Suzuka was originally built by Honda as a test track and opened in 1962. Twenty-five years later it welcomed the Formula One world championship for the first time, albeit with a few revisions to the course to improve safety including the construction of a chicane in front of what had been a very fast final corner.
The unique crossover layout won favour among the drivers and was the scene for many championship-deiciding races at the end of the season in the eighties and nineties.
Partly because of the compact nature of the layout few changes have been made to its configuration. The final chicane went through some revisions and the daunting 130R corner that precedes was reprofiled in 2003 after Allan McNish was fortunate to survive a huge crash during qualifying the year before which punched a hole in the barrier.
Following a two-year absence from the calendar when Toyota’s Fuji Speedway took over as the host of the Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka returned to the F1 schedule in 2009. However the 2014 race was overshadowed by a serious accident involving Jules Bianchi, who suffered serious head injuries and died nine months later.
Suzuka track views
Suzuka is probably my favourite track in the world and for many, many reasons. Of course 2013 holds a great memory as I led the race for a while. Mainly I love it so much because the track is a massive challenge and also the spectators are so passionate about F1. There is not a single corner on the track that is not a big challenge. When you finish a lap at Suzuka you really appreciate it because you know the car and you have been really tested and that you can be proud if you have got the maximum from everything.
It’s fast, it’s flowing, and it’s got everything. High speed, low speed, inclines, drops. Wonderful circuit.
To be fast, a car needs to have high-speed stability, both in terms of mechanical stiffness and the aerodynamic balance, and a good power unit. You also need a strong front-end because understeer through the Esses in Sector One can really hurt your lap time.
Matt Morris, McLaren director of engineering
The challenges are the high speed corners. You can’t run maximum downforce in Suzuka – as you will end up a little too slow on the straights – so you need to give the driver sufficient downforce to give confidence in the fast twisty bits whilst not clipping their wings down the straights. This is part of the reason why Suzuka is such a driver favourite, as drivers can be absolutely on the limit without the car totally stuck to the ground through maximum downforce. It’s not just having sufficient downforce, it’s ensuring that this is delivered in a balanced nature. Getting the suspension set-up spot on is essential here too. You need to extract all the grip that’s possible from the car.
Nick Chester, Lotus technical director
|Lap length||5.807km (3.608 miles)|
|Race distance||307.471km (191.054 miles)|
|Pole position||Left-hand side of the track|
|Lap record*||1’31.540 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2005)|
|Fastest lap||1’28.954 (Michael Schumacher, 2006, qualifying two)|
|Maximum speed||314kph (195.11 mph)|
|DRS zone/s (race)||Pit straight|
|Distance from grid to turn one||545m|
|Longest flat-out section||994m|
|Gear changes per lap||48|
|Fuel use per lap||1.82kg|
|Time penalty per lap of fuel||0.054s|
|Pit lane time loss||22s|
|2015 prime tyre:||Hard (2014: Hard)|
|2015 option tyre:||Medium (2014: Medium)|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
Data sources: FIA, Williams, Mercedes