Friday, October 3, 2014


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.


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).
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 : 22 seconds (ave).
Lap record : 1:31.540 (Kimi Räikkönen, McLaren MP4-20, 2005)


Being coastal, Suzuka is always likely to get sudden rain showers, sometimes heavy. Strong winds can also be a factor sometimes. Temperatures can vary widely. It is important to bear in mind that if it is warm the tyre degradation will be more severe. There is a typhoon called Phanfone, on a pathway, which could take it close to Suzuka on Sunday or Monday. It looks quite a serious typhoon, so it is being monitored. Heavy rain will precede its arrival.


Pirelli tyre choice for Suzuka: Medium (white markings) and hard (orange markings). This combination was most recently used at Silverstone

As with the race at Silverstone, the main interest will revolve around whether some teams can race with two stints on the mediums and one on the hard tyres to take advantage of the better pace of the mediums. If they can make the mediums last, this will be a competitive strategy. Last year most runners stuck with the hards. At Silverstone Daniel Ricciardo managed to take a set of mediums to 37 laps.

The performance gap between the medium and hard tyres is likely to be around 0.8 seconds per lap in qualifying trim. But in the race at Silverstone there was little to choose between the tyres; this could well happen at Suzuka this weekend.


The FIA has retained a single DRS zone for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. As in previous years at the Suzuka circuit, the activation area runs along the majority of the start/finish straight, following a detection point shortly before the final Turn 16/17 chicane, also known as the Casio Triangle. Monaco is the only other round to have featured just one DRS zone this season, due to a lack of space.

The FIA has also confirmed a number of changes to the Suzuka circuit ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix. TecPro barriers have been added on the drivers' left-side after Turn 15, while a section of the track between Turn 15 and Turn 16 has been resurfaced. Finally, the tail lamp posts that were close to the debris fences around the outside of Turns 13 and 14 have been moved further back from the guardrail.


Last year with hard and medium tyres, simulations showed that two stops would be faster than three stops by around 5 seconds. Most people did two stops. A classic two stop is to pit for the first time around Lap 14 and then a second time around Lap 35. We may see drivers trying the undercut, trying to push rivals into running a longer final stint than they would ideally wish to do.

Thermal degradation will be the limiting factor, particularly on the front tyres and that will dictate strategy. Teams will react to degradation once it kicks in and make stops. We have seen a few times at Suzuka that a safety car can make a big difference for teams that are marginal on the tyres.


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 seven races at Suzuka.


It’s a classic circuit with some famous corners, but there are many important tricks to doing well at Suzuka – race strategy is often the decisive factor, as it was clearly last season where Red Bull and Lotus fought for the win with split strategies for Red Bull carrying the day for Sebastian Vettel to take his fourth Suzuka win in five seasons.

One crucial element will be avoiding Typhoon Phanfone, which is on a possible trajectory towards Suzuka around Sunday or Monday. It is being closely monitored, but organisers will be thinking of contingency planning to get the race away without disruption.

And our tight championship battle is leveled again for now with Hamilton leading by 3 points to Rosberg. Although it is possible for Mercedes to seal the constructors championship this weekend, I don't see it happening as Rosberg is due another DNF. Maybe another race.

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