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Prixview – Japanese Grand Prix

Round Seventeen sees Formula One head to one of the old school classics Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix. Japan was the first country in Asia to host a world championship race in 1976, before dropping off the calendar for a decade. Suzuka has been the home of F1 ever since 1986, with the exception of 2007 and 2008.

The first race was held as a sports cars race at Suzuka, featuring the banked Daiichi corner scene of many fatal accidents. To this day, Suzuka remains one of the most challenging and demanding circuits in the world, drivers battle high-speed corners and straights with speeds up to 300mph. Like Spa, its one of the drivers favourites.

The first World Championship race was held at the Fuji Circuit, that race was the title showdown between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda. That showdown never came,  the Austrian withdrew because of the monsoon conditions. Lauda, who had survived a near-fatal crash at the German Grand Prix earlier in the season, withdrew from the race stating that his life was more important than the championship. The torrential rain eventually stopped, Hunt drove very hard and climbed up to 3rd, scoring the four points he needed to win the title by the slender margin of one point over Lauda.

The race was then not held for another nine years when it returned to Suzuka, the first race would be a common backdrop over the next decade the rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alian Prost came to ahead.

The most famous one being in 1990, both started on the front role with Senna on pole. However the Brazilian felt that pole was on the dirty side, he didn’t yield and move over for the Frenchman with them both crashing out at Turn One.

Two years later, Senna and Prost went head to head for the 1993 championship with Prost winning. That turned out to be the last time they would go head to head as Prost retired and Senna was killed at Imola the following season.

The 1996 race saw Damon Hill taking the win and the title after his rival Williams team-mate Jacques Villeneuve retire. That made Hill the first son of a champion to become champion.  Ferrari dominated the race in 2000’s with Michael Schumacher winning three out of four, with the other going to teammate Rubens Barrichello. Schumacher wrapped the title from fourteenth to victory in 2003 taking a sixth title.

In what was meant to be his last season, Schumacher was on course for an eighth title before retiring in 2006.

In 2007, the race returned to Fuji with Lewis Hamilton winning the race after his teammate Fernando Alonso crashed out. The following year the race was a disaster for the Englishman and title rival Felipe Massa, a collision saw the Brazilian drop to seventh and Hamilton drop out the points.

Returning to Suzuka, Sebastian Vettel took back to back wins in 2009 and 2010. Jenson Button’s emotional win in 2011 lifted the nation, his then-girlfriend Jessica was Japanese, with the Fukushima disaster it felt like a home win.

The 2014 race is one which remains a traumatic weekend for this generation, Heavy rain from Typhoon Phanfone made the track surface wet and reduced visibility. That led to Jules Bianchi to crash at Dunlop into a tracker recovering another crashed car, causing fatal head injuries.

Since 2014, Mercedes have been dominate at Suzuka and the high-speed circuit has appeared to suit the cars downforce settings. Hamilton has won three times in four years.

Facts and figures

Race 2018 Honda Japanese Grand Prix
Venue Suzuka International Racing Course, Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, Japan
Circuit Length 5.807 km (3.608 mi)
Laps 53
Race Distance 307.573 km (191.117 mi)
Lap Record 01:31.540 (Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, 2005)
Most wins drivers Michael Schumacher (6)
Most wins manufacture McLaren (9)

Fast facts

  • Japanese trains are among the most punctual in the world. The average delay on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, the most heavily travelled high-speed rail line in the world, is about half a minute. Trains are expected to be so punctual that if a train is five minutes late, the railway company may issue official delay certificates, to provide proof for employers and appointments.
  • Japan is home to many different forms of martial arts. Karate, Judo, Sumo, Ninjutsu, Kendo, Jujutsu, and Aikido to name a few. Sumo is recognized as the national sport of Japan, although the most popular spectator sport is baseball.
  • Following Ayrton Senna’s disqualification, Alessandro Nannini was declared the winner of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in 1989, his one and only F1 victory.
  • Michael Schumacher is the only winner of the Pacific Grand Prix to be held in Japan after back to back wins at Okayama International Circuit in 1994 and 1995. Japan one of only seven countries and the only one in Asia to ever host more than one Formula One event in the same year.
  • Honda is the last Japanese manufacturer to win their home Grand Prix with McLaren in 1991. While its fifty-two years since Nissan became the first team to win, however with an American engine.

Event timetable

Session Local BST
Friday
P1 10:00-11:30 02:00-03:30
P2 14:00-15:30 06:00-07:30
Saturday
P3 12:00-13:00 04:00-05:00
Qualifying  15:00-16:00 07:00-08:00
Sunday
Race 14:10 06:10

What happened in 2017?

Lewis Hamilton took victory as Sebastian Vettel’s championship continued to collapse, the Ferrari had an engine problem. The German was swamped from the very start as he was passed by Valtteri Bottas and both the Red Bulls.

That left it to Max Verstappen then picked up where Vettel left off and began to push Hamilton on track, but the speed of the Mercedes was too much for the Red Bull driver in the end. The Dutchman had made a great start from fourth passing Ricciardo and Vettel on the opening lap of the race.

What to watch for?

Suzuka is one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar as it’s a high-speed roller-coaster ride. The race is one which pushes drivers and cars to the limit. Set up and focus are very important as you need to be aware that mistakes are costly. The weather can play a part, obviously, it did with Bianchi, but this weekend is expected to be wet.

This circuit is a fast flowing circuit, Mercedes have been very strong here since the beginning of the V6 hybrid era. But, Ferrari is believed to have the better power unit now, and this is a circuit very similar to Budapest where Hamilton beat Ferrari in the wet on Saturday and in the dry was able to stay ahead in the race.

Red Bull could be a bigger threat to Mercedes and Ferrari, as we seen in recent races they may be strong in the final slow speed sector.

2017 vs 2018 Race Data

  P1 Fastest P2 Fastest P3 Fastest Q1 Fastest Q2 Fastest Q3 Fastest Race Time Fastest Lap
2017 01:29.166 01:48.719 01:29.055 01:29.047 01:27.819 01:27.319 01:27:31.194 01:33.144
Diff -3.265 +16.549 -3.037 -2.612 -2.895 -3.328 -47.081 -1.974
2016 01:32.431 01:32.250 01:32.092 01:31.659 01:30.714 01:30.647 01:26:43.333 01:35.118

A lap of Sukuza

Lewis Hamilton comes out of Eighteen heading for the outside of the circuit as he crosses the line to start the lap. He is in eighth gear using the DRS to give himself maximum speed and turn into First Turn breaking halfway through the corner. Stays in a low gear and at low speed on the short run into Two, goes to the outside then back to the inside as he approaches Three. Outside then to the inside, as weaves his way through the S Curves. Opens up the car on the exit of Seven.

Eases off slightly through Degner goes along the kerb before easing off a bit more at Nine. He runs to the outside staying there before quickly heading to the outside kerb through Ten. Continues on the breaks rolling his Mercedes around the Hairpin, before heading to the outside kerb. Building his speed through twelve goes for the central line on approach to thirteen breaks for the first part of Spoon, continues until he hits the second part. Goes to the outside opening up his Mercedes.

Eighth gear as he crosses the bridge taking Fifteen flat before he breaks into the first part of Casio Triangle. Hits the entry kerb in third gear, into the second part the chicane running along the kerb crossing the track to the outside and across the line with a 01:27.319.

Tyres

Driver

Team Supersoft Soft

Medium

L. Hamilton

Mercedes 7 4 2

V. Bottas

7 4

2

S. Vettel

Ferrari 10 2 1
K. Raikkonen 10 2

1

D. Ricciardo

Red Bull – Tag Heuer 8 4 1

M. Verstappen

7 5

1

S. Perez

Force India – Mercedes 8 4 2
E. Ocon 8 4

2

S. Sirotkin

Williams – Mercedes 9 2 2

L. Stroll

9

3

1

F. Alonso

McLaren – Renault 4 3 4

S. Vandoorne

4 3

4

P. Gasly

Toro Rosso –Honda 8 3 2
B. Hartley 8 4

1

R. Grosjean

Haas – Ferrari 8 3 2
K. Magnussen 8 4

2

N. Hulkenberg

Renault 8 4 1
C. Sainz 8 3

2

M. Ericsson

Sauber – Alfa Romeo 8 4 1
C. Leclerc 8 3

2

Jack Fielding
Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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