Friday, October 11, 2013


The Japanese Grand Prix is a race in the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Traditionally one of the last, if not the last race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix has been the venue for many title-deciding races, with 13 World Champions being crowned over the 27 World Championship Japanese Grands Prix that have been hosted.

The first two Japanese Grands Prix in 1976 and 1977 were held at the Fuji Speedway, before Japan was taken off the calendar. It returned in 1987 at Suzuka, which hosted the Grand Prix exclusively for 20 years and gained a reputation as one of the most challenging F1 circuits. In 2007 the Grand Prix moved back to the newly redesigned Fuji Speedway. After a second race at Fuji in 2008, the race returned to Suzuka in 2009.

The Japanese Grand Prix was supposed to continue alternating between Fuji Speedway and Suzuka Circuit, owned by perennial rivals Toyota and Honda, respectively. There had been speculation that both tracks would host Grands Prix, with the readoption of the Pacific Grand Prix moniker used by the TI Circuit when it hosted Grands Prix in 1994 and 1995. The race made Japan one of only seven countries to host more than one Grand Prix in the same season (the others being Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the USA). It was discontinued primarily due to its location in a remote area of Japan. In July 2009, Toyota announced it would not host the race at Fuji Speedway in 2010 and beyond due to a downturn in the global economy.

This year’s Japanese Grand Prix could be the title decider, as it was in 2011. If Sebastian Vettel wins the race with Fernando Alonso ninth or lower then Vettel is champion. Vettel needs only 49 points from the remaining five races to guarantee the title; that is assuming Alonso wins all the remaining races but the Ferrari does not have the pace to do that.

The Suzuka circuit has a special place in the drivers’ hearts, along with Spa Francorchamps, as it provides a great driving challenge with its high speed corners and the first sector of the lap in particular is special, with a series of fast, winding curves through which there is only one really fast line.


Track length : 5.807 kilometres
Race distance : 53 laps (307.471 kilometres)
Corners : 18 corners in total. High speed, figure of 8 – a real drivers’ favourite
Aerodynamic setup : HIgh downforce
Top speed : 324km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 312km/h without
Full throttle : 70% of the lap time (ave/high)
Total fuel needed for race distance : 148 kilos (ave/high)
Fuel consumption : 2.73 kg per lap (ave/high)
Time spent braking : 10% of lap (low)
Number of brake zones : 9
Brake wear : Light (Not a tough race on brakes)
Total time needed for pit stop : 20.8 seconds (ave)
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried) : 0.385 seconds (high)


Being coastal, Suzuka is always likely to get sudden rain showers, sometimes heavy. Last year’s race, in contrast, was held in very hot conditions. The forecast for this weekend however is thunderstorms and rain on Friday, giving way to warm sunny weather for Saturday and Sunday, with forecasts of up to 27 degrees. If it stays warm the tyre degradation will be more severe.


Pirelli tyre choice for Suzuka: Medium (white markings) and hard (orange markings).

Pirelli is taking no chances on a circuit similar to Silverstone in terms of loadings, bringing the hardest tyres in the range. Last year Pirelli brought the soft and hard tyres to Suzuka and they comfortably managed two stops, helped by a safety car period at the start of the race. The 2013 hard tyre is the same as last year’s and the medium is very similar to last year’s soft, so a similar pattern is expected this year.


The chance of a Safety Car at Suzuka is quite high: 60% with 0.6 Safety Cars per race. As accidents at Suzuka tend to be at high speed there is often wreckage to be cleared away. There has been at least one Safety Car in five of the last six races at Suzuka and we have seen one in each of the last four years.


The Japanese Grand Prix will again feature a sole DRS zone along the start/finish straight, although it has been extended slightly in a bid to increase its overall effect.

The activation area, following a detection point ahead of the final Turn 16/17 chicane, will cover the majority of the main straight, beginning 100 metres before the finish line.


Last year Vettel was chasing Alonso and had clawed back the gap to 29 points before Suzuka. This year he needs to win the race with Alonso finishing ninth or lower in order to clinch his fourth consecutive world title. Vettel’s record at Suzuka is excellent; in the last four seasons he has been on pole four times and has won the race three times.

And with the form he and the car has shown in the last few races, it's a no brainer really to think that he won't win this race. Alonso might do better and delay the championship a bit but it is inevitable that Vettel will win the championship outright real soon.

We can only hope that Suzuka throws up a spanner in the works so we at least can enjoy a bit of racing.

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