Formula 1


F1: Japan Grand Prix preview

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From the baron marshland of Korea, F1 heads across the Sea of Japan to Mie Prefecture and Suzuka for the historic Japanese Grand Prix.

This weekend's race is the first chance Sebastian Vettel has to confirm his status as a four-time world champion. If he wins and his nearest rival Fernando Alonso finishes no higher than eighth, the title will be his.

While it may no longer host the season finale, the Japan race remains one of the best races on the calendar with the legendary Suzuka circuit one of the most unique tracks on the schedule.

The figure-of-eight layout boasts some of the famous corners in the sport, from the famous Snake between turn's 3 and 7, from the double-apex Spoon curve and the flat-out 130R, indeed such is the challenge of the Suzuka circuit many compare it to Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps and Britain's Silverstone.

The first race in Japan was in 1963, the year Suzuka was opened and remained the only race in Asia until the Malaysian race was introduced in 1999. As I mentioned the race use to be the final round of the season and as a result has seen many championship's decided there.

It has also been the scene of many famous crashes with Suzuka summing up the Ayrton Senna- Alain Prost rivalry as the pair crashed twice at Suzuka in 1989 and 1990.

In 1988 Senna and Prost were battling for the championship and as Senna went to make a move at the Casio chicane, Prost turned into Senna forcing both off the track. Senna, who was far more popular in Japan, was able to get his car going again and went on to win the race.

However, after the race he would be disqualified for cutting the chicane and gaining an advantage, it was a hammer blow for Senna in the championship who would lose out to Prost at the final race in Australia.

The following year the tables were turned, Senna was leading and would win the championship if neither car finished, before the race Senna said he would rather take both cars out that let Prost past and that happened at the very first corner in one of the most controversial moments in F1 history.

Other famous finales include 1998 where Mika Hakkinen famously won his first championship in a rain-hit race and Michael Schumacher who claimed his third championship in 2000 though it was his first with Ferrari.

The Japanese Grand Prix has mostly taken place at Suzuka though four races have taken place at the Fuji Speedway. Back in 1976 James Hunt famously won his only world title in terrible conditions beating Niki Lauda while Lewis Hamilton looked set to claim his first world title after winning at Fuji in similar conditions back in 2007.

Looking ahead to this weekend's race and Vettel, who claimed his second championship at Suzuka in 2011, is looking very strong to make it five straight wins, the medium speed corners should suit Mercedes who were very quick in the middle sector in Korea.

Tyres could play a role, Pirelli are taking the medium and hard compounds to Suzuka so therefore should be less of a factor than in Korea.

That would halt Lotus in their recent charge who struggled with the harder compounds in Belgium and Italy, putting them back in the battle with Ferrari and McLaren. Nico Hulkenberg could well be back in the frame for a strong result while Force India and Toro Rosso will be also be battling at the bottom of the top 10.

Williams appear to be in a private battle with themselves ahead of Caterham and Marussia who will continue their great battle at the back of the field.

The race in Japan is always one of the most unpredictable and with plenty at stake for Vettel, the pressure of finishing the job will be a little higher, while it is most likely he will have to wait for India to win the title, it promises to be the story of the weekend.

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