Japanese Grand Prix: pub knowledge
The F1 circus heads to Japan, with the various F1 title permutations star of the show Vettel could head home with the drivers’ championship this weekend. Here’s all you need to know…
Suzuka will host this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, widely regarded as one of the greatest challenges on the 19-race Formula 1 calendar. It was built as a test track for Honda in 1962, and its undulating 3.6-mile layout has remained largely unchanged. Sunday’s GP is race 15 of the championship and it could be where the world championship is settled.
Switchbacks and roundabouts
Suzuka is located in the Mie prefecture of Japan’s main island, 30 miles south-west of Nagoya. The track is built next to a funfair and behind the main grandstand sits the circuit’s signature Ferris wheel. It first hosted a world championship grand prix in 1987.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel holds a 77 point lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and the German will be crowned this year’s drivers’ champion if he wins and Alonso finishes no better than ninth. If that happens, Vettel will equal Juan Manuel Fangio’s record of winning titles in four consecutive years. He’ll also pull within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of five consecutive championships.
It would be appropriate if the championship celebrations took place on Sunday night at Suzuka. Japan has hosted more title-deciders than any other country in the history of the sport. On 13 occasions, across three different circuits: Fuji, Aida and Suzuka.
Think F1′s boring? Think yourselves lucky
If Vettel wins on Sunday it will be his ninth win of the year. But if you think that’s dominant, remember it’s just over a decade since his compatriot Michael Schumacher clinched the 2002 world championship in July, before the season had even reached the halfway stage…
The 5.807km Suzuka circuit is unique because it’s a distorted figure-of-eight, with a crossover halfway around the lap. As a result the John Hugenholtz-designed track is clockwise for the first half of the lap and anti-clockwise for the second part…
Qualifying is significant at this tight, twisty high-speed track. In the past 24 races at Suzuka, the winner has come from the front row of the grid on 20 occasions. Although one of the most memorable races in Japan was in 2005 when Kimi Räikkönen initiated a last lap overtake for the lead after he started a lowly 17th on the grid.
Qualifying was cancelled in 2004 when a typhoon struck the Nagoya region. F1 personnel were told to evacuate the circuit on the Friday evening and not venture into the track on Saturday as heavy rain and high winds hit the track. Qualifying was eventually run on Sunday morning before the race. The same thing happened again in 2010…
Slippery when wet
Heavy rain almost led to the cancellation of the 1976 Japanese GP – the first time Formula 1 had ever raced in Asia. For millions of British fans, they were delighted it wasn’t, as that was the race James Hunt clinched the world championship after his arch-rival Niki Lauda withdrew – because of the atrocious weather conditions – on the opening lap of the race. As anyone who has seen the new Ron Howard film Rush will know…
Kamui Kobayashi’s third place for Sauber in 2012 was the first podium finish for a Japanese driver at his home race since Aguri Suzuki stood on the rostrum in 1990. Prior to Kobayashi’s feat, the last Japanese driver before him to stand on the podium was Takuma Sato at the US GP in 2004.
The fastest corner on the lap – indeed, one of the fastest on the F1 calendar – is ‘130R’ (Turn 15), taken at 310kph with a lateral loading of 4G. There are two other occasions on the lap where cars will exceed 300kph – Turn 1 and Turn 13 (Spoon curve). And 10 more of Suzuka’s 18 corners are taken between 170kph and 270kph.
Since the Japanese GP returned to Suzuka in 2009 (after two years at Fuji), every race has featured at least one Safety Car deployment.
James Roberts is associate editor of F1 Racing magazine and is writing regular blogs around the Formula 1 season
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