A few short days after an exciting and eventful Malaysian Grand Prix, teams and drivers reassemble at the Suzuka Circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix, round 16 of the 2017 Formula One World Championship.
Appropriately for a circuit designed as a test track, Suzuka tests everything, with an array of high, medium and low—speed corners that ensure the circuit defies easy classification.
As was the case last week in Malaysia, the medium, soft and supersoft tyres will be available in Japan. Suzuka, however, has lateral loads much higher than those at Sepang, meaning the successful one—stop strategies of last weekend will not be the automatic choice here. The extra grip on offer in 2017 will, however, be more noticeable at Suzuka with higher speeds in the many famous corners. The start of the lap, through the Esses, Dunlop and Degner One and Two, is likely to be particularly spectacular.
Second place at Sepang on Sunday ended Lewis Hamilton’s run of three consecutive victories but it was sufficient for the Mercedes driver to increase his Drivers’ Championship advantage over Sebastian Vettel by a further six points and he now leads the Ferrari driver by 34. Mercedes also strengthened their grip on the Constructors’ Championship and they are now 118 points ahead of Ferrari.
The raw statistics perhaps hide the true level of competitiveness among the frontrunners as the final quarter of the 2017 season begins: in recent weeks attrition, rather than raw pace, has strengthened the relative positions of Hamilton and Mercedes: Ferrari have looked strong at two very different South—East Asian circuits but have taken only 12 points. Despite victory and third place in Malaysia, Red Bull Racing have slipped out of mathematical contention in the Constructors’ Championship but as a disruptive influence, capable of competing with the teams and drivers fighting for the titles, they have strong potential to affect the unfolding title battle.
SUZUKA INTERNATIONAL RACING COURSE
Length of lap:
1:31.540 (Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, 2005)
Start line/ﬁnish line offset:
Total number of race laps:
Total race distance:
Pitlane speed limits:
80km/h in practice, qualifying and the race