After the bright lights of the Singapore Grand Prix and a win for Sebastian Vettel that reignites the defending champion’s challenge for the 2012 drivers’ title, Formula One continues its Far-Eastern trek with a visit to one of the sport’s truly classic circuits – Suzuka in Japan.
Designed by John Hugenholtz, the superb figure-8 circuit is the only one of its kind on the calendar and is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary. In that time it has seen some remarkable races and as the battle for both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships hots up, this year is sure to be no exception.
Suzuka sets a stern challenge for both man and machine. Featuring a blend of low, medium and high-speed turns, as well rapid changes of direction, it’s not only a thrilling lap for the drivers but also a huge technical challenge and hooking up a perfect lap here is a feat that often separates the great from the merely good. That challenge extends to the engineers too. Setting up a car to cope with the swift changes of direction through the “Esses”, the long arcs of the Dunlop and Spoon curves, the high-speed blast of the fearsome 130R and the heavy-braking, slow-speed hairpin and Casio Triangle chicane is a complex task and, again, making the right compromises at the right time marks the difference between a good and a great weekend.
Sebastian Vettel experienced one of those great weekends last year. The German may have raced to third from pole but the podium finish handed him a second title. A year on and the Red Bull Racing driver is now firmly back in contention for a third crown after winning in Singapore a fortnight ago. The victory sees him arrive in Japan just 29 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso who has 194 points. In the Constructors’ Championship Red Bull continue to lead, with 297 points, though their lead over McLaren has been chopped from 53 points after the Hungarian GP to just 36 points as we head into Round 15 of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Length of lap:
5.807km Lap record:
1:31.540 (Kimi Raikkonen,McLaren, 2005) Start line/finish line offset:
0.300km Total number of race laps:
53 Total race distance:
307.471km Pitlane speed limits:
60km/h during practice and qualifying, 100km/h during the race
Changes to the circuit since 2011
► The whole West Course (from turn 7 until after the chicane) has been resurfaced.
► New storm water drainage systems have been installed around the newly resurfaced section of track.
► The DRS Zone is 20m shorter this year. The detection zone is 50m before Turn 16 and the activation zone is at the Control Line after Turn 18.