“It’s one of the best tracks on the calendar,” confirms Kevin Magnussen. “It is one of those circuits you already know before you’ve been there as you’ve seen it so many times on television, and you’ve seen so many on-board laps. It becomes part of your subconscious. It might sound strange, but even on your first lap there’s a rhythm there. It’s fantastic how it flows and how it gives you a challenge through every corner.”
The 5.807km circuit is one of the longest of the championship. Its old school profile makes it a challenge from start to finish because of its numerous turns and the proximity of the guardrails. There are no reassuring run-offs if you make a mistake and anything but pinpoint precision tends to be very costly in terms of lap times. It’s a little like Monaco, except the speeds are much higher, with peaks of practically 340kph, with corners like the infamous ‘130 R’ which is taken at 300kph. Few places in motor racing call for that much bravery!
Buoyed by his maiden Formula 1 point, Jolyon Palmer will have the honour of visiting this legendary venue for the very first time. “I’ve only driven one lap there, which was an install in the wet in 2015,” he recalls. “I’m really looking forward to learning the track. It looks very exciting and it’s very technical; quite a specialist type of track with a lot of changes of direction. For me, the track-walk on Thursday will be extra important, especially as the Japanese Grand Prix comes just a week after Malaysia. There wasn’t time to travel back to Enstone to practice on the simulator.”
From the technical angle, Suzuka – the season’s only figure-of-eight circuit – is highly demanding, too, as Technical Director Nick Chester explains: “It’s a very challenging track – in particular the first sector which incorporates the first two turns and then the ‘snake’. It has a great layout. In terms of engineering, there’s a bit of a trade-off as you need a good chunk of downforce for the high speed portions, but there’s a reasonable time spent on the straights where you want less drag. And there’s a reasonable degree of power sensitivity, too, so it’s a real balance of all these aspects.”
Suzuka is also one of the toughest races for Formula 1’s internal combustion engines. More than 60 percent of the lap is taken at full throttle, with the pistons turning an incredible 200 times every second! But that’s just par for the course for the powerplant which scored a resounding one-two finish at last weekend’s grand prix…