Suzuka: The Ultimate Track Guide

Suzuka: The Ultimate Track Guide

Mastering the flowing nature of Suzuka requires an enormous attention to detail. The only figure of eight circuit on Formula One’s calendar is regarded as one of the most technically challenging of the year.


FIRST F1 RACE 1987
TRACK LENGTH 3.608 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 53
NUMBER OF TURNS 18
MOST POLES Michael Schumacher (8)
MOST WINS Michael Schumacher (6)

TRACK MAP

 


A SHORT HISTORY OF SUZUKA

The Suzuka circuit was built as a test track for Japanese manufacturer Honda in 1962. The circuit, which was designed by John Hugenholtz, is situated 30 miles south-west of Nagoya. While Honda tested their latest motorbikes and cars, the track was seen as too good to be used only for testing, and so racing began at the circuit. For its first years of existence, the track was used only for national events. Formula One ventured into Japan in the mid-seventies with a couple of races at Fuji, before the death of a marshal in the 1977 race put a halt to the sport’s tenure there. Suzuka was finally placed on the calendar in 1987.

The elevation change around the track is one of the factors which makes Suzuka such a demanding track. The drivers travel downhill into the long first bend, before ascending up through the esses. Near the end of the track – after the drivers have passed over the circuit in the only figure of eight layout on the calendar – the drivers hurtle into 130R, which is one of the fastest corners of the year, taken at just under 190mph, before the cars approach the final chicane – the slowest section of the track.

The circuit has been changed very little over the past thirty years, with just a few modifications. A chicane was added in 1983, before Formula One arrived, to slow cars down into the final corner. Additional safety barriers were also added around the track for more general safety standards. The Degner curve was also made into two corners instead of one long bend at this time too. It wasn’t until the turn of the new millennium that the track was changed again, with the chicane and 130R being slightly re-profiled in 2002, before more changes moved the chicane closer to 130R the following year.

In March 2006, it was announced that the Japanese Grand Prix would move from Suzuka back to its original venue, Fuji. The race was held there for 2007 and 2008, before being scheduled to alternate between Fuji and Suzuka for future seasons. The Grand Prix was scheduled to run at Fuji in 2010, but in early 2009 Toyota, who now owned the circuit, announced they would no longer hold the race due to the global economic slump. The Suzuka circuit closed for a year in 2008 when work was carried out to bring it back up to F1 standards after a three year absence from the calendar. The race has remained at Suzuka every year since 2009.

Many championships have been decided at this track over the years, due to it being close to the end of the season. The track is most famous for hosting the thrilling conclusions to one of the sport’s most memorable rivalries – Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, who collided here twice in consecutive years. Most recently, Sebastian Vettel won his second title here in 2011.

The track has seen its fair share of tragedy over the years, with nineteen lives lost at the circuit since it was built. The most recent, and only Formula One fatality at this track, was in 2014, when the popular Jules Bianchi collided with a recovery vehicle. A raft of changes have been made to the sport’s cockpit protection and recovery procedures since the Frenchman’s passing.

At the end of August 2018, the race organisers signed a new contract to keep Suzuka on the F1 calendar as the host of the Japanese Grand Prix until 2021.


🇯🇵 DID YOU KNOW?

There’s a theme park located on the same site as the Suzuka circuit, hence why you can clearly see a large Ferris Wheel and rollercoaster adjacent to the pit straight.


FAST FACTS

  • A Honda powered car has only won on two occasions in F1 at Suzuka – Ayrton Senna in 1988 and Gerhard Berger in 1991.
  • The F1 Drivers’ Championship has been settled at this track eleven times, more than any other circuit.
  • Kimi Raikkonen won from 17th on the grid here in 2005 – only two Grands Prix in the history of F1 have been won from further back.
  • The track has a maximum capacity of 155,000.
  • The track is one of the most narrow on the calendar, making overtaking a challenge.
  • In 1990 three million fans entered a draw to become one of 120,000 ticket holders for the Grand Prix. This was at the height Honda’s success as an engine supplier, and due to the fact that Japan had a driver in F1 for the first time.
  • Until 2009, every Grand Prix held here by was sponsored by Fuji Television.
  • The Degner curves are named so after Ernst Degner, who crashed at the corner in the circuit’s opening year. He survived the crash, despite suffering terrible burns.
  • Due to its location, severe weather is sometimes an issue here, with typhoons interrupting on-track action on numerous occasions.

🇯🇵 WHY WE LOVE SUZUKA

There’s lots to love about Suzuka. It’s narrow, and twisting and presents the drivers with one of the toughest challenges of the year.


POLESITTERS AT SUZUKA

Poles Driver
8 Michael Schumacher
4 Sebastian Vettel
3 Ayrton Senna
3 Nico Rosberg
2 Gerhard Berger
2 Jacques Villeneuve
2 Lewis Hamilton
1 Nigel Mansell
1 Alain Prost
1 Rubens Barrichello
1 Ralf Schumacher
1 Felipe Massa
1 Mark Webber

GRAND PRIX WINNERS AT SUZUKA

Year Winner Team
1987 Gerhard Berger Ferrari
1988 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda
1989 Alessandro Nannini Benetton-Ford
1990 Nelson Piquet Benetton-Ford
1991 Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda
1992 Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault
1993 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Ford
1994 Damon Hill Williams-Renault
1995 Michael Schumacher Benetton-Renault
1996 Damon Hill Williams-Renault
1997 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
1998 Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes
1999 Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes
2000 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2001 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2002 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2003 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari
2004 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2005 Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes
2006 Fernando Alonso Renault
2009 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2010 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2011 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2012 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2014 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2015 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2016 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2017 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2018 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes