Designed by Dutchman John Hugenholtz in the 1960s as a test track for Honda, the original drawings saw the track pass over and under itself a full three times. The first sector is considered one of the most challenging tests a driver can face. The snaking corners of the Esses demanding maximum speed and no rest in concentration.
“Suzuka is a proper old-school track.”The words of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen have been echoed by many. “Old-school track” is a phrase F1 drivers reserve for the most sacred of circuits. Those venues that not only test the physical and mental side of a competitor but also brings the joy and excitement levels of a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for the big guy to arrive.
And nowhere does adrenaline-fuelled, brightly-coloured madness quite like Suzuka. A dynamic track will always yield dynamic results. The Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost title-decider crashes of ’89 and ’90 will live long in the memory as two of the most shocking moments the sport has ever seen.
Then there was the Williams of Damon Hill giving ‘regenmeister’ Michael Schumacher and his Benetton a wet-weather lesson to keep the title excitement pumping in 1994.
In 2012, Kamui Kobayashi delivered the first Japanese podium on home soil since Aguri Suzuki in 1990, holding off the McLaren of Jenson Button by just half a second. The crowd that day went crazy for a home-grown boy done good.
Then again, these fans will go bonkers for just about anyone…
We’ve already seen Max Verstappen’s orange army out in force this season. The tifosi were decked out in Ferrari merch in their thousands at Monza. Union Jack flags and ‘Hammertime 44’ banners were draped across any spare section of Silverstone. In Japan? Even the backmarkers are made to feel like rock stars.
Little kiddies clad head-to-toe as Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin? Put your money on it. Paddleboards adorned with Brendon Hartley’s face and covered in love hearts? Dead cert. A paper mache hat of Charles Leclerc celebrating his sixth-place finish in Baku earlier this year? This is Suzuka, it’ll probably happen.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are both tied with four wins at the Japanese circuit, although all of Vettel’s victories came in quick succession between 2009-2013 for Red Bull.
The German has yet to take a chequered flag in a Ferrari and last year, his bid for a historic fifth title was well and truly buried in Japan following a retirement after four laps to gift Hamilton a 59-point advantage.
Source: BBC News