After an entertaining Korean Grand Prix last weekend, the Formula 1 circus heads northeast to an absolute fan and driver favourite: the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
If he wins and Fernando Alonso finishes ninth or lower, Sebastian Vettel can mathematically claim his fourth successive World Championship title this weekend, and with the Red Bull Racing team in red-hot form, there’s every possibility that Suzuka could be the championship-decider.
2013 FORMULA 1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
|Date:||11-13 October 2013|
|Venue:||Suzuka Grand Prix Circuit, Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, Japan|
|Race Lap Record:||1:31.540, Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes MP4-20) – 2005|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 11:00-12:00|
|Race (53 laps, 307.471km)||Sun 15:00-17:00|
|Past Ten Winners:||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB8)*||2012|
|Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes MP4-26)||2011|
|Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB6)*||2010|
|Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB5)*||2009|
|Fernando Alonso (Renault R28)||2008^|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-22)*||2007^|
|Fernando Alonso (Renault R26)||2006|
|Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes MP4-20)||2005|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004)*||2004|
* Denotes victory from pole position
^ Denotes race held at Fuji International Circuit
All event times are quoted in JST (GMT +9).
The Honda-owned Suzuka circuit has enjoyed hosting the Japanese Grand Prix ever since 1987 (bar a brief excursion to the Fuji International circuit in the late 2000s), and every driver looks forward to the challenges that this unique venue poses.
One of the few figure-of-eight circuits in the world, Suzuka is the only one of this configuration on the F1 calendar, and remains a supreme test of driver skill, right up there with the likes of Spa-Francorchamps.
Penned by Zandvoort designer John Hugenholtz, the narrow, undulating circuit features virtually ever type of corner imaginable.
It opens with a seemingly never-ending series of S-bends in the first sector, which are among the most demanding sequence of corners on the F1 calendar. Exiting the long Dunlop left-hander, the drivers have to hop the kerbs over the Degner right-handers before sweeping under the cross-over bridge and into the tight left-hand hairpin.
Exiting this, drivers are then tested with a long right-hander before swinging left into the Spoon Curve that feeds onto the back straight. The final test of the lap comes with the 130R left-hander – much of its challenge has been nullified with ongoing safety modifications – before the drivers stand on the anchors for the Casio Triangle, a fiddly right-left chicane that marks one of the few true overtaking points on the circuit
Let’s take a look at our Suzuka Circuit Guide:
The History Bit
With its late-season slot often meaning that it plays host to championship deciders, Suzuka is often synonymous with action, and certainly a bit of controversy since it made its debut on the F1 calendar in 1987.
Picking our five most memorable Suzuka moments has been a tough ask. Here they are:
1989: The feud between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna came to a flashpoint during the championship-deciding Japanese Grand Prix. The McLaren team-mates were the only ones in the title hunt: Prost simply needed to finish ahead of Senna to claim the title, while Senna needed to win to keep the battle alive to the season-ending Australian Grand Prix. With the pair running 1-2, Senna attempted a pass on Prost at the Casio Chicane, but Prost closed the door and the pair collided. Prost climbed out, while Senna was disqualified for receiving assistance from the marshals to rejoin the race.
1990: After their contretemps at the previous year’s race, the battle between Prost and Senna was on again. This time Senna got revenge by deliberately ramming the Frenchman (now driving for Ferrari) off at Turn 1 on the opening lap to win his second Drivers’ Championship. Nelson Piquet came through to claim Benetton’s first 1-2, while Aguri Suzuki delighted home fans with third place in his Larrousse.
1994: Another crucial championship round, which saw Damon Hill keep his championship battle with Michael Schumacher alive until the following Australian Grand Prix. The Williams driver mastered some of the worst conditions ever seen to win a two-part race from Schumacher, narrowing the points’ gap between the pair to just a single point.
2000: With Mika Häkkinen having secured successive championship crowns with wins in his McLaren in 1998 and 1999 to see off the challenge of the Ferraris, Michael Schumacher finally got his revenge with a win to claim Ferrari’s first World Championship since 1979 and deny the Finn an historic threepeat.
2005: Suzuka has never enjoyed a great reputation for overtaking, but the 2005 race was a magnificent exception. A rain-hit qualifying session completely shuffled the grid, and Kimi Raikkonen charged through from 17th on the grid to claim victory on the last lap of the race. Phew!
Suzuka Stat Attack
Here are some fast facts about this year’s Japanese Grand Prix:
The Japanese Grand Prix has been held at two venues since it first appeared on the Formula 1 calendar as the famous championship-deciding race that closed out the 1976 season. The Fuji International Circuit staged its first World Championship round in 1976 and 1977, but a fatal accident in the event’s second running saw the event dropped until it returned – thanks in no part to Honda’s increased involvement in the championship – in 1987, this time at Suzuka, where it has remained ever since, with the exception of the 2007-8 events, which were held at Fuji.
Seven different constructors have claimed victory at the Japanese Grand Prix since its maiden appearance on the Formula 1 calendar. With nine wins, McLaren has the greatest record at the circuit, with two more wins than Ferrari. Benetton, Williams and Red Bull Racing have three apiece, while Renault has two and Lotus has one.
Seven different drivers have had the honour of claiming multiple race wins at the Japanese Grand Prix. With six wins to his credit, Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver in Japan, while three-time Sebastian Vettel is next up. Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, Mika Häkkinen and Fernando Alonso have two apiece. Five of this year’s current drivers have won the Japanese Grand Prix (Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen are all one-time winners).
Mark Webber will make his 211th Grand Prix race start on Sunday, moving him to ninth outright on the all-time starters list, ahead of Gerhard Berger.
Felipe Massa will make his 187th Grand Prix race start on Sunday, moving him to equal-seventeenth on the all-time starters list, equalling Nigel Mansell’s starting record.
Sergio Pérez will make his 50th Grand Prix race start on Sunday; he will become the 125th driver to achieve this feat.
The Form Guide
We’re sounding like a broken record on RichardsF1.com, but can anyone stop the Sebastian Vettel juggernaut? The German has won the last four races on the trot and could extend it to five with victory on Sunday at Suzuka.
The high-speed switchback nature of the circuit will suit the Adrian Newey-designed RB9 to a tee, and with Vettel already a three-time winner at Suzuka, few would bet against him claiming a fourth visit to the top step of the podium.
There have been continued (and still unproven) mutterings that the team is running some sort of traction control-style device, it’s unlikely that we’ll see these die down over the course of the weekend. Call it jealousy or bending the rules (depending on which camp you sit in), the car has continually proven to be legal and it’s really up to the other teams to rise to the technical challenge that the Milton Keynes squad has laid down.
Look to Mercedes or Lotus to provide the greatest challenge to the Red Bulls this weekend. With the former managing to get a front-row start last time out in Korea, its not unrealistic to expect that both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg should feature prominently in qualifying once again.
The Lotus’ of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean don’t quite have the same one-lap pace, but their better tyre management should again see this driver pairing in the mix on Sunday and determined to continue the double-podium-finishing form seen last weekend in Korea.
As Ferrari has itself admitted, it is “almost impossible” for Fernando Alonso to challenge for the 2013 Drivers’ Championship title, such is the 77-point gap in the points standings between Vettel and the chasing Spaniard. Alonso’s win in Spain must feel like a distant memory, and despite a succession of upgrades to the F138, the car just hasn’t been able to close the gap.
With the Mercedes pairing of Hamilton and Rosberg scoring more consistently than Alonso and the out-of-sorts Felipe Massa, Ferrari is at serious risk of losing its second place in the Constructors’ Championship standings, leading the Silver Arrows by a single point as they head into this weekend.
Barring a miraculous turnaround from Force India, McLaren will continue to cement its fifth-placed position in the Constructors’ standings, although its humiliating 150+ points deficit to fourth-placed Lotus simply underscores how dreadful the 2013 season has been for the Woking squad. Former winner Jenson Button and teammate Sergio Perez will so well to claim a top-six finish, but anything more will be a bonus.
The dark horse this weekend will be Sauber, and anyone tempted to have a flutter would be wise to put a few dollars on another giant-killing performance from the Swiss team. If any outfit has benefited from the mid-season changes to Pirelli’s tyre construction, then it’s the Hinwil squad, which has shown a huge gain in single-lap and long-stint pace. Nico Hulkenberg’s fourth-placed finish at Korea was one of the drives of the year, in our opinion, and the lanky German could give the Swiss team its first podium finish if he can qualify well.
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
This weekend’s round of our 2013 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open for business, and you can enter and edit your predictions for the 2013 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix right up until five minutes before qualifying!
Entry is open to all of our readers, and it’s so easy to submit your predictions! All you’ll need to do is correctly guess:
- which driver will win pole position and the race
- which two teams will earn the best finishes in the race
- which eight drivers will finish in the top-eight positions
- who will post the fastest lap of the race
- who will gain the most positions relative to their starting position
You can also choose to ‘double up’ your points tally for the Japanese Grand Prix – but be careful, you can only do this twice per season!
To view the current points standings, click here.
To enter your 2013 Japanese Grand Prix Predictions, click here.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your Japanese Grand Prix fix!