Japanese Grand Prix Preview

Preview the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix.

Straight from Sepang, Formula One shoots into Suzuka round 17 – the Japanese Grand Prix. Home to Honda and Japan’s loyal fans, Suzuka always provides a show of colour, crazy, and controversy. Just what the sport needs as Rosberg edges away in the drivers’ championship after Hamilton exploded on and off track.

Last time out, at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Hamilton looked set to secure his first victory since the German Grand Prix back in July. But just as quickly as he pulled away from Ricciardo and Verstappen, Hamilton’s hopes of tasting glory went up in flames as he suffered yet another mechanical failure.

It was Hamilton’s first mechanical failure, this year, to occur during the race. With Lewis’ only other DNF in 2016 coming after contact with Rosberg in Spain. Hamilton also suffered power unit issues in consecutive qualifying sessions in the two previous rounds,

Hamilton also suffered power unit issues in consecutive qualifying sessions in the two previous rounds, China and Russia. A hat-trick of bad results for the Brit.

While a year ago, at the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, things were going far better for Lewis. As he took his third win out of the four races following the summer break.

hamilton-2015-keisuke-kariya

Lewis Hamilton during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix. Photo credit: Keisuke Kariya.

On route to victory in 2015, Hamilton snatched the lead from his team-mate into the first corner. Edging Rosberg off the track as the corner closed, leaving pole-sitter Nico in fourth place by turn two.

If Hamilton is to win the drivers’ championship again this year, his third title in a row, he will need results like Suzuka 2015 due to the now 23-point lead Rosberg holds over him.

It’s a sizeable task for Hamilton to come back and retain his title now. With the Malaysian GP result a kick in the teeth to a disappointed Hamilton, who would have left the circuit with the championship lead had he won.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) during qualifying for the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix. Copyright: Force India F1 Team.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) during qualifying for the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix. Copyright: Force India F1 Team.

While Hamilton faces a tough time in the title joust, a year ago McLaren arrived at their power unit provider’s home race facing a tough time due to their lack of power.

A year of progress later, though, and Mclaren-Honda come to Suzuka looking for a better result than crossing the line a lap down on the leaders.

This year has seen McLaren’s driver pairing of Alonso and Button regularly challenge for points. With Alonso even able to surge through the field in Malaysia, to come from last on the grid and finish in seventh place.

But while the McLaren will be well suited to certain parts of the track, the long run down the pit straight could still cause the team a few issues like last year.

Alonso even took to the team radio during the race to declare his displeasure at the Honda power unit. Crying:“It is like driving on ice. They pass me on the straights like GP2. It is embarrassing, very embarrassing. I do my best…” Before later barking: “GP2 engine. Typical GP2 engine. Aargh!”

Fernando Alonso (SPA) during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix. Photo credit: Keisuke Kariya.

Fernando Alonso (SPA) during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix. Photo credit: Keisuke Kariya.

The certain parts of the track the McLaren car will be well suited to, other than the pit straight, is the first sector. Where the ‘S’ and Dunlop corners require a well-planted machine to carry the maximum amount of speed.

This sector also represents Red Bull’s greatest zone. As well as the best place to gain positions at the start, when the field funnels into the first two corners with a lot of speed into a narrowing passage.

Suzuka International Race Circuit track guide. Copyright: Formula1.com.

Suzuka International Race Circuit track guide. Copyright: Formula1.com.

While the cars will be running more downforce to cope with the high-speed turns, this has a negative effect of making overtaking difficult without being within DRS range.

The high speed and long turns also means a lot of energy will be put through the tyres. With 130R containing the highest continuous g-force loading of the year, according to Pirelli.

With high speed, long corners, the Suzuka circuit points to high levels of wear and degradation by the tyres. Leading to more than one pit stop, with last year’s winning strategy a two-stop race.

The hard compound tyre has also been nominated by Pirelli as a mandatory race tyre. While teams and drivers have gone heavy with their selections of the soft compound.

Tyre choices made for the Japanese Grand Prix. Copyright: Pirelli.

Tyre choices made for the Japanese Grand Prix. Copyright: Pirelli.

Slick tyre selection, however, may prove less important than when decisions were made. With rain expected to hit the circuit across the weekend.

For Friday’s running, rain is expected to fall during the afternoon. Before final free practice and qualifying are both set during a storm risk window. As for the race, UBIMET predict a significant risk of rain.

If you are planning on watching the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix on TV in England, the early morning wake up will see you selecting Sky Sports F1 for live coverage. With Channel 4 covering the race via highlight packages of qualifying and the race.

Thursday, October 6
07:00 – Driver Press Conference
20:45 – Paddock Uncut

Friday, October 7
01:45 – Japanese GP – Practice 1
01:55 – Japanese GP – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
05:45 – Japanese GP – Practice 2
05:55 – Japanese GP – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08:00 – Team Press Conference
08:30 – The F1 Show
21:30 – Japanese GP Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Saturday, October 8
03:45 – Japanese GP – Practice 3
03:55 – Japanese GP – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
06:00 – Japanese GP – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Mix and 1)
06:55 – Japanese GP – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
12:30 –  Japanese GP – Qualifying Highlights (Channel 4)

Sunday, October 9
04:30 – Japanese GP – Track Parade
05:00 – Japanese GP – Pit Lane Live
05:30 – Japanese GP – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
05:30 – Japanese GP – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
08:30 – Japanese GP – Paddock Live
13:30 – Japanese GP – Race Highlights (Channel 4)

*Times above are for Sky Sports F1 unless stated.