Iconic Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka is the 15th race of the calendar, and a kind of race many drivers have been waiting for not because it is very fast and easy, but because it comes with so many different kinds of surprises and challenges. This circuit is only one of the old school circuits left in the championship apart from SPA-Francorchamps (Belgian GP). The tracks nowadays are full of straights and big stops which make it easier for the drivers to overtake, but this old school circuit has gained its charm out of long sweeping high speed bends with a large elevation and difficult overtaking.
The track consists of 18 turns which is totally normal, but the 60% of the lap time is spent in turning left or right because the turns are very large. 10 of these 18 turns are high speed curves, with speeds of over 170kmph. It is very difficult to master this lap not only because of the high speed bends but because there is a very little margin of error on the track, as the sides of the track is laid with gravel which makes it difficult for the driver to continue. If a driver gets a turn wrong he’ll crash straight tangentially into the barriers and its Game Over. Many big guns have fell prey to the corners of this track like, Kimi Raikkonen, Jean Alesi, Jamie Alguersuari and Allan Mcnish.
This track also feels special because of the changing weather conditions of the circuit. An added possibility of rain has many a times drastically changed the outcome of the race as it did in 1994 when Damon Hill beat Michael Schumacher by 3 seconds when race aggregate was taken into account.
There is a lot of history associated with this track. Two of the finest F1 moments have taken place on this track. Both involving Ayrton Senna and his arch rival Alain Prost. First of the incidents took place in 1989, when Senna was chasing Prost on lap 46 after the former lost the lead on the first lap. The winner of the two would have been the World Champion for that year. Senna dived into the inside for an impossible overtaking manoeuvre, Prost didn’t back down and crashed out of the race, but later Senna was disqualified for his move and the Championship was given to Alain Prost. The following year, there was a similar situation, Ayrton would be the world champion provided that Alain Prost, then at Ferrari, failed to finish. At the very first corner, Senna made sure Prost didn’t finish as he crashed into Prost and hence won the world championship. This track has also been Michael Schumacher’s hunting ground. He has won a whopping six times at this circuit and has always performed well here.
The track is a great one, and indeed is the current status of the championship. Sebastian Vettel has logically won the championship but for him to also mathematically win it at Suzuka, he should win the race provided that Fernando Alonso finishes 9th or below. Felipe Massa is putting on some brilliant drives to get a good team for next season, so is Nico Hulkenberg. Lotus and McLaren are the two big teams looking for drivers for next season. The news is that McLaren haven’t renewed Jenson Button and Sergio Perez’s contract. And Lotus are yet to find a replacement for Raikkonen. Force India’s Paul di Resta hasn’t finished the last five races and has crashed midway in all of them. Similar is the situation with Mark Webber, as he has failed to finish the last two races, both the times because of the engine blowing up. Mercedes are optimistic about the Japanese GP as the whole season they have got good results with their high downforce setup which is required for high speed cornering. Also in the championship they are just behind Ferrari by a single point and their high speed cornering may just put them at second spot in the championship. All in all this is going to be one very good race!