Japanese GP: Preview - McLaren


Fernando Alonso: "I love Suzuka - it's one of the best tracks of the year. I've had some great memories there - 2006 is a personal highlight - and I love spending time in Japan. This year I'll finally be able to get used to the time zone, as I'll be there for two weeks, one week in Suzuka and one in Fuji. I'm looking forward to it and also to visiting Tokyo, where I'll try to spend as many days as possible between racing.

"The fans are the most incredible thing about Suzuka. They are amazing, even from Thursday when we have our media day and we go to the grandstands for the autograph signing, we see so many fans. They're at the hotel, the train station - everywhere we go there are a lot of passionate Japanese fans.

"Equally, it wouldn't be fair to say it's only the fans that make the circuit so special. It's great because it's very demanding, and perfect for Formula 1 cars. You can use all the potential of these cars and their aerodynamic performance as they match perfectly with the corners at Suzuka. The first sector is quite impressive, and when everything works well and you're confident in the car you can really push through the Esses. The g-forces and the feelings you get when you race there are quite amazing. As drivers, we love the speed - even when it's flat-out it's still enjoyable."

Stoffel Vandoorne: "In terms of the pure satisfaction of driving a Formula 1 car, I think Suzuka is up there as one of the greatest circuits in the world.

"Of course, as a Belgian driver, I'd always put Spa-Francorchamps up there too, but Suzuka is just as much fun - and it's probably a more difficult place to master than Spa.

"It's one of those places which doesn't just have a single, unique corner, or characteristic: the first-sector Esses are hugely challenging; the Degners are extremely fast and unforgiving; and Spoon is a real, old-school corner that constantly invites over-commitment. Every lap requires you to raise your game.

"And the whole Japanese Grand Prix experience is always surreal and fantastic. I learnt from my season in Super Formula that the Japanese fans are super-passionate about motorsport, and the Suzuka weekend just overflows with positivity and fun. I'm really looking forward to it."

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "The Japanese Grand Prix is one of Formula 1's iconic races, and Suzuka is one of motorsport's greatest circuits. It's also a place where some of McLaren's greatest moments took place.

"We head to Japan after a tricky weekend in Russia, but the work undertaken there to gain a better understanding of the car was encouraging, and will all feed back into the design and preparation of next year's programme.

"Suzuka is extremely demanding on the whole package, stressing both mechanical and aerodynamic grip, but we're hoping for a more productive and competitive weekend overall."

Focus Points

Toughest corner: Turn 15, also known as 130R. This 130-degree left-hander was eased in 2003 and it's now taken flat-in-eighth gear, at 318km/h (198mph). It's the fastest corner on the lap and requires a lot of commitment from the drivers, especially when following another car in the race, because the best overtaking point on the lap follows shortly afterwards.

High-speed corners: Only one of Suzuka's 18 corners is taken at less than 100km/h (62mph), so the engineering focus is on creating a stable car that's capable of high-speed changes of direction. To help facilitate this, the cars run very stiff suspension.

Unique difficulty: Suzuka is the only racetrack in F1 to feature a figure-of-eight layout. It has 10 right-handers and eight left-handers, and given the high-speed nature of the corners it's very physically demanding. But that isn't the only unique difficulty: the track features the only downhill start of the season, meaning the drivers have to apply the brake to ensure they don't jump the start.

Engineer's lowdown

Braking: This is one of the least demanding tracks of the season for brakes - on a par with Silverstone and Interlagos. Only 10 per cent of the lap is spent braking and of the 10 braking zones, four are considered to be of medium severity, with six of them light.

Power: The cars use 1.7kg of fuel per lap, which is average.

Aero: Medium downforce. Only one corner on the lap is taken at less than 100km/h (62mph), with the majority of corners taken at speeds in excess of 200km/h (124mph). There's also a period of full throttle that lasts more than 15s, all of which forces the teams towards a medium downforce set-up.

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Published: 02/10/2018
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