Formula 1

Special Suzuka remains F1's premier Asian venue

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This weekend Formula 1 heads to what remains its spiritual home in Asia at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Designed by John Hugenhultz as Honda's test circuit in 1962, the track opened a year later and hosted a non-championship F1 race won by Peter Kerr in a Lotus Cosworth.

Home of F1 in Japan

While the Fuji Speedway became the first home of the Japanese Grand Prix, hosting the race from 1966-1976, Suzuka has become more synonymous with the race having only missed two races since it became the full-time host in 1982.

Those two years came in 2007 and 2008 when the financial crisis took its toll and Fuji returned to the schedule for the first time in 30 years, however, when its owner Toyota pulled out of F1 so did Fuji and Suzuka returned in 2009 as the full-time host circuit once more.

Senna vs. Prost

As the only race apart from Australia to take part in the East for the 80's and 90's, Japan was often towards the end if not the final race of the season, this means Suzuka has seen many historic moments in its time.

The most famous saw the culmination of three championship battles between fierce rivals Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

In 1988, Senna claimed his first world championship as he produced a wet-weather masterclass to recover from a bad start and beat Prost, a year later the pair collided, still as team-mates at McLaren, after a race-long battle at the final chicane and while Senna would be pushed back on the circuit by the marshals with Prost out of the the race, the Brazilian would be disqualified handing a third title to the Frenchman.

Finally in 1990 it was roles reversed as Senna, still at McLaren, only had to beat Prost, now at Ferrari, to guarantee a second championship. This time as Prost had caused the incident the year before, it was Senna who deliberately took out the Frenchman at the first corner to win the title.

Title deciders

Far less controversial titles have been won at Suzuka over the years including Mika Hakkinen claiming his two championships in 1998 and 1999 as well as Michael Schumacher ending Ferrari's long wait for a drivers' crown in 2000.

The most recent championship decided was in 2011 as Sebastian Vettel finished third to claim a second consecutive title with Red Bull as Jenson Button won at what could be named his second home race.

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Asia's finest

In the last 15 years or so, Suzuka has been joined by many new multi-million dollar facilities in Asia as F1 has looked to grow on the continent.

From Sepang in Malaysia to Shanghai, China, these circuits may have impressive grandstands and be better in terms of overall safety but old-school Suzuka still remains the finest racetrack on the continent.

With its sweeping corners and wide range of turns it tests every aspect of the car and rewards the best drivers in the world.


The most famous corner on the circuit is 130R, a flat-out 190mph left-hander. Compared to the likes of Eau Rouge and Blanchimont at Spa, this turn used to be one of the ultimate tests of driver bravery and car.

Nowadays, however, things have changed, modern downforce levels mean it is just a kink along the straight to the final chicane and several big crashes in the early 2000's also meant changes were made to make the corner easier.

Indeed, despite the speed, 130R has even started seeing drivers overtake on the approach and few will forget Fernando Alonso's move around the outside of Michael Schumacher in 2005.

Detailed lap

While 130R maybe the stand out corner, every part of this track has its own challenges so enjoy an onboard lap with Lewis Hamilton from last year in the video above and then I'll go into the key parts of this circuit in detail.

The 'Snake'

From the main straight, the drivers take a near flat kink at turn one that acts as a braking point for the tighter turn two, the camber helps the drivers round but it is still easy to run wide by carrying too much speed through both turns.

Then it leads into another famous and unique sections on the circuit, the 'Snake'. A sequence of left and right handers getting slower with each turn, precision is key and will likely see Red Bull have the edge on Mercedes before the sweeping uphill left hander through the Dunlop curve.

Degner curves

At the top of the hill lies a tricky double right-hander at the Degner curves. The first is all about bravery as it can be nearly flat-out but run wide and an accident is almost guaranteed.

The driver also needs to commit while picking a braking point for the much slower second right-hander. Again it is easy to run wide into the gravel on the outside but done correctly a driver can gain a lot of time through this section


After going under the crossover and through the slow hairpin left, a long right-hander, which is basically a straight, leads to another unique corner at the Spoon curve.

Shaped like a spoon, this long curving double-apex left is again all about precision while carrying as much speed as possible.

The exit is crucial too as it leads onto the long back straight where the Mercedes power will show through.

Casio Triangle

Along the straight and through the aforementioned 130R, the cars will reach approaching 200mph before the heavy braking zone into the final chicane named the Casio Triangle.

The narrow approach makes this, the best overtaking place on the circuit, still very tricky and an opening up of the chicane makes a few years ago made it slightly faster too but the slow right, left is fairly easy with plenty of kerbs and lot of super slo-motion pictures too.

The exit is key as it leads back onto the main straight and the only DRS zone on the circuit on the run back to turn one.

Drivers circuit

Suzuka remains a true drivers circuit and the challenge has barely changed in the over 50 years of existence.

It will also provide a great back and forth between Red Bull and Mercedes as the technical first half is then replaced with the need for power on the second, the figure-of-eight design also makes it once of the most recognisable circuits on the calendar and the theme park next door with the massive Ferris wheel is somewhat apt for what is usually a rollercoaster weekend.

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