The Japanese Grand Prix is a prestigious event in the world of Formula One racing, known for its challenging and iconic tracks. Having made its debut in 1976 at the Fuji Speedway, the event has since become a significant fixture in the racing calendar, witnessing some of the most thrilling and memorable moments in Formula One history.
Since 1987, the Suzuka circuit has been the primary host of the Japanese Grand Prix, with its unique ‘figure of 8’ layout and the fearsome 130R corner. Over the years, the race has been a stage for numerous championship deciders, further adding to its reputation as an event that showcases the best of Formula One.
As of 2023, the Japanese Grand Prix continues to be a much-anticipated event in the Formula One World Championship. With a rich history of thrilling races and incredible performances, this prestigious event remains a highlight on the racing calendar for fans, drivers, and teams alike.
History of The Japanese Grand Prix
The Japanese Grand Prix is a prestigious event in the world of Formula One racing, taking place at the iconic Suzuka International Racing Course for most of the years since 1987. Known for its unique figure-eight layout and the challenging 130R corner, Suzuka has witnessed numerous memorable moments and championship deciders in the history of Formula One.
Before Suzuka became the primary host, the first Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix took place in 1976 at the Fuji Speedway. Situated in Oyama, Shizuoka, under the shadow of Mount Fuji, this demanding circuit played a significant role in Japanese racing history. The 1976 race gained notoriety for being the nail-biting finale that decided the World Championship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in monsoon conditions.
Although Fuji Speedway no longer holds Formula 1 Grand Prix races, it remains an important venue in Japan’s motorsports landscape. The circuit is managed by Toyota and has also hosted the Pacific Grand Prix, an event separate from the Japanese Grand Prix attended by teams from the Asia-Pacific region. These historical moments and countless others have solidified the reputation of the Japanese Grand Prix as a must-watch event for fans and drivers alike.
Throughout its history, the Japanese Grand Prix has been staged over 40 times, evolving into a cornerstone of the Formula 1 World Championship calendar. The competition continues to showcase the incredible talents and skills of the drivers, teams, and automotive innovation within the sport, reflecting Japan’s enduring passion for motorsports.
Race Format and Regulations
The Japanese Grand Prix takes place at the Suzuka Circuit, a unique ‘figure of 8’ layout that has been hosting the race since 1987, except for two years. It is an important event in the Formula 1 World Championship, often featuring decisive moments and memorable races.
The Suzuka Circuit has 53 laps, and like any other F1 race, it begins with qualifying sessions to determine the starting order. Qualifying consists of three parts: Q1, Q2, and Q3, where drivers aim to set the fastest lap times in each session. The slowest drivers are eliminated in Q1 and Q2, while the remaining drivers compete in Q3 for the pole position.
During the race, teams must adhere to specific regulations set by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), including sporting regulations, technical guidelines, and track limits. One such regulation is the red flag condition, which can be raised due to severe weather that often occurs in Japan that requires a temporary suspension of the race.
If a race is shortened under red flag conditions, the sporting regulations dictate how points are awarded. In cases where less than 75% of the race distance is completed, the points are halved. For instance, during the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix, only 28 of the 53 scheduled laps were completed, resulting in a rain-shortened race. The winner, Max Verstappen, secured his second World Championship title with a race win, followed by Sergio Pérez and Charles Leclerc.
The Race Weekend
The Japanese Grand Prix weekend begins with two practice sessions on Friday, September 22, 2023. The first practice session runs from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm local time, followed by the second practice session from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The third practice session takes place on Saturday, September 23, from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm local time, ahead of the qualifying session from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The race itself commences on Sunday, September 24, starting at 2:00 pm local time.
In addition to the main Formula 1 events, the race weekend also includes support races, providing fans with a full spectrum of motorsport action. Press conferences are held throughout the weekend, allowing drivers, team principals, and other key figures to discuss their performance, strategies, and expectations.
Special events are often organized during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, providing fans with unique experiences, such as opportunities to meet drivers, tour team garages, and participate in various activities around the Suzuka International Racing Course.
All Formula 1 sessions during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend can be viewed live on F1 TV.
For UK viewers, all sessions will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event, with Channel 4 broadcasting highlights of qualifying and the race. BBC Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra provide live radio coverage, available through the BBC Sport website and the BBC Sounds app.
The weather forecast for the Japanese Grand Prix weekend suggests sunny and warm conditions with a chance of rain on Friday, while the conditions for Saturday and Sunday are predicted to be dry with highs of 28 degrees Celsius on race day.
The Japanese Grand Prix has seen multiple notable winners in its history, with Michael Schumacher holding the record for the most wins at six, followed by Lewis Hamilton with five and Sebastian Vettel with four. As the F1 paddock converges on Suzuka, all eyes will be on the teams and drivers as they battle for supremacy on this challenging and prestigious circuit.
Where is the Japanese Grand Prix 2023?
The Japanese Grand Prix 2023 will be held at the Suzuka International Racing Course in Suzuka, Japan. This iconic track, designed by Dutchman John Hugenholtz, was built in 1962 by Soichiro Honda, the founder of the Honda car company. Suzuka made its debut on the Formula 1 calendar in 1987 and has since become one of the most revered racing tracks by both drivers and fans.
Circuit Information and Conditions
Suzuka International Racing Course has a total length of 5.807 km, requiring drivers to complete 53 laps to cover a race distance of 307.471 km. The lap record of 1:30.983 was set by Lewis Hamilton in 2019. The circuit is not designed by Hermann Tilke, unlike many of the modern tracks on the Formula 1 calendar. It is built in a unique ‘crossover’ layout, featuring an overpass that connects different sections of the track.
Suzuka is known for its challenging and high-speed sections that test the drivers’ skill and commitment. Notable sections of the track include the snaking ‘S’ curves, the two high-speed Degner corners, and the thrilling 130R, all of which are favorites among F1 drivers. Green flag conditions are essential for high-speed racing and require good weather conditions without any significant track incidents.
Fans visiting Suzuka can enjoy a variety of excellent viewing spots, such as:
- Grandstands D and E: Overlooking the ‘S’ curves, allowing spectators to appreciate the harmony of downforce and driver commitment through the sinuous turns.
- Grandstand G: Situated on the left flank of the 130R, offering an exciting vantage point to witness the cars taking the high-speed corner.
- Grandstand I: Providing a clear view of the Hairpin, a prime location for overtaking and on-track incidents.
In conclusion, the Japanese Grand Prix 2023 at the Suzuka International Racing Course promises to deliver a thrilling racing experience for both drivers and fans with its challenging track layout and numerous iconic corners.
Highlights of The 2022 Season
The 2022 Japanese Grand Prix was a decisive race in the Formula One season. Max Verstappen emerged as the winner with a time of 3:01:44.004, securing the world championship title in the process. He was followed by Sergio Perez, who finished +27.066 seconds behind, and Charles Leclerc, who completed the race +31.763 seconds after Verstappen.
The race took place in Suzuka from October 7th to 9th and had its share of drama. Wet weather conditions made for a challenging and truncated race, with drivers navigating through the rain-shortened event. The competition saw several key moments that ultimately determined the outcome of the championship.
A crucial point in the race was a late penalty for Charles Leclerc. His infraction resulted in a demotion that solidified Verstappen’s position and ultimately put the championship beyond reach. This turning point proved to be a determining factor in the final standings, as the victory awarded Verstappen the title he had been chasing throughout the season.
The 2022 Japanese Grand Prix was filled with suspense, excitement, and high-stakes racing, which contributed to an unforgettable Formula One season. As a landmark event, the race showcased the skill and determination of the drivers, ultimately crowning Max Verstappen as the world champion.
Homecoming For Yuki Tsunoda
For AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, the Japanese Grand Prix is an extra special event, as he gets the opportunity to race in front of his home crowd as well as family and friends.
“For the past two races, through no fault of my own, I haven’t got past the first lap, but I’ve reset my mind, ready to bounce back strong in Suzuka. Since arriving in Japan, we’ve been busy with various promotional events, getting a great welcome from the fans. I’m very much looking forward to this weekend. If I’m honest, I’ve actually been looking forward to it since the end of last year’s race! It’s definitely very special, and the way I felt there was completely different to all the other Grands Prix, with so much support from the fans there. It was incredible, and I can’t wait to be back there again. As an event, it will be the best of the year for me.
“I’ve been racing in Suzuka since 2016 in Formula 4, and so I’ll meet many people from my past there this weekend. There’ll be plenty of drivers I used to race against in Formula 4 who are now professional racing drivers based in Japan, competing in Super Formula and Super GT. We still have a good relationship, and I often do some online gaming with them. There are lots of people I would like to invite, but I can only bring a few of them into the paddock. I’m staying in Japan for a few more days after the race and am going to make time to meet friends outside of the racing weekend, which is better as I need to focus on my work during race week.
“It’s good for the whole team that Liam has experience at Suzuka, maybe even more than me in the higher categories. By this weekend, Liam will have raced in three Grands Prix, so he will have more knowledge, and we’re expecting a good team performance. The upgrades we introduced in Singapore seem to work, so maybe we can aim for the top ten or top eight. We need to score more points, and the entire team is working towards that goal, with everyone pushing each other forward to try and achieve it.”
Happy Hunting Ground For Max Verstappen
Japan is a happy hunting ground for Max Verstappen, as the Dutchman clinched his second World Championship at the Suzuka Circuit.
‘Following the race in Singapore, the Team is carrying a lot of momentum into Japan. I’m looking forward to racing in Suzuka, it’s always super fun to drive as it has a lot of high-speed corners. I also have very fond memories from the track there, from winning my second Drivers’ Championship, scoring a great Team result finishing 1-2 and even looking back to 2014 where I drove during FP1 for the first time. I’m spending a few days in Tokyo ahead of the weekend which should be fun and also help with the jet lag. We need to get everything right this weekend and of course, the target is to win,’ said Verstappen.
Mercedes Look To Close The Gap
Mercedes gave up some ground in the race for second in the 2023 Constructor’s Championship to Ferrari, and will be looking to increase the gap this weekend in Japan.
‘It was a thrilling Sunday night in Singapore. Although the result wasn’t quite what we were hoping for, there are plenty of positives we can take away. We were bold and aggressive with our strategy calls. The pace of the car all weekend was strong. We executed well as a team and gave it a real shot for victory as the racers we are.
‘It was a great drive to the podium from Lewis. He showed impressive pace throughout the race, especially the final stint. P3 was a deserved reward for his efforts. For George, he’d performed faultlessly all weekend. He was giving it absolutely everything in the search for victory. That’s absolutely what we want to see. It was a small mistake on the final lap and that will make it even more painful for him. I know he will bounce back strongly.
‘We have another race in just a few days’ time. Japan is always a unique event with very passionate fans. The track is incredibly challenging, and the drivers love racing on it. The margins were so close in Singapore, so we’ll be aiming for another competitive showing in Suzuka.
‘We lost some ground in the Constructors’ Championship to Ferrari at the last race. We are looking forwards not back, though. Our focus is on maximising the package we have and scoring as many points as possible. If we do so, I’m confident we can extend our advantage,’ said team boss Toto Wolff.
2023 Japanese Grand Prix: Fast Facts
- Suzuka holds the distinction of being the only circuit we race at that is laid out in a figure-of-eight configuration.
- After the Degner Curves, the circuit passes under the straight leading to 130R. Owing to this, it’s the only F1 track that runs both clockwise and anticlockwise.
- This figure-of-eight layout is beneficial for tyre wear. It creates a more even balance between left and right-hand corners (10 being right-handers and eight to the left), distributing load more equally between tyres.
- The first corner doesn’t require any braking on entry. In Qualifying, drivers don’t hit the brakes until the car is cornering at close to 5G.
- That helps to generate some of the highest steering wheel torques of the entire season.
- The vast majority of the first sector at Suzuka is spent cornering. From Turn 1 until the exit of Turn 7, the steering wheel is moving almost continuously for nearly 2km of the lap.
- Just 1.2 km of the lap is spent driving in a straight line. Most of the 5.807 kms sees some lateral g-force going through the car.
- The lack of straights also means that Suzuka is just one of four circuits on the calendar that has a solitary DRS zone.
- 130R is one of F1’s quickest corners, taken at 295 km/h. Turn 11 meanwhile is one of the slowest at 60 km/h.
- The braking zone for Turn 11 is particularly challenging. Drivers must hit the brakes midway through the fast Turn 10. They are cornering at close to 3.5G while turning right before the hairpin left. Lockups are therefore common.
- In contrast to Singapore, brakes have a slightly easier time at Suzuka. There are only two heavy braking events on the track. Brake duty and wear are therefore among the lowest we see across the year.
- Suzuka has one of the highest mass sensitivities of the season. That means that carrying more fuel is more penalising in terms of lap time and performance.
- Oracle Red Bull Racing have more than twice as many points as the second-placed team in the Constructors’ Championship and can win the title this weekend, if the Team outscore Mercedes by at least one point.
- Max Verstappen won the 2022 Drivers’ Championship at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. It followed a dominant victory and winning margin with Charles Leclerc incurring a five-second penalty for cutting the chicane on the final lap, dropping him to third and granting Max an unassailable points lead in the Championship.
- Max and Checo’s 1-2 finish at Suzuka last year was the Team’s first 1-2 at the track since Seb Vettel and Mark Webber finished on the top steps of the podium in 2013.
- Last year, Verstappen became only the 13th driver in history to win the Drivers’ Championship in consecutive seasons. Should Max win the 2023 title, he will only be the fifth driver to win a hat-trick of titles in consecutive years.
- Verstappen made his first race weekend appearance at the age of 17 years, three days when he drove for Toro Rosso in free practice at the 2014 Japanese GP, finishing the session 12th fastest. He then became the youngest ever driver to compete in Formula One in the following year.
- A front row start could be critical at Suzuka, with the winner only coming from below the front row once in the past 12 races held there (Valtteri Bottas from third in 2019).