2016 Japanese Grand Prix track preview

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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Track data: Suzuka

Lap length 5.807km (3.608 miles)
Grand prix distance 307.471km (191.054 miles)
Lap record (race) 1’31.540 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2005)
Fastest lap (any session) 1’28.954 (Michael Schumacher, 2006, qualifying two)
Tyre compounds See drivers’ choices
2015 Rate the Race 5.21 out of 10
2015 Driver of the Weekend Max Verstappen

Suzuka track data in full

New additions to the Formula One calendar tend to be homogeneous affairs lacking in local colour. But the unique Suzuka circuit’s fairground setting and famously dedicated fans make it unmistakably Japanese.

It also helps that the sinuous circuit is almost universally liked by the F1 field and regarded as a favourite by many.

Designed by John Hugenholz and built in the sixties, the track has hosted F1 for three decades. While the crossover is its most distinctive feature it’s the many tricky medium and high-speed corners which present the greatest challenge to the drivers.

Although not among the very fastest circuits in terms of outright top speed, Suzuka is also a punishing circuit for engines. Drivers need responsive power delivery around the flowing first sector, then have two long periods of flat-out acceleration at the end of the lap.

The track’s many fast corners means the tyres experience high loads for sustained periods, although the figure-of-eight layout means wear tends not to be concentrated on either side of the car. Pirelli has nominated its hardest tyres for this weekend’s race.

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A lap of Suzuka

The first corner is one of the most daunting, requiring only a brief lift. The drivers then slow more sharply for turn two, another right-hander, taken at around 140kph. This theme of a fast entry corner followed immediately by a slightly slower one is a theme which is repeated later in the lap.

From here the drivers enter one of the most devious stretches of asphalt on the Formula One calendar, given the innocuous title Esses. The road curves left and right, crests and falls, the camber alternately aiding then repelling the driver’s pursuit of the apex.

Suzuka’s celebrated Esses sequence
The exit from each corner dictates the entry into the next. This is made especially difficult by the narrowness of the track at this point. The Esses lead into the seemingly unending double-left at Dunlop where the cars climb the hill.

The next corner, Degner, was a single sweeping bend in the track’s pre-F1 incarnation. It is now two corners beginning with a super-quick right-hander which some cars take in seventh gear at up to 250kph. The following right-hadner often catches drivers out and the limited run-off makes it an easy place to damage a car.

After passing under the the circuit, drivers round the turn ten kink. This was where Daniil Kvyat crashed and rolled on his qualifying lap last year. “I was struggling with jet lag and no sleep,” he admitted. “I just put my rear wheel on the grass and then I hit the wall.”

The curve in the track makes braking tricky for the slow hairpin which follows. From there the drivers build speed on the approach to the Spoon curve. This is another tightening corner which requires a mid-turn reduction in speed. The drivers fight understeer all the way around it as the strive to carry maximum speed onto the long straight which follows.

The daunting 130R corner is taken flat out at over 300kph – a serious test of bravery when the car if full of fuel – putting unusual stresses on the internals. This is followed by the slowest corner on the track: cars shed over 250kph in the braking zone for the chicane. From there the drivers accelerate back to the start/finish line to begin another rollercoaster lap.

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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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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3 comments on “2016 Japanese Grand Prix track preview”

  1. Just love this track ! More than even Spa and Silverstone.

    1. Suzuka and Hungaroring are among my favorites. The only part I’m just ok about is the first two sweeping right handers. Other than that love the rest.

  2. Even the go kart track looks brilliant!!!

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