Where’s the best place to start the Japanese Grand Prix from? Here are which grid slots have had favourable, and not so favourable, fortunes at the Suzuka Circuit!
THE STATS IN BRIEF:
- Pole has won last 3 races
- No wins from second row
- 8th has scored in all last nine races
- 14th has had most DNFs
- 16th has retired in last two years
- 18th only ever scored one point
The polesitter has won all of the last three Japanese Grands Prix and all of the last ten races at the track have been won from the front row of the grid. The pole to win conversion rate here is exactly 50%, with the polesitter being victorious in fifteen of the thirty races held here so far. The polesitter has finished on the podium in all but one of the last eighteen races at the track, with Ralf Schumacher starting from pole but finishing only eighth in 2005. Pole has provided more podium finishes than any other grid slot here but, strangely, Sebastian Vettel’s third place is the only time the polesitter has finished in third place at Suzuka.
There have been only four DNFs for a polesitter at Suzuka. The last driver to start from pole and fail to finish at Suzuka was Michael Schumacher back in 1998. His race was dogged with bad luck, having started from the back of the pack after stalling on the formation lap. He climbed through the field in the race but was forced to retire after picking up a puncture. Title rival Mika Hakkinen won the race and claimed his first World Championship as a result. Aside from DNFs, both Ayrton Senna in 1989 and Jacques Villenueve in 1997 started from pole and were disqualified. Senna was controversially disqualified for using an escape road to rejoin the race after colliding with title rival Alain Prost, while Villeneuve had been relegated to the back of the field for ignoring yellow flags. Williams appealed the decision and the Canadian started from the front, but was later disqualified.
LUCKY GRID POSITIONS:
The driver starting from eighth on the grid at Suzuka has scored points in all of the last nine races. Aside from pole, that’s the longest active streak of points-scoring races for a grid position at this track. Furthermore, in all of those races, Felipe Massa’s tenth place finish in 2017 is the only time a driver starting here has failed to gain places during the races. The best finish for a driver starting here during that time is fourth, for Jenson Button in 2012 and for Fernando Alonso in 2013, while the grid slot has also scored one podium finish, all the way back in 1990 when Roberto Moreno finished as runner-up.
The ninth grid slot has had eight consecutive Japanese Grands Prix without a DNF. During that time, the grid slot has had five points-scoring races, including a podium finish for Sebastian Vettel, who finished third in 2014.
Thirteenth on the grid has had four points-scoring finishes in the last five Suzuka races, the best of those being Nico Hulkenberg’s sixth place finish for Force India in 2014. The position has had only one DNF in the last eight seasons, and Martin Brundle took a podium having started thirteenth in 1992.
Strangely, no win at Suzuka has come from the second row of the grid. Nevertheless, fourth is still a pretty good place to start from, having giving podium finishes in three of the last six Japanese Grands Prix. Damon Hill, who spun off in the 1995 race, is the last driver to have started from fourth here and failed to finish. Since 1996, Olivier Panis’ tenth place finish in 2003 is the only time a driver starting from fourth has failed to score.
UNLUCKY GRID POSITIONS:
This is a grid slot which you could place in either ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’. The positive news for the driver starting here is that there have been no retirements from this grid slot since Jarno Trulli in 1999. Since then, it has had two podium finishes – both third places, and both for David Coulthard in 2001 and 2003. However, in recent years, points-scoring races from this grid slot have been few. In the last five seasons, Sergio Perez’s seventh place in 2017 is the only time the driver starting seventh has scored.
In each of the last two seasons, the driver starting from sixteenth on the grid has retired from the Japanese Grand Prix. Both Marcus Ericsson and Nico Hulkenberg have suffered retirements from the grid slot in the past two years, while Felipe Nasr’s retirement in 2015 makes it three DNFs in the last four years for the driver starting sixteenth. In the 30 races at the track, the grid slot has only scored once. Fernando Alonso took third on the podium in 2005 having started from here.
Fourteenth has had more DNFs than any other grid slot in the top twenty at Suzuka. There have been thirteen retirements from this position and, while the driver starting here has at least finished all of the last four races here, the grid slot has not given a points-scoring finish since Esteban Gutierrez finished seventh in 2013.
In 2010, Sebastien Buemi finished in tenth place and scored one point having started from eighteenth on the grid at Suzuka. It’s the only time the driver starting here has picked up a point. The grid slot has suffered eight retirements and two non-starts. The best result from the position is eighth on three occasions, though all before the finishing position offered any points. Philippe Streiff, Maurício Gugelmin and Christian Fittipaldi all finished eighth having started eighteenth in 1988, 1991 and 1994 respectively.
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its sixth 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 Motorsport Guides. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast.