JAPANESE GP PREVIEW THE FIGURE-OF-EIGHT CLASSIC
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.