JA­PANESE GP PRE­VIEW THE FIG­URE-OF-EIGHT CLAS­SIC

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - Pat Sy­monds Wil­liams chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer

The Ja­panese Grand Prix is one of the most es­tab­lished races on the cal­en­dar and the Suzuka cir­cuit where it is hosted is one of the clas­sics. Orig­i­nally built as a test track for Honda in the 1960s, it has an un­usual gure-of-eight lay­out, with the back straight run­ning over Turn 9 by way of an over­pass. But even this is of­ten pushed into the shade by some of the other stand­out fea­tures of the track.

The cir­cuit is nar­row, un­du­lat­ing and fast, with only a cou­ple of cor­ners that can be taken at un­der 60mph, and with com­bi­na­tions of owing, quick cor­ners through­out the track. The sin­u­ous high-speed cor­ners that start the lap are fol­lowed by a tricky hair­pin, the long Spoon Curve and the in­fa­mous and rapid 130R and chi­cane, all of which place ex­treme de­mands on driv­ers.

From an en­gi­neer­ing per­spec­tive, Suzuka re­quires higher than av­er­age down­force and a stiff sus­pen­sion to en­sure good sta­bil­ity and re­spon­sive­ness through the con­stant changes of di­rec­tion of the rst sec­tor to al­low driv­ers to re­ally ex­ploit this sec­tion.

En­gine power is of crit­i­cal im­por­tance here, be­cause of the dif­fi­culty in over­tak­ing. And en­gines un­dergo a great deal of stress due to the high av­er­age speeds and con­tin­u­ally uc­tu­at­ing loads, which can play havoc with oil sys­tems.

The se­vere lat­eral loads are also tough on the tyres, es­pe­cially in the con­text of the high num­ber and fre­quency of cor­ners, which gives the rub­ber very lit­tle time to ‘re­lax’. And the abra­sive na­ture of the track sur­face fur­ther stresses the rub­ber. The com­pounds are worked very hard around the lap, and tyre degra­da­tion will be fun­da­men­tal to strat­egy.

A favourite among fans and driv­ers, the Ja­panese GP is al­ways an ex­cit­ing race. Teams who can deal with chang­ing tyre degra­da­tion and wear in real time are at an ad­van­tage, and it’s highly likely they will be bat­tling each other through dif­fer­ing strate­gies – only com­ing to­gether dur­ing the nal parts of the race.

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