Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2012

Vettel aiming for fifth win and fourth title in a row

2013 Japanese Grand Prix preview

Posted on

| Written by

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2012Sebastian Vettel can clinch the world championship this weekend at a circuit where his track record is nothing short of daunting.

In four appearances at Suzuka Vettel has set pole position every time and racked up three wins. Arguably he only missed out in 2011 because settling for third place guaranteed his second championship title.

Vettel heads into this weekend’s race in the kind of irresistible form we’ve come to expect from him at this point in the season. A potential fifth win in a row beckons this weekend – something only achieved by five drivers in F1 history.

Suzuka’s medium-to-high speed corners tend to suit the Red Bull and like most drivers Vettel relishes the layout: “You have to see the ??S? Curves as connected, you drive through them in a rhythm at around 240 kph, always on the limit and you can feel the centrifugal forces in both directions,” he explains. “There are extreme bumps too that pull on your neck like hell.”

“Spoon Curve is extremely fast and has two apexes. You have to be brave to get on the throttle early through here.

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)
TyresHard and Medium

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Suzuka track data in full

“Then there is a long straight, leading into the ultra-fast left kink which is 130R. You go flat out, but it doesn?t allow for any errors or technical issues since the run-off area here is not great. Finally, Casio chicane: you drive in second gear and the apex is very hard to see.”

The tyres take a pounding around one of the toughest tracks of the year in terms of wear rates. Pirelli will bring their hardest tyre combination for this weekend’s race.

Japanese Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

The possibility of clinching the championship this weekend is unlikely to put the well-drilled Red Bull operation off its game.

Mark Webber would no doubt especially enjoy putting one over his team mate at a proper, old-school circuit like Suzuka if the opportunity arose. He had similarly wretched luck in this race last year as he did at Korea last weekend, being knocked into a spin by Romain Grosjean at the first corner.


Fernando Alonso may be the closest driver to Vettel in the championship but he needs dramatic improvements from his car if he’s to do anything about his rival’s 77-point lead.


Although Jenson Button enjoys a close affinity with Japanese culture and won this race in 2011 the demanding circuit is likely to expose the deficiencies of his MP4-28 in the most ruthless fashion.


We’ve seen Kimi Raikkonen struggle in qualifying in recent races and he has admitted he’s not been able to get as much out of the car over a single lap as he could before the tyres were changed. It hasn’t stopped him picking up podium finishes in the last two races, however.


Executive director Toto Wolff is optimistic about his team;s chances this weekend based on their form in Korea. “Our car was possibly the quickest of all in sector two last weekend, which contained all the medium and high-speed corners,” he said.

“This is promising for Suzuka, where nearly two thirds of the corners are taken in fourth gear or higher, and should see our car perform well on this fantastic track.”


Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, Korea International Circuit, 2013After Nico Hulkenberg’s excellent effort in Korea moved the team ahead of Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship, could they now go one better and overhaul Force India as well? Sauber would have to at least double their haul of 31 points but they’ve taken 23 off their rivals in the last three races.

Sauber’s chances of claiming a late sixth in the championship may well depend on whether Esteban Gutierrez can finally get his first points on the board.

Kimiya Sato will be the team’s reserve driver this weekend.

Force India

The VJM06’s handling looked very edgy in Korea and both drivers lost control of their cars in the race. It’s a tough situation for the team who have scored just three points since the tyres were changed in Hungary.


Pastor Maldonado has voiced his displeasure at Williams’ uncompetitive 2013 campaign since the last race, saying he’d rather stay home than suffer a similar season again next year.

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso were baffled by their lack of form in Korea and adding insult to injury both cars were afflicted with braking problems at the end of the race.


Heikki Kovalainen will be back at the wheel during the first practice session. A ten-place grid penalty for Charles Pic almost guarantees he will start from the back row.


Like Pic, Jules Bianchi also has a ten-place grid penalty. This is likely to be a tough weekend for Marussia as neither of their drivers have prior experience at one of the toughest tracks on the calendar.

2013 driver form

DriverG avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel2.291.851413/14Form guide
Mark Webber6.505.2521512/14Form guide
Fernando Alonso5.643.461813/14Form guide
Felipe Massa8.006.7531512/14Form guide
Jenson Button9.868.8651714/14Form guide
Sergio Perez11.0710.7962014/14Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen7.504.4611113/14Form guide
Romain Grosjean8.438.0031911/14Form guide
Nico Rosberg4.006.2511912/14Form guide
Lewis Hamilton3.294.7911214/14Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg10.719.8341512/13Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez16.2113.75112012/14Form guide
Paul di Resta13.4310.1042010/14Form guide
Adrian Sutil11.2911.1852011/14Form guide
Pastor Maldonado16.0713.27101711/14Form guide
Valtteri Bottas15.5713.62111613/14Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne13.4311.566189/14Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo10.5012.2771911/14Form guide
Charles Pic19.7916.25141912/14Form guide
Giedo van der Garde19.4316.83142112/14Form guide
Jules Bianchi19.4316.67131912/14Form guide
Max Chilton20.5717.71142014/14Form guide

Are you going to the Japanese Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Japan for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.

We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.

You can embed your pictures from the race via Flickr and videos via YouTube and other major video-sharing accounts. Join in here:

Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Japanese Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2013 Japanese Grand Prix

Browse all 2013 Japanese Grand Prix articles

Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Sauber

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

27 comments on “Vettel aiming for fifth win and fourth title in a row”

  1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
    10th October 2013, 10:50

    Congratulations, Sebastian Vettel!

  2. In five appearances at Suzuka Vettel has set pole position every time and racked up four wins

    @keithcollantine is that right?

    In 2007, Vettel qualified 8th in the Toro Rosso and in 2008 in 9th place on the grid.

    And I have him on 3 wins (2009, 2010 and 2012) with a DNF in 2007, 6th in 2008 and 3rd in 2011.

    1. The Japanese Grand Prix was at Fuji in 2007 and 2008, not Suzuka.

      1. Of course. But that would mean Vettel has only had four appearances at Suzuka, and I still get only 3 wins. Anyways, it’s an impressive record whatever the exact numbers!

    2. Apologies, should have said “four appearances”.

      1. In four appearances at Suzuka Vettel has set pole position every time and racked up four wins. Arguably he only missed out in 2011 because settling for third place guaranteed his second championship title.

        Still not quite right… :)

      2. @keithcollantine It should still be only 3 wins though.

        1. @matt90 I think @keithcollantine is experiencing a strong premonition of the future, after Sunday it will be 5 appearances, 5 poles, 4 wins for Vettel. ;)

    3. The 2007 and 2008 races were at Fuji.

      If I recall right Vettel was on pole in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and won in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

  3. In five appearances at Suzuka Vettel has set pole position every time and racked up four wins.

    Err, *scratchs head*… hmm, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. 4 appearances, 3 wins.

    Unless you know something we don’t, Keith :P

    1. He must be counting 2013 as well were Vettel will get a win but Mercedes the pole :)

  4. Vettel’s performance is most dominant on these three tracks:
    Korea: 4 appearances, 3 wins, 2 poles, 4 front row starts
    Suzuka, 4 appearances, 3 wins, 4 poles
    India: 2 appearances, 2 wins, 2 poles

    The FIA shouldn’t put these three races next to each other.

    1. Next year, they won’t be. :)

    2. Don’t forget 1 Grand Chelem each. :D

  5. Can Hulkenberg put the same performance as in Korea? I hope so. If he can put himself at the start in a good place, he will be able to defend from attacks at the DRS zone which is after the chicane, so with the good traction we saw in Korea he could pull away. I think that he will be untouchable in the straight after the spoon curve because of the top speed Sauber enjoys. All these taking out of equation the tires, ones you put the tires …. arghh…

  6. The title could be:

    Vettel aiming for fifth win, fourth title and third Grand Chelem in a row

    Because i am sure he does!

    1. Third Consecutive Grand Chelem in a row and he holds that record by himself in history.

  7. Only 1 other driver in history has cause me not to watch for several years, Vettel is closing in on this stat.

    Hoping that it is closer at the front next year!

  8. Just read this quote from Alonso:

    The Spaniard thinks that the true judge of how good his German rival is will only come later in his career.
    “It is true that he had an advantage in car performance all these years, so we see how good he is later in his career because, at the moment, he is better than anyone and he is winning all the championships.

    “But we saw also Hamilton starting in his first year nearly winning the championship, and in his second year winning the championship. But then he didn’t win any more.”

    I must say, I agree with him. Vettel is a 4-time champion, but he has been in F1 for only 6 full seasons. To truly decide if Vettel is a great or not, he should have a longer career – atleast 9-10 years.

    That comparison with Hamilton was too funny though :D. Poor HAM, he says only good things about ALO. But ALO responds like this.

    1. I really can’t imagine what do you expect to happen after few more years.

      Vettel already proved himself and he will drive competitive cars for the rest of his career. Even if he can’t win championships he will be at the front and fight for wins as Alonso is doing for the last 6-7 years?

      The only difference will be that people probably will start to like him more as he will be the underdog. He doesn’t like the underdog?

      1. I don’t think it is a given that Vettel will drive competitive cars for the rest of his career. He will have his ups and downs.
        Mind you, I am a big Vettel fan. But let’s face it, if I have to talk of his accomplishments in a mediocre car, only the performances of second-half of 2008 (A good 5 years ago) come to mind. It is not really Vettel’s fault that he is inexperienced.

        On the other hand, for Alonso, performances of 2003, 2008, first half of 2012 come to mind when I think of accomplishments in a mediocre car.

        If one were to ask that who is truly a great among the current grid, I don’t think anyone would count Hamilton, Kimi or Vettel as greats. It will only be Alonso. He is the only one who has driven cars which have belonged to the front, middle and back of the grid. This also happens because he has had a longer career than the remaining three. He has spent at least 9-10 years in the sport.

        I think once Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi have spent that long in F1, we should be able to tell for sure which among them is truly a great.

        1. you know that Kimi joined F1 the same year Alonso did?

        2. If one were to ask that who is truly a great among the current grid, I don’t think anyone would count Hamilton, Kimi or Vettel as greats. It will only be Alonso.

          Well thats clearly an opinion, not a fact :) But my point is that even if Vettel drives uncompetitive car it won’t be problem for him to find more competitive one. From now on, no team will reject Vettel if they have the opportunity to sign him.
          And he has plenty of time to gather more wins, mole poles, more titles, more fans. Right now if anyone on the grid has a chance to become an all time great, this is Seb, and of course it is too early to put him there. But somehow he already passed 90% of the road. I think that after 10 years when we look back at the current era we will remember only how good Seb was and all the lame excuses anti-vets are using now will be long forgotten.

        3. If one were to ask that who is truly a great among the current grid, I don’t think anyone would count Hamilton, Kimi or Vettel as greats.

          According to you, no?

  9. Incredible this man! For all the frowning ‘naysayers’ he always answers with pure performance. I am not a Vettel fan, and there is something in him, that quite irritates me, but I have to bow in front of his performance! He is one, I think, that can maximize the potential in his car just like Alo or Rai and Ham as well. The difference is in the performance of the machinery. All of these pilots do an excellent job – I am not entitled to decide which of them does a better one and I don’t know if it is possible at all to decide – only in the lower quality cars it is more striking. However denying the skills of the fingerman is just simply stupid. i am impressed by his march, really, but excitement I find in the races of the other three (and some other pilots). Hope Suzuka will give us loads of excitement:)

  10. Fernando Alonso […] needs dramatic improvements from his car if he’s to do anything about his rival’s 77-point lead.

    Too late for that. Imagine a miraculous improvement by Ferrari and easy FA victories in all five races left. Even then all that SV needs for the WDC is 49 points, an average 5th position would be enough, not even a single podium. In other words for FA/Ferrari getting it perfect is far from enough, they also need a string of severe failures from SV/RBR. Extremely unlikely.

  11. A 1.85 race average is incredible in this day and age!

Comments are closed.