Formula One is travelling once again to the famous Suzuka Circuit in Japan for another highly contested round of the 2014 Formula One season. The Japanese Grand Prix has seen many great battles over the years for the drivers championship, and with just three points separating Lewis Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg, this years race could be one of the most important in recent years.
The history of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka dates back to 1987 when the circuit hosted their inaugural Formula One Grand Prix. However the initial Japanese Grand Prix was actually held at the Fuji Speedway, before Japan was stripped of its round in the Formula One World Championship. Ten years past between the last Japanese Grand Prix in Fuji and the first at Suzuka in 1987. But from that year onwards, and skipping 2007 and 2008, Suzuka was setting the headlines with 11 World Champions being named at the Japanese Grands Prix.
The Suzuka circuit itself dates back to 1962 when Dutchman John Hugenholtz designed a test track for Honda. For this track, Hugenholtz designed a figure of eight layout with the 1.2 km back straight passing over the front section. But the figure of eight is far from the only interesting part of this legendary track.
Starting off on the right of the circuit diagram, the drivers surge towards the first corner. Compared to a lot of tracks, Suzuka has a long run down to the first corner which creates a great opportunity to gain places early on.
Providing the driver has avoided a first corner collision, a formation will begin to take shape as they work their way through the S’s and into the Dunlop curve. With the high-speed nature of this part of the track, and the constant need for adjustments, the first sector in Suzuka is an extremely demanding and challenging piece of tarmac. But also one of the reasons the track sits so comfortably in the hearts of drivers and fans alike.
Despite the formation beginning to form through the first sector, a driver is able to overtake the car ahead if they feel it is possible. If not they will find themselves struggling to stay within the track limits and potentially scrapping the gravel run offs.
The start of the second sector hits the drivers with two right-handed corners. On the entry to Degner Curve they will have to slightly slow down before the heavy breaking at turn nine. A good run through these two corners will make or break your qualifying as a perfect line will repay you in a faster time, but the slightest error will see you careering off into the gravel.
Now as they exit turn nine, and make their way towards the tricky turn 11 hairpin, drivers will find themselves going under the back straight. Once they get to turn 11 a perfect break point will be needed to keep you out of the gravel once more and provide you with the best track position for the exit.
Come Sunday and the race, a poor exit can cost you greatly as every tenth of a second the car is fighting for traction the opposition could be preparing their attack. This attack can come on another one of the faster stints of the track and one the run down to another demanding corner, Spoon.
The entry speed to the Spoon Curve will be around 180 Kilometres an hour as drivers flick their four-wheels to the left after breaking from close to 300kmh. They will continue to scrub speed during the curve but must fight to stay in control.
After exiting the Spoon Curve at turn 14, the 1.2km back straight homes into sight and drivers put the throttle to the metal. Here drivers rapidly gather momentum before topping their cars out in seventh gear. At the end of the straight beacons turn 15, otherwise known as 130R.
130R is another one of the standout parts of the Suzuka Circuit. Here the drivers face one of the fastest corners on the F1 calendar, and the speed trap for the Japanese Grand Prix. Across the weekend drivers will be gaining confidence as they look to take the corner flat out come the race, but if their car is not strong enough or lacks the downforce required to perfect the corner they will find themselves slamming on the breaks to prevent the end of their race.
Once beyond the grasp of 130R the end of the lap comes into sight via the final corners. A short and tricky chicane concludes the 5.807km lap of the Suzuka Circuit but is needed to slow the cars down before the start of the following lap.
Come the race on Sunday, the current crop of Formula One stars will need to complete 53 laps of the Suzuka Circuit to see the chequered flag. And that chequered flag could be waving to mark another thrilling and important race in the outcome of the 2014 Formula One Drivers Championship.
As it stands Lewis Hamilton will be arriving in Japan with all the momentum following his win in Singapore two weeks ago. But Lewis not only won the race in Singapore, he was also able to gain the championship lead following the terminal problems his team-mate & championship rival faced.
Now Rosberg will be arriving in Japan looking to claw back that lead with a win, but any points gained over Hamilton could be take him one more footstep closer to his first drivers championship.
Other drivers looking to get in on the action in Japan could be the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo as the Suzuka Circuit should be far more accustomed to their car than the streets of the Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore. But not only will Red Bull be looking to gate crash another Mercedes party, the long straights and high-speed nature of the track may also fall into the hands of the Mercedes powered Williams team who have been showing they are their to challenge the front order once more.
But the key battle remains between the Mercedes drivers and the eyes of the Formula One loving Japanese crowd will be focusing on them, and home fan-favourite Kamui Kobayashi.
But not only will this weekend provide the world with the next instalment in the battle between the Silver Arrows, on Friday in the first free practice session Max Verstappen will be making his Formula One debut. And sketching his name into the Formula One history books as the youngest person to drive in an F1 Grand Prix session. Come Friday Max will be just 17 years and 3 days old, knocking Vettel off that particular perch by over two years.
With any luck this years race can also be as enthralling and entertaining as some of the previous races that have gone down in the circuits history. Some of these classic encounters I will be discussing on Wednesday 1st October as I look back in the Suzuka F1 history books.
Furthermore for this years race, which will be live on both SkySportsF1 and the BBC, Pirelli will be providing the hard (orange) and medium (white) compounds of tyres.
If you wish to watch the action as it unfolds on Sunday morning, SkySportsF1’s coverage is as follows:
Thursday 2nd October
07:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference – Live
21:00 – Classic F1 – 1988 Japanese GP
Friday 3rd October
01:45 – Japanese GP Practice One – Live
05:45 – Japanese GP Practice Two – Live
08:00 – Team Principals’ Press Conference – Live
10:00 – The F1 Show – Live
11:00 – Japanese GP Practice One replay
13:05 – Japanese GP Practice Two replay
21:40 – Classic F1 – 1989 Japanese GP
Saturday 4th October
02:45 – Japanese GP Practice Three – Live
05:00 – Japanese GP Qualifying – Live
09:00 – Japanese GP Qualifying replay
11:45 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
12:45 – Japanese GP Qualifying replay
21:15 – Classic F1 – 1996 Japanese GP
Sunday 5th October
05:30 – The 2014 Japanese GP – Track Parade – Live
06:00 – The 2014 Japanese GP – Race – Live
09:30 – The 2014 Japanese GP – Paddock Live
13:15 – Ted’s Race Notebook
13:30 – The 2014 Japanese GP replay
18:30 – 2014 Japanese GP Highlights
21:00 – Classic F1 – 1994 Japanese GP
As for the BBC, their coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix is as follows:
Thursday 2nd October
20:00 – Preview to the Japanese GP, BBC Radio 5 live
Friday 3rd October
01:50 – Japanese GP Practice 1 – Live – BBC2 & BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra (01:55)
05:55 – Japanese GP Practice 2 – Live – BBC2 & BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra (05:55)
Saturday 4th October
02:55 – Japanese GP Practice 3 – Live – BBC2 & BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra (02:55)
05:00 – Japanese GP Qualifying – Live – BBC1 & BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra (05:55)
Sunday 5th October
06:00 – Japanese GP Race – Live – BBC1 & BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra (06:30)
09:15 – Japanese GP Forum – BBC Red Button
19:00 – Japanese GP Highlights – BBC3