopefully help us take a step in the right direction; however, we know that we need to extract absolutely everything from our car and the tyres if we want to be able to challenge for a win.

The next race takes us to the iconic Suzuka Circuit with its exhilarating corner sequences and highly enthusiastic fans. We have a strong track record there, having won every Japanese Grand Prix in the hybrid era, but we expect this year to be challenging given the strength of our opponents. It will be a very close battle on track – and one that we very much look forward to. Our targets for the final quarter of the season is clear and it's up to us to make sure we achieve them.

Charles Leclerc Ferrari #16
“Japan is a very special place for us to race, particularly because of the local fans. They are so passionate and always show us a lot of support, which makes the experience there so unique.
It was a difficult weekend for me last year, being in Suzuka for the first time since Jules’ accident. Obviously, it is a very sad memory that I will always associate with this Grand Prix.
The track itself is very technical and demanding. It is one of the best to drive on in terms of its layout. It features high speed straights mixed with various corner combinations and the hairpin, all of which make it the iconic circuit that it is. It has different characteristics to the last few tracks we have raced on, so we will see how our recent developments will work there, especially in terms of the aerodynamics."

Sebastian Vettel Ferrari #5
“Suzuka is probably my favorite circuit of the whole season. It is the only track in the championship that has a figure of eight layout and, in some ways, it reminds me of the sort of tracks we played on when I was a little kid.
Except that there’s nothing kid-like about this circuit, given that it features thrilling corners like 130R and that sequence of esses in the first sector.
The other thing that makes the Japanese Grand Prix special is the fans: they’re incredible! No matter how early you turn up at the track, they’re there before you, waiting for you. And the feeling they have for you is unique and wonderful to experience.
Last but not least, the weather at Suzuka is always unpredictable which means all sorts of things can happen in the race, which makes it particularly complex but also fascinating."

Mattia Binotto Ferrari Team Principal
“Our performance level was good in Sochi, which is how we managed to take our fourth straight pole position, but we know that in order to be at the front in Japan, every aspect of our work must be perfect.
That’s the way we are going to approach the race in Suzuka, trying to extract all the available performance from the car package. If we can do that, then we hope to be able to be as competitive as we have been in recent races.
Sebastian and Charles both adore this circuit. There is much that is special about it, from the sequence of

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal Alfa Romeo Racing and CEO Sauber Motorsport AG:
“We head to Japan with the commitment and motivation to get back into the points immediately. We must not forget we have been scoring in two of the last three races, so putting both cars in the points is a realistic objective: but we still feel there is more we could have brought home from the last few races. The track layout in Suzuka is quite different from Sochi and Singapore, so hopefully it will suit the C38 better and put us back towards the front of the midfield. Both trackside and at HQ, we need to keep working hard to extract the most out of our car: marginal gains is all there is to go from P12 to P7 in a race at this stage in the season."

Kimi Raikkonen #7 Alfa Romeo):
“The last four races have been disappointing for me and the team, but we shouldn’t forget we looked strong in Belgium and Italy despite the issues that prevented me from scoring. The key is to recover the form we had before and immediately after the break: the gap from our rivals in the midfield is not big and hopefully a circuit like Suzuka can help us get the most out of our car. It’s a track I like and the fans are incredible, so I am looking forward to the weekend."

Antonio Giovinazzi #99 Alfa Romeo:
“Suzuka is one of those historical tracks on which everyone wants to do well. It’s a very challenging layout and to drive on it in a Formula One car for the first time will be quite the experience. I had a good run of races before Russia and I know we can be at that level again in Japan. It’s a very different track from the last few we raced, so hopefully we will be able to turn our fortunes around and get back in the points."

Pierre Gasly (Car #10):
“Suzuka is one of the best tracks of the year, the most exciting in terms of driving. I reckon it has the best first sector of any circuit we visit, because it is a section where you get a real feel for what a Formula 1 car can do in terms of its speed and the aero downforce it has.

“Being a Honda driver in Suzuka is really special because all the Japanese give you a lot of support. It’s impressive and I’m keen to get back there."

Daniil Kvyat (Car #26):
“I think Suzuka is a remarkable track. It is a high speed circuit with some truly legendary corners.

“The atmosphere at the circuit is great and the Japanese fans make it truly unique. For us at Toro Rosso, it’s a very special race because we are powered by Honda, so it will be a bit like a home race for the whole Red Bull family."

Dave Robson, Williams Senior Race Engineer
Japan is one of the great venues on the Formula One calendar. It offers a fantastic cultural experience, incredibly dedicated fans and, in the form of the Suzuka Circuit, an exciting and iconic racetrack. The fast, flowing circuit with its famous figure-of-eight configuration is a challenge for drivers, cars and tyres alike.

We come to Suzuka with some new test components to evaluate as we continue our preparations for the 2020 season. Alongside these test items, we will conduct our usual race preparation, consisting of car set-up refinement and tire understanding. Pirelli bring the hardest of their compound range to this event, tyres which we last saw in Spa and Silverstone. They should be well suited to the high demands of Suzuka.

As a team we had a difficult weekend in Russia, and we arrive in Japan recovered and ready to continue the steady improvement that we have witnessed since the middle of the season.

Robert Kubica
The Japanese Grand Prix is one of the most exciting on the Formula One calendar. It is a combination of really challenging sections which maximises the car potential through high-speed ‘S’ bends in the first sector. The middle part is a bit slower with a couple of hairpins, before a very fast part that takes you to the last corner of the track, which is a chicane. It is a track that has retained its old school racing DNA and is a great place to drive. Suzuka is also known for its excitable fans so it is a very special and unique place, not only in the car, but also out of the car.

George Russell
Japan is a race that I have been looking forward to for a long time, and it is a fantastic circuit that I can’t wait to drive. The fans are extremely passionate, I have only been there once as a Reserve Driver and even then, it was a really great feeling. The nature of the circuit should suit us better than Sochi did, so hopefully we can show a bit more pace. All in all, I am really looking forward to it.

Lance Stroll
“I’m a big fan of Suzuka. It’s one of the best, if not the best track, on the calendar. It’s where you really get to feel a Formula 1 car come alive and each part of the lap has something special. It’s got a combination of low-speed and high-speed corners but, more than that, it’s the flow and the speed that’s incredible.

“It’s what we describe as an ‘old-school track’ without much run-off. So there’s very little margin for error and demands even more precision than most other circuits. You have to use every inch of tarmac to be quick there. That’s why it’s such a favorite with the drivers and fans too.

“My favorite corner is the first Degner, which for me is the most impressive corner of the year. It’s probably one of the narrowest corners on the circuit, but you’re doing it in fifth gear and 260-270km/h and that’s very impressive. In qualifying the sensation of speed is incredible.

“Generally the whole first sector is very special and it’s where we get to feel a Formula 1 car working at its best. It’s all about precision and rhythm. Throughout the weekend you’re just building confidence in that sector and it’s about positioning the car in the right place.

“The Japanese fans make this a special event because of the energy they bring to the track. I also enjoy Japanese food, especially sushi so it’s interesting to try the local stuff."

Sergio Perez
“Suzuka is definitely up there as one of the best circuits in the world. It’s the track that all the drivers love because of the high-speed corners and the first sector is probably the best of the year. It’s where a Formula 1 car really shows its performance because of the quick changes of direction. In qualifying, on low fuel, it’s a very special feeling.

“It’s not only the first sector that is amazing. The end of the lap has the 130R corner, which is very impressive and you’re still doing 300kph at the corner exit. Even with the downforce we have on the cars these days, it’s really important to be precise because it’s easy to make a mistake or run wide.

“When I think of Japan, I remember the fans. They are amazing. When we leave the hotel in the mornings, they are already there waiting for us. It’s really nice to see how much they love our sport. They are very respectful and polite, and they also make gifts for us."

Video: How to Tackle Suzuka’s Awesome Twists and Turns

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