Suzuka hat-trick would be perfect coronation for Vettel

2011 Japanese GP preview

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Vettel won the last two races at Suzuka

It would be fitting for Sebastian Vettel to clinch his second championship at Suzuka this weekend.

Vettel calls the track one of his favourites and won here twice.

The points situation makes it almost certain he will claim the title on Sunday.

The only person who can stop him, or at least postpone the inevitable, is Jenson Button. And he needs to win with Vettel not scoring – something which hasn’t happened all year.

Button calls Japan his “second home” and says McLaren shouldn’t be underestimated at a track which, on paper, looks perfectly suited to Red Bull’s RB7: “We showed at Spa that we have a car that’s very effective in high-speed corners.

“We’ve also improved our straight-line speed and we have a more efficient rear-wing for qualifying, so I think we’re feeling positive about the weekend.”

Not for the first time this year, Lewis Hamilton heads into the weekend needing to bounce back from a poor result in the previous race. He’s been beaten by Button for the last four races in a row.

But before the serious business of racing begins he’s likely to face some probing questions about his collision with Felipe Massa in Singapore, which he’s yet to speak about in any detail.

Suzuka circuit information

Lap length5.807km (3.608 miles)
Distance53 laps (307.5km/191.1 miles)
Lap record*1’31.540 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2005)
Fastest lap1’28.954 (Michael Schumacher, 2006)
TyresMedium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Suzuka track data in full

With Suzuka having been missing from the calendar in 2007 and 2008, the last driver to win here other than Vettel was Fernando Alonso five years ago.

Alonso claimed the win after a rare engine failure harpooned Michael Schumacher’s championship hopes.

Schumacher has a formidable reputation at Suzuka with six victories at the track to his name. His form has been improving all year and this could be the scene of his best post-comeback drive yet, providing he can stay out of trouble.

Renault expect a better weekend after a disastrous performance at Singapore. Suzuka should suit their car better and they will need to capitalise on that performance to keep the increasingly racy Force Indias behind them.

Last year’s race did not go according to plan for Renault. Robert Kubica jumped up to second at the start – then retired shortly after when his wheel fell off. Vitaly Petrov picked up a grid penalty after colliding with Nico Hulkenberg at the start.

Kamui Kobayashi will be racing at his home venue for only the third time in his career. His Sauber will carry a special message in support of those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year, and other drivers and making similar gestures.

2011 driver form

Q avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel1.291.51414/14Form guide
Mark Webber3.863.382513/14Form guide
Lewis Hamilton3.793.751812/14Form guide
Jenson Button53.251612/14Form guide
Fernando Alonso4.53.541713/14Form guide
Felipe Massa5.866.5851112/14Form guide
Michael Schumacher10.58.341710/14Form guide
Nico Rosberg6.647.7551212/14Form guide
Nick Heidfeld13.368.53128/11Form guide
Vitaly Petrov9.8610.6731712/14Form guide
Rubens Barrichello14.2912.9191711/14Form guide
Pastor Maldonado13.7914.73101811/14Form guide
Adrian Sutil12.4310.2561512/14Form guide
Paul di Resta1211.3161813/14Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi13.7110.0951611/14Form guide
Sergio Perez1311.757178/12Form guide
Sebastien Buemi15.2111.3381512/14Form guide
Jaime Alguersuari14.7912.0972111/14Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen18.1415.8913199/14Form guide
Jarno Trulli19.3116.1113209/13Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan2320.517246/7Form guide
Vitantonio Liuzzi22.3119.2213239/13Form guide
Timo Glock20.5717.5152110/14Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio22.2117.83142212/14Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa171212121/1Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo22.8318.7518194/6Form guide
Karun Chandhok202020201/1Form guide
Bruno Senna10.6712.339153/3Form guide

2011 Japanese Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    44 comments on “Suzuka hat-trick would be perfect coronation for Vettel”

    1. Really looking forward to this! I love early starts :)

      Still can’t get over just how shocking Renault were in Singapore. For a car to not suit a track, fair enough, but it’s not like they even bothered trying to gear the car to another type of circuit (I realise they probably did, but it didn’t show!).

      I hope Schumacher can put Singapore behind him and continue his otherwise brilliant recent form.

      Oh, and stay out of bother, Hamilton. I don’t think I can handle so much drama that early in the day!

      1. Yeah, I reckon Schumi’s in for a good race. He drove really well here last year also.

        And yes, I love getting up early in the morning too!

        1. I love getting up early in the morning

          After last year’s cancelled qualifying, I don’t :)

      2. It gives a bit of nostalgia feeling to have the championship sealed in Japan as well (or would Vettel get his first DNF here?)!

        1. That would probably also still give him the title funnily enough

          1. Looking forward for Schumacher to have a good race,the last two driver’s track suited the car with the driver hope this one also does the same.

      3. Too much Vettel praising now Kieth. You are almost a fanboy! But no shame in that, you just have to admit it sometimes! I mean for an English man you like Vettel somewhat and that is too much!

    2. Fastest lap

      1’8.954 (Michael Schumacher, 2006)


      1. a VERY fast lap :P!

        1. He was driving a Red Bull X2010. :P

      2. Missing a ‘2’ – now added.

      3. That’s why he’s a 7-time WDC…that or he did some serious corner cutting.

        1. A ramp on to the bridge??

    3. With the Pirelli tyres and the DRS, considering how good the races have been so far, it could well turn out to be the best race of the season in such a fantastic racetrack.

      1. It will be a great spectacle, I’m sure, but I don’t think it will be a particularly action-packed race.

        I think DRS overtaking will be quite difficult due to the limited braking zone into Turn 1.

    4. Is Vettel really the only driver to have finished all the races? And in the points also, that is impressive!

      1. Mark Webber is really impressed.

    5. I’d love to see Lewis lapping Massa next Sunday :)

    6. Looking forward to some Leeroy Jenkins antics from Kobayashi

      1. lol. At least he’ll have some chicken

      2. lol…Leeeeeeeroy !!

      3. I’m quite interested to see how that one plays out. Last year Koba pulled two surprise moves on Alonso and Buemi in Valencia; and you could see in this year’s Valencia race that everyone was defending into those corners when he was nearby.

        I’m curious as to how they’ll do this week. Not to be forgotten though is that he overtook on the inside, AND on the outside of that corner; so even defending doesn’t do much apparently :P

    7. Since Vettel has won in Suzuka for the last 2 years, wasn’t in F1 for the last race at Suzuka before that, and presumably never raced there in junior formulae, I guess that means Vettel as won every race in Suzuka he’s ever competed in!

      1. Beat me to it! Indeed he has.

      2. Vettel has a 100% record of winning Abu Dhabi too. And Alonso has the absolutely amazing record of being the only man to win at the Yeong-Am international Circuit. I think.

    8. It’s going to be an interesting weekend. I wouldn’t say that it will be a walk in the park for Vettel and Red Bull, as it was last year. Last year the “Red Bull tracks” were Spain, Hungary, Silverstone and Suzuka, but this year so far they only managed to win (with a lot of pressure) in Spain and they struggled to get pole position in Hungary.
      It is also true that Red Bull seems to have done a step forward after the summer break, but I think it’s going to be a close battle between Mclaren and RedBull.

      Personally, I would like to see Vettel winning the champioship with a victory in Japan, I really don’t like people winning championships without even being on the podium.

      1. Agreed, and betting against another Vettel win here would be pretty brave. I think he will dominate the race and take the Championship in true style.

        Though Button will probably come in 2nd, or atleast 3rd if the RedBulls are too hard to match.

    9. So McLaren have developed a new more efficient rear wing for qualifying, not more efficient for the race but for qualifying, which must mean it is optimized for DRS operation as DRS can be used all around the track in qualifying but not during the race. The FIA and Bernie keep banging on about reducing development costs (ie.frozen engine development) but keep making rulings that allow the bigger better funded teams to make small but critical gains that the lower budget teams just can’t compete with.

    10. If Vettel doesn’t win here, I’d be very surprised. Remember, he has a 100% pole and win record here.

    11. Looking forward to this one: Suzuka is always fun to watch, even if the races might not be that action packed. It’s bit like Silverstone, no real obvious overtaking places (scratch that if your name is Kobayashi).

      I wonder if we’ll have another crashfest here, as some/most of the drivers have accustomed to tarmac runoffs and don’t know when to back off on some of the corners. Or have they changed some of the gravel traps, does anyone know?

    12. I think it would be even more fitting if Webber had his 1st win of the season here, and Vettel came 2nd. It would plague his championship that Mark beat him at the winning race :)

      I say 2nd for Vettel instead of, say 10th. As, if Vettel had a problematic race but still won, he wouldnt mind about Webber winning. But if Webber beat him on pure pace… Vettel would get very angry i reccon :)

    13. To me one of the great sights in F1 is watching the cars through the esses behind the pits.
      The changes of direction are mind boggling.

    14. I like SV, I like JB. Hard times !

      What i’d love to see is a little mistake from Seb and a great dry race from JB.

      Pleaaaaase let that championship last a little more !

    15. Isn’t this Kobayashi’s 2nd time racing at Suzuka? He’s been there 3 times, but his first race there was last year.

      1. He took part in FP1 and FP2 in 2009 because Glock was ill if I remember properly…

        1. So yeah, 2nd time racing, 3rd time taking part

    16. I love Suzuka. Best circuit IMO. And ironically although there is a lot of aero requirements; it actually is a circuit where driver does matter; among Spa/Monaco/Hungary.

    17. Mark Webber needs a win this year. Maybe this will be it.

    18. Am i the only one scared Vettel won’t win this one! it’s been a near perfect season for him this year, i feel like if he doesn’t win this race and comes in 2nd or 3rd it will be a massive anti-climax.

      I feel as though the pressure is on Seb to win this race, yet it really shouldn’t, but it would just seem almost wrong and unjust if Vettel didn’t win the race yet took the title. He deserves so much to win this championship in style.

      After all his wins this year, what a shame it would be if he didn’t win the race that would make him champion.

      1. Don’t fear, only if Button wins and Vettel does not get a single point out of the weekend he will not be crowned WDC!

        The chances of both of these happening at once are not really that big.

    19. “He’s been beaten by Button for the last four races in a row.”

      Beaten by Button… It has a certain ring to it (try to say it out loud). That could be a rock band name for LH when he retires from F1. And the songs will be produced in Algersuari’s recording studio… :)

      1. I sense a dubstep remix coming on…

        1. …and it abbreviates easily: BBB! :)

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