Hear from Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they prepare for another exciting week of racing.
“Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the calendar, and along with a lot of the other drivers I always look forward to racing in Japan every year. It’s one of the classics and its configuration is completely unique. It has a bit of everything – it’s demanding, fast, and a big challenge for a driver and for the engineers, so it’s the perfect racer’s circuit.
“It’s an important race for us given our connections with Japan, and for me personally it’s a special place. I’ve always found Japanese culture fascinating and the incredible support from the fans make this race weekend one of the most exciting and crazy of the season. I always try to make the most of our time there, make a couple of trips to the must-see places in Tokyo and really get a feel for this incredible location.
“I’ve had a couple of difficult races recently, so I’m looking forward to getting back on track and working with my engineers to turn our fortunes around. I feel that we’ve definitely had the pace there in the car – and Stoffel has been able to demonstrate what we’re capable of – but bad luck and struggles in traffic have meant we haven’t been able to score the points we’d hoped for on my side. Both of us will be pushing hard for the Japanese contingent of our team, our partners and of course our fans, and I hope we can finally show the progress we’re making with our car.”
“After two really positive races, I’m really looking forward to heading back to Japan. It’s one of my favourite countries and I always enjoy spending time there. The culture, food and people make it really special, and for a long time I’ve been looking forward to experiencing the Suzuka circuit in a Formula 1 car for the first time.
“For me, Singapore and Malaysia were a real boost, and we were really able to get on top of every session and maximise what we had available in our package. We know there has been potential all season, but for one reason or another we weren’t able to show it – so having two strong results back-to-back has been really encouraging and I’m keen to see how we will do in Japan.
“It’s a much tougher circuit for our car than Sepang, and requires a lot more outright power. The advantage is that I won’t be coming to this circuit fresh this weekend, as I’ve tested and raced at Suzuka a few times before – the last time I was there I won in Super Formula. I’m working very hard with my engineers and we’ll be putting in the same level of preparation for this race, so I hope we can keep pushing forward and have another strong weekend.”
Circuit name: 2017 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix
First race: 1987
Suzuka was built by the Honda Motor Company in 1962. Its innovative figure-of-eight design was the brainchild of Dutchman John Hugenholtz and the layout has changed little over the years. The biggest alterations came in the early ’80s, when a chicane was added at the end of the lap and the Degner curve was made into two separate corners. This year’s race is the 29th Japanese Grand Prix to be staged at the track.
What makes the race special?
Suzuka is one of the most revered racetracks in the world. Its undulations and fast corners are a stern test of both car and driver.
Bet you never knew...
Honda made their Formula 1 debut in 1964, two years after they built Suzuka as a test facility. They won their first grand prix in ’65, since when they have taken a total of 75 F1 victories.
A total of 11 world drivers’ titles have been decided at Suzuka, including all three of Ayrton Senna’s titles with McLaren Honda. Some of these title showdowns resulted in controversy, but perhaps the most ‘crazy’ moments came in 2004 and ’10, when qualifying had to be delayed until Sunday morning due to heavy rain.
What we love
The opening seven corners of the lap, which make up Sector One. They are inter-linked and very fast, with a minimum speed of 210km/h/130mph. The smallest of mistakes results in a loss of time.
2011, the team’s most recent victory at Suzuka. Jenson Button qualified second and drove a brilliantly tenacious race to overtake pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel during the second pitstop phase. Jenson ended up winning the race by 1.1s from Fernando Alonso.
Japan’s passion for Formula 1 knows no bounds. Fans often sit in the grandstand opposite the pits until late into the night and the drivers’ autograph session is one of the most spectacular of the season. But F1 isn’t the only international sporting event on the Japanese horizon; the country is hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the summer Olympic Games in 2020.
Did you know?
Suzuka’s figure-of-eight layout is unique on the F1 calendar. The 1.2km/0.746-mile back straight passes over the front section of track at the infamous 130R corner.
McLaren has won the Japanese Grand Prix on nine occasions, which is more than any other F1 constructor.