Thursday, October 6, 2016


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.

New additions to the Formula One calendar tend to be homogeneous affairs lacking in local colour. But the unique Suzuka circuit’s fairground setting and famously dedicated fans make it unmistakably Japanese. It also helps that the sinuous circuit is almost universally liked by the F1 field and regarded as a favourite by many.

Designed by John Hugenholz and built in the sixties, the track has hosted F1 for three decades. While the crossover is its most distinctive feature it’s the many tricky medium and high-speed corners which present the greatest challenge to the drivers. Although not among the very fastest circuits in terms of outright top speed, Suzuka is also a punishing circuit for engines. Drivers need responsive power delivery around the flowing first sector, then have two long periods of flat-out acceleration at the end of the lap.


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)


After a warm and dry Tuesday, look for a chance for rain on Wednesday, especially from the late morning into the afternoon, predicts UBIMET, the official meteorological service provider to the FIA. Winds will be moderate from the south with temperatures peaking at 24 to 26 degrees Celsius.
Thursday will bring pleasant weather conditions with a lot of sunshine, gustly northwesterly winds and high temperatures again around 25 to 26 degrees C.

On Friday, clouds will build during the day with an enhanced risk for showers starting in the evening, therefore both sessions are likely to remain dry. Cooler highs between 22 and 24 degrees C.
Saturday will start out with occasional rain. Although the rain should taper off late in the day, the chance for showers during the practice session and the Qualifying runs is still rather high. Winds will be light with high temperatures ranging from 23 to 25 degrees C.

On Sunday, the showers will again become more frequent during the morning hours. A few thunderstorms with heavy rain cannot be ruled out in the afternoon. There's a significant risk for rainy, slick conditions during the scheduled race. Blustery northwest winds will be increasing with high temperatures between 22 and 24 degrees C, dropping quickly in the afternoon.


Coming straight off the back of the Malaysian Grand Prix, the Japanese Grand Prix uses exactly the same three nominations: P Zero Orange hard, P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft. Another thing that the Japanese Grand Prix has in common with Malaysia is the fact that two sets of the hard compound have been nominated as mandatory sets, meaning that the hardest compound will definitely be used at some point during the race by every driver.

Suzuka is one of the most atmospheric races of the season, with an old-school feel thanks to its fast corners and small run-off areas. Just like Malaysia, there's a strong possibility of rain featuring during the weekend: but unlike Malaysia the track is quite narrow, which makes overtaking more difficult.

The Three Nominated Compounds:

Orange hard: will definitely be used for the race, as it is nominated twice as an obligatory set.
White medium: drivers have selected between one and four sets of these, with different ideas.
Yellow soft: this is the first time that the soft has been seen in Japan; will be quick in qualifying.


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 thing to keep the strategists busy is the Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car, which is appearing increasingly frequently, as we saw in Malaysia. This cuts the time needed for a pit stop and can be a game changer, for good or bad; it helped Alonso beat Hulkenberg last weekend, but it cost Button a shot at 5th place. Suzuka is traditionally a race with quite a high chance of Safety Cars, so expect several interruptions in the race and tactical switches as a result.


In the championship fight, Hamilton is still looking to take his 50th Grand Prix win and 100th F1 podium finish after he failed to finish last weekend in Malaysia from what looked to be a winning position.

Qualifying is critical; it’s rare for a car from outside the front row to win. Although pole position, which is on the outside, has a significant grip advantage compared to the inside line, nevertheless for the last two seasons Lewis Hamilton has won the race from second on the grid, despite losing out on pole to his team mate Nico Rosberg.

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