The team take on Suzuka's challenging figure of eight circuit at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. Find out more about this exciting track and its many fabled corners.
|Track length||5.807km/3.608 miles (5th longest track of the year – longest: Spa-Francorchamps, shortest: Monaco)|
|2016 pole position||Nico Rosberg, 1m30.647s|
|2016 fastest lap||Sebastian Vettel 1m35.118s (lap 36)|
|Lap record||1:31.540s (Kimi Raikkonen, 2005)|
|Distance to Turn One||350m/0.217 miles (longest of season: Barcelona 730m/0.454 miles)|
|Longest straight||900m/0.559 miles, on the approach to Turn 16 (longest of the season: Baku, 2.1km/1.305 miles)|
|Top speed||320km/h/199mph, on the approach to Turn 16 (fastest of season: Monza, 360km/h/224mph)|
|Full throttle||65 per cent (highest of the season: Monza, 75 per cent). The longest period of full throttle is 16s, on the approach to Turn 16|
|Fuel consumption||1.8kg per lap, which is average|
|ERS demands||Medium. With only one heavy braking zone, into Turn 16, it’s a challenge to harvest enough braking energy around the lap|
|Gear changes||42 per lap/2,226 per race|
Only one of Suzuka’s 17 corners is taken at less than 100km/h/62mph. As a result, a good high-speed balance is important. To be fast, a driver needs a stable rear end and a responsive front end.
How to tell when a driver's really on it
The high-speed changes of direction require smooth and precise steering inputs, which often mean the fastest guys are usually the smoothest.
Trickiest bits for the driver
Sector One is a huge challenge because all seven corners – known as the Esses – are very fast and are inter-linked. A mistake through one corner will compromise the others. Also, braking for Degner One is tricky because there’s a bump on the racing line.
Medium downforce and stiff suspension. As was the case at Sepang last weekend, Suzuka is a smooth circuit. That allows the engineers to stiffen the car and lower the front end, all in search of high-speed grip.
High. The asphalt is grippy and the high speeds produce high levels of downforce.
Red Supersoft, yellow Soft and white Medium compounds – the eighth time this combination has been used in 2017.
Low. Only 10 per cent of the lap is spent braking.
Tips if you're a gamer
Suzuka is narrow and fast, and it’s a track at which mistakes are punished. You need to keep it clean and smooth in order to be fast. The trickiest part of the lap, and a place where a lot of time can be won and lost, is in Sector One. The corners come thick and fast and you don’t want to use the kerbs aggressively because you risk being knocked off-line. Turn Six, an uphill right-hander, is the trickiest of these corners because you have options: one late apex, or a double apex?
Everybody has their own views on what constitutes the best racing circuit in the world – but very few would leave Suzuka out of their top three. Few circuits can match it for elegance, excitement or the passion exhibited by the many thousands of fans who show up early and stay late.
Despite a separation of 10,000km (6,214 miles), Suzuka is perhaps the racing venue most closely associated with the McLaren team. Many of our finest performances and greatest triumphs have come at the Japanese track.
Originally designed as a test track for Honda in the early 1960s, Suzuka has evolved into one of the world’s premier racing venues. The figure-of-eight circuit isn’t easy to categorise: it’s one of the best circuits in the world for high speed corners, but the same is true for medium and slow turns. In common with Silverstone and Spa, it defies the concept of ‘signature’ corners by having too many famous sections to mention.
This makes setting the car up a difficult proposition. The first sector and 130R are high speed. They and the long Spoon bend benefit from quite a stiff car, but there’s time to be made and lost at the low-speed Hairpin and end-of-lap Chicane. The usual compromise is a high-downforce setup comparable to that which ran at Silverstone. In common with the home of the British Grand Prix, Suzuka puts high lateral loads on tyres and causes a few problems for brake warm-up. The beautiful, flowing nature of the circuit makes it very popular with drivers, however, and the grandstands above the Esses offer spectators perhaps the best view in the world from which to see a Formula 1 car delivering maximum performance.
Our 1990 and 1998 Constructors’ Championships were clinched at Suzuka, as were six Drivers’ titles spread between Ayrton Senna (1988, 1990, 1991), Alain Prost (1989) and Mika Häkkinen (1998, 1999) – this in addition to James Hunt’s epic title decider at the Fuji circuit in the debut Japanese Grand Prix of 1976. Hunt would return to Fuji in 1977 and take McLaren’s first victory in Japan. Eight more have followed, all at Suzuka, making us the most successful team in Japanese Grand Prix history, with our latest win coming courtesy of Jenson in 2011. Fernando, meanwhile, has the distinction of winning the Japanese Grand Prix at both Suzuka and Fuji.