Three drivers have a 100% Q3 appearance rate in Japan, Leclerc is the only driver to have out-qualified his team-mate on every Suzuka appearance and Verstappen is the only driver in F1 history with a 100% points finishing rate at the circuit. Here’s everything you need to know about each driver’s history at the Japanese Grand Prix.
🇬🇧 Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has finished on the podium at Suzuka in every season since 2014, with four wins in the past five races. The British driver has only retired from a race at this track once, in 2013, and other than that has never finished below fifth. Before 2017, Hamilton had never qualified on pole at Suzuka, but has now taken pole here in each of the last two seasons. 2012 is the only year where Hamilton has qualified outside the top three here. He started eighth that year, though he also had a grid penalty in 2010 which dropped him from third to eighth on the grid. From his ten appearances at the track, Hamilton has out-qualified his team-mate five times, and has a 100% Q3 appearance record.
🇫🇮 Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas has a 100% finish rate at the Japanese Grand Prix and scored his first podium finish at the event last year with second place. From his six appearances, 2013 is the only season where the Finn has failed to score at Suzuka. Bottas is yet to take pole here, but has qualified on the front row in each of the last two seasons, though he had a grid penalty in 2017. 2013 and 2016 are the only occasions where Bottas has failed to qualify in the top three at the circuit, both times being eliminated in Q2. Before he joined Mercedes, Bottas had never been out-qualified by a team-mate at Suzuka – but he is yet to beat Lewis Hamilton on a Saturday here during their time as team-mates.
🇩🇪 Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel led at least fifteen laps of the Japanese Grand Prix on all of his first five appearances at the Suzuka circuit. Since then, he has led just five laps at the track. For seven consecutive years, Vettel finished on the podium at Suzuka, winning four times and taking three third place finishes. In the last three years, he has scored twice, and suffered a retirement in 2017. Vettel took pole on every appearance at Suzuka between 2009 and 2012, but hasn’t qualified on the front row since 2013, though he did start from P2 in 2017. Vettel has a 100% Q3 appearance rate at Suzuka, with ninth being his worst qualifying attempt, in 2014 and 2018. The German clinched his second title at the track in 2011, which also happens to be the only time that Vettel has finished a race at Suzuka in a worse position than where he started.
🇲🇨 Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc retired from the Japanese Grand Prix on his first Suzuka appearance in 2018. He was eliminated in Q2, qualifying in eleventh place and out-quaifying Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson. He started from tenth on the grid, but his race came to an end with mechanical issues after ten laps.
🇳🇱 Max Verstappen
As it stands, Max Verstappen is the only driver in Formula 1 history to have scored points on every appearance at Suzuka. He’s finished on the podium in all of the last three years, with two runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017 and third place in 2018. 2015 is the only year that Verstappen has failed to reach the final part of qualifying here, and he has qualified in the top five in every year since. His best qualifying result came last year, when he lined up third on the grid. He also started third in 2016, but that was a result to other drivers’ grid penalties. Verstappen is yet to lose a position from where he started in any Japanese Grand Prix. Last year marked the first time he finished where he started.
🇹🇭 Alexander Albon
The 2019 Japanese Grand Prix will be Alexander Albon’s first appearance at Suzuka.
🇦🇺 Daniel Ricciardo
From his eight appearances at Suzuka, Daniel Ricciardo has finished on the podium once and has scored five times. He has a 100% finishing record at the track, with a best result of third in 2017. He’s finished in the top six in all of the last three years. Ricciardo had been on a streak of four Q3 appearances at the Japanese Grand Prix until last year, when an engine failure meant he was unable to compete in Q2. The Australian’s best qualifying position at the track is fourth in 2017, though he started from third thanks to grid penalties. 2016 and 2018 are the only years where Ricciardo has been out-qualified by a team-mate at this circuit. Meanwhile, 2015 and 2016 are the only years where Ricciardo has lost positions from where he started at the Japanese Grand Prix. He gained eleven places in last year’s race.
🇩🇪 Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg’s career so far at the Japanese Grand Prix has been book-ended by DNFs in his first appearance in 2010 and in his last two appearances. Aside from those three retirements, in the five races where he’s crossed the finish line, Hulkenberg has never failed to finish in the top eight at Suzuka. His best finish here is sixth, which he scored in both 2013 and 2015. Last season marked the first time that Hulkenberg has been eliminated in Q1 at Suzuka. He’s reached Q3 on four occasions, most recently in 2016 (and only once in the last five seasons) and has a best qualifying position of seventh in 2013. Hulkenberg has gained at least one position in every race he has completed at the circuit.
🇫🇷 Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean was infamously called out by Mark Webber for being a ‘first lap nutcase’ after the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix. That was the only occasion where Grosjean has failed to finish a race at Suzuka. He’s scored points in four races at the track, including a podium finish in 2013. His best qualifying performance at the track also came in 2013, when he qualified in fourth position. He’s started from the second row of the grid twice – in 2012 and 2013. The Frenchman hasn’t been beaten by a team-mate in qualifying at this circuit since 2014, and has reached Q3 on five of his eight Japanese Grand Prix appearances. Grosjean has never been eliminated in Q2 at the circuit before, but has had three Q1 exits.
🇩🇰 Kevin Magnussen
From his four Japanese Grand Prix appearances, Kevin Magnussen has scored points only once with an eighth place finish in the 2017 race. He recorded his first DNF at Suzuka last year. Magnussen has not qualified in the top ten in Japan since his maiden season, when he lined up seventh on the grid. He’s started from twelfth in each of the last two years. 2014 is also the only season where the Dane has out-qualified a team-mate at this track. Magnussen has finished in a better position than where he started in each of the last two Japanese Grands Prix where he’s crossed the finish line.
🇪🇸 Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz has scored two points from his four appearances at the Japanese Grand Prix, with tenth place finishes in 2015 and 2018. He has suffered one DNF at the circuit, in 2017 on his final race appearance with Toro Rosso. The Spaniard is yet to reach Q3 at the track. Despite this, 2016 is the only season that he has failed to out-qualify his team-mate at the track. His best qualifying result here is twelfth in 2015 – though he started from tenth on the grid that year thanks to penalties for other drivers. Last year marked the first time that Sainz has gained positions from where he started at the Japanese Grand Prix.
🇬🇧 Lando Norris
Lando Norris drove at the Suzuka circuit for the first time last year, in Free Practice 1 for the Japanese Grand Prix with McLaren.
🇲🇽 Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez has taken three seventh place finishes in the past three years at the Japanese Grand Prix. From his eight appearances at Suzuka, he’s retired only once and has brought home points five times. His highest qualifying position here is sixth, in 2012 when he was driving for Sauber, though he lined up fifth on the grid in both that season and in 2017. The Mexican hasn’t beaten his team-mate in qualifying at Sukuza since 2016. Last year marked the first time that Perez has finished the Japanese Grand Prix in a better place than where he started it from since 2014.
🇨🇦 Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll hasn’t yet scored at Suzuka, having retired on his first appearance and finished seventeenth last season. The Canadian is also yet to reach Q3 at the track, with a best qualifying result of fourteenth in 2018. He out-qualified his team-mate at the circuit for the first time last year.
🇫🇮 Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen hasn’t stood on the podium at Suzuka since his epic win from seventeenth on the grid in 2005. Aside from his DNF in 2001, Raikkonen has finished below sixth only once at Suzuka during his career. He’s finished fifth in all of the last three seasons. Raikkonen has never qualified above third here, and has only qualified third once, in 2016. As a result of grid penalties, last year was the first time that Raikkonen started inside the top five at Suzuka since 2009. The only other time that he’s started within the top five was when he started from fourth in 2002. Raikkonen has a 100% Q3 appearance record at this track. Last year marked only the second time since his comeback to the sport that Raikkonen has out-qualified a team-mate at Suzuka. From his thirteen finishes here, 2014 and 2018 are the only times that Raikkonen has finished in a worse position than where he started.
🇮🇹 Antonio Giovinazzi
Antonio Giovinazzi is yet to race at Suzuka.
🇷🇺 Daniil Kvyat
Daniil Kvyat is yet to score a point at Suzuka from his three previous appearances at the track. His best finish here is eleventh, scored in 2014 with Toro Rosso. 2015 is the only season that Kvyat has qualified in the top ten at this circuit. Ironically, he crashed in Q3 and started from the back as a result. His last Japanese Grand Prix appearance in 2016 is the only occasion that Kvyat has out-qualified a team-mate at the track. Kvyat has a 100% finish rate at the event and is yet to lose a position in the races.
🇫🇷 Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly raced at Suzuka in Super Formula in 2017. He finished tenth in the first round of the season. Suzuka was scheduled to hold the final two rounds of the Super Formula season too, for which Gasly missed the 2017 U.S. Grand Prix, but the races were cancelled due to the weather conditions. Gasly is yet to score points at Suzuka in his first two F1 appearances at the track. He finished thirteenth in 2017 and eleventh in 2018. Gasly reached Q3 at the track for the first time last year, qualifying in seventh place. Gasly is yet to out-qualify a team-mate at this track.
🇵🇱 Robert Kubica
From his three previous Suzuka appearances, Robert Kubica is yet to score a point at the circuit. He finished ninth at the track in 2006 and 2009, and failed to finish on his latest appearance at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2010. Kubica has qualified in the top ten only once here, in 2010, when he qualified fourth and lined up third on the grid. That’s the only time he’s out-qualified a team-mate at this circuit.
🇬🇧 George Russell
George Russell has no past experience at Suzuka.
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Nicky Haldenby is a freelance writer from Scarborough, England. After graduating from the University of Hull in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its fourth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations, and sister site GPDestinations, where he shares regular race previews and articles focussed around the latest in Formula 1 calendar and venue news. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky can also be heard regularly as a guest on various Formula 1 radio shows and podcasts.