[2018-Nen F 1 sekai senshuken dai 17-sen Suzuka kokusai resukosu (2018-nen Nihon GP) e yokoso!]
Welcome to the Suzuka International Racing Course for Round 17 of the 2018 Formula One Championships - the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix!
It’s back-to-back GP weekends and we’re off to the Mie Prefecture on Japan’s main island of Honshu for the 33rd running of the Japanese F1 Grand Prix. Home to all but 4 of those races has been the Honda home circuit: The Suzuka International Racing Course.
After the unexpectedly mediocre performance of Ferrari in Russia last weekend, and a little bit of trading places with his teammate, Lewis Hamilton now has a 50 point lead over Sebastian Vettel in the World Drivers’ Championship. In the World Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes have 53 points over Ferrari. And with Merc having won the last 4 consecutive Japanese GPs (3 by Hamilton) and Lewis having won the last 3 races this season, the Brit in the Silver Arrows car is the firm form favorite to take to the top step on the podium again on Sunday.
Racing in Japan happens in the afternoon, which means early morning action for Saffers - really early if you want to catch the practice sessions! Here’s the weekends’ schedule of times:
Suzuka is known as a challenging but exciting circuit for drivers. Here’s a reminder of the layout:
(There’s another of those long-standing Lap Records from the 2004-2005 era just waiting to be broken this weekend. If it stays dry during the race, expect it to tumble.)
And a little visual tour with a virtual lap driven by the amiable Estaban Ocon:
In the dry Pirelli’s yellow-banded Soft and red-banded Supersoft tyres will dominate, although teams do have a handful of white-walled Mediums as back-up:
Weather, and especially rain, has always been a factor at the Japanese GP. Senna and Prost dueled in the rain at Suzuka in 1988, Hill and Schumacher did the same in a torrential downpour in 1995. 2007 saw the race in Fiji start behind the Safety Car as rain bucketed down for the first 19 laps of the race.
And, sadly, heavy rain from Typhoon Phanfone played a part back at Suzuka in 2014. Initially starting from behind the SC, the race was stopped after 2 laps and restarted 20 minutes later. On the 43rd lap of the race Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia at Dunlop Curve and collided with a tractor crane that was tending to Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, which had spun off on the previous lap. Bianchi’s 9-month coma and subsequent death were a direct result of the severe head injuries he sustained in the crash.
That’s a pretty long-winded (and slightly morbid - sorry) way for me to tell you that there might well be rain around the Suzuka circuit again this weekend…
Rain can make racing very exciting, but it can also make things very dangerous. Let’s hope that if it does rain on Sunday we get lots of the first, and none of the second.
To round things off, here’s some stats and info points to consider as you dunk another rusk into your Sunday morning coffee and laugh quietly as Martin Brundle gets ignored by Kimi on the Grid Walk:
- Mercedes have won the Japanese Grand Prix every year since the beginning of the hybrid era in 2014, and will be looking to match Ferrari’s record of the highest number of consecutive wins in Suzuka. The Prancing Horse achieved five between 2000 and 2004.
- A win for the Silver Arrows or Red Bull this weekend would make them the third most successful team in Japan after Ferrari and McLaren, who have the most wins - nine.
- Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are tied on four wins each in Japan. A win for either would see them go to second on the all-time list for total wins in Japan behind Michael Schumacher (7).
- Should Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas finish in the top three this weekend, it will be the 175th time a Mercedes driver has finished on the Formula 1 podium.
- A win from pole this weekend would see Ferrari take their 100th win from pole position.
- If Kimi Raikkonen wins this weekend he will surpass Mika Hakkinen as the most successful Finnish driver in terms of wins (20).
- A top-three finish for Daniel Ricciardo would mean his 30th visit to the Formula 1 podium.
- If Max Verstappen wins without earning a pole position this weekend, he will break the record for the highest number of wins for a driver who has never had a pole position. He is currently tied with Eddie Irvine and Bruce McLaren (4).
- Lance Stroll needs four more points to earn his 50th world championship point.
- If Sauber score six points or more this weekend it’ll take their points total in F1 to 850, including the BMW era.
Enjoy the race and thank you!
[Resu o tanoshimi, arigato!]