Formula One

Japanese GP track layout, turns and DRS zones analysed

F1 Japanese GP layout Suzuka Circuit
Photo by Icon sport

Fresh off the Singapore GP, F1 continues its Asian leg in Japan. Join us for a lap around the legendary Suzuka Circuit, the Japanese GP layout. Don’t forget to also check out our F1 predictions, as well as the odds available for this weekend.

Japanese GP layout: Fast, challenging and unforgiving

Suzuka Circuit is loved by fans and drivers alike. While the track doesn’t offer a lot of overtaking spots, its fast and twisty nature, along with the short, grassy runoffs that leave no room for errors, have made the legendary Japanese GP layout an F1 favorite.

The lap starts down the long front straight. Still at maximum speed, the drivers take the turn 1 right-hander  flat out, and then immediately step on the brakes to set up for turn 2 – a wide radius right-hander that progressively tightens up.

Exiting turn 2, the cars then head over to the iconic Esses, a long, snaking sequence of four corners in quick succession. The first one, turn 3, is a left-hander that is taken flat out. It is followed by a tiny lift of the throttle for 4 and 5, a right-left sequence. Turn 6, the final one, is a long right-hander that requires a light tap on the brakes.

Next comes the challenging Dunlop corner, a fast uphill left-hander with absolutely no room for errors. While this corner is taken flat out by the F1 cars thanks to their high downforce, Dunlop is considerably trickier onboard sportscars and touring cars.

A short straight connects Dunlop to the Degner curves. Degner 1 is a short right-hander that is taken almost flat out. Degner 2 is a tight right-hander, and one of the few corners around Suzuka that actually requires drivers to slam the brake pedal. The curb on the outside of Degner can suck the car in, and send it straight to the wall.

After Degner 2, the cars head down a short straight, and continue flat out through turn 10, which is simply a short flick to the right. Then, it’s hard on the brakes for turn 11, a left-hander, slightly uphill hairpin.

The drivers then get to catch a bit of a breather through the next section, which includes turn 12 – a long right-hander that is also taken flat out. After the brief rest, turn 13 brings them back to the harsh reality. Drivers must brake as late as they dare to take the medium speed left-hander, which leads them to the famous Spoon corner – a long, off-camber left-hander that can easily catch people out.

Then comes another long straight line section, which leads to the legendary 130R, the most famous corner in the Japanese GP layout. Taken at neck-breaking speed, 130R is a very short left-hander that has the cars on the edge of their grip. It requires every last ounce of downforce out of the F1 machines. With enough courage, you can brave a move around the outside.

A short straight leads to the final sequence of corners, the Casino Triangle. Drivers brake as close to the 50-meter board as possible before taking the tricky left-right chicane with tall curbs and a slightly off-camber final leg. Drivers then must pick up the throttle carefully for turn 18, another off-camber corner that leads back to the front straight. Even the slightest mistake around this corner can rocket the car off to the outside wall.

Suzuka Circuit DRS zones: Keeping things old-school

Suzuka is an old-school circuit, and its lack of DRS zones shows it. The solitary DRS zone is located on the main straight, with the detection point right at the exit of turn 18. Drivers can use this DRS zone to set up a move into turn 1, which is one of the few overtaking spots around the fast and twisty Japanese GP layout.

Suzuka racing history

1987Gerhard BergerGerhard Berger
1988Ayrton SennaAyrton Senna
1989Ayrton SennaAlessandro Nannini
1990Ayrton SennaNelson Piquet
1991Gerhard BergerGerhard Berger
1992Nigel MansellRiccardo Patrese
1993Alain ProstAyrton Senna
1994Michael SchumacherDamon Hill
1995Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
1996Jacques VilleneuveDamon Hill
1997Jacques VilleneuveMichael Schumacher
1998Michael SchumacherMika Hakkinen
1999Michael SchumacherMika Hakkinen
2000Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
2001Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
2002Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
2003Rubens BarrichelloRubens Barrichello
2004Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
2005Ralf SchumacherKimi Raikkonen
2006Felipe MassaFernando Alonso
2009Sebastian VettelSebastian Vettel
2010Sebastian VettelSebastian Vettel
2011Sebastian VettelJenson Button
2012Sebastian VettelSebastian Vettel
2013Mark WebberSebastian Vettel
2014Nico RosbergLewis Hamilton
2015Nico RosbergLewis Hamilton
2016Nico RosbergNico Rosberg
2017Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2018Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2019Sebastian VettelValtteri Bottas
2022Max VerstappenMax Verstappen

Suzuka joined the F1 schedule in 1987, replacing the historic Fuji circuit. It was briefly replaced by the redesigned Fuji track in 2007 and 2008, before returning in 2009. After a brief absence because of the pandemic, F1 returned to Japan last year.

Suzuka traditionally hosted the penultimate or the final round of the calendar, and as such, saw plenty of title deciders. In 1989 and 1990, the Japanese GP had two of the most infamous title deciders in F1 history.

In 1989, Prost intentionally crashed into Senna at the Casino Triangle. While the Frenchman retired on the spot, the Brazilian was able to continue. Senna went on to win the race, but was later disqualified in controversial fashion, as the previous year’s champion  was deemed to have cut the corner following his collision with Prost. Following Senna’s DQ, the Frenchman secured the title with one race to spare.

Senna then got his payback the following year, causing an equally controversial high-speed collision into turn 1 with his former teammate. With both drivers out on the spot, Senna won the championship.

In 1999, Mika Hakkinen outdueled Ferrari duo Schumacher and Eddie Irvine, beating the Northern Irishman to secure his second F1 title. The following year, Schumacher held off his McLaren rival and claimed his third world championship title, the first of his record-setting five consecutive championships with Ferrari.

In 2005, with the title already decided in Fernando Alonso’s favor, Kimi Raikkonen put on a show. The points runner-up started last, but methodically picked his way up the order before pulling off the winning move on race-long leader Giancarlo Fisichella at the start of the final lap.

In 2014, under torrential rain, F1 had its most recent fatal accident. Jules Bianchi slid off the road and crashed into a track-side vehicle. The Frenchman was placed into an induced coma, and unfortunately succumbed to his injuries nine months later, in July 2015.

Last year, Max Verstappen sealed his second world championship with a win under the rain. In a red-flagged and shortened race, the Dutchman secured the title with four races to spare after Charles Leclerc picked up a five-second penalty for cutting the Casino Triangle on the final lap while defending from Sergio Perez.

What lies ahead for 2023

Verstappen and Red Bull will probably come out swinging. Having had its shot at a perfect season denied in Singapore, Red Bull will be in far more familiar territory around the high-speed, downforce-reliant Suzuka Circuit. Expect the Austrian team to come back with a vengeance.

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