Suzuka, a driver’s paradise

Suzuka, a driver’s paradise


The Suzuka track is one of the classics of the Formula One Championship. Exactly 30 years ago, it hosted its first Grand Prix. Gerhard Berger started from pole position and won the race in a Ferrari F1/87. From then on, apart from a couple of years when the race returned to Fuji, Formula One has always raced at this track in the Mie prefecture.

Drivers like pretty much universally the track, even if no one can forget the 2014 tragedy that befell Jules Bianchi, a rising star for motor racing. Technically, it’s an “old style” circuit, narrow, with minimal run-off areas, corners with only one clear line and an interesting range of turns. The best known of these is undoubtedly the double uphill “esses” after the first corner, a place where Michael Schumacher was particularly adept at making a difference and there was almost a sense of destiny in the fact that, twice, he clinched the Drivers’ title here with Ferrari, in 2000 and 2003.

The key to Suzuka, in terms of driving, is to find a rhythm, so that getting the flow right through the turns is the key to success. With the 2017 cars and their very high aerodynamic downforce levels, a tricky corner such as the famous 130R, named after the original radius of its turn, could almost become a straight. But that won’t make the Japanese track and it’s unusual setting within an amusement park, any less of a challenge. And as for the fans, they are truly unique when it comes to their level of passion and enthusiasm.

Force India’s Chief Race Engineer, Tom McCullough, looks ahead to the race in Suzuka

The Japanese Grand Prix is one of the highlights of the year, a classic venue with some of the most enthusiastic fans in the world and a great atmosphere. Suzuka is a challenging circuit that drivers typically enjoy. The 2017 regulation cars should make this track’s high-speed corners even quicker. The unique figure-of-eight layout means there’s a similar number of left and right-hand corners. And most drivers’ highlight is the iconic sector one, with a constant change of direction requiring a very well-balanced car. Set-up is biased towards the medium and high-speed corners: effectively, there are only two low-speed corners, the T11 hairpin and the final chicane. It’s an old-school track that punishes mistakes and it’s a challenge for both drivers and engineers.”