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Japanese Grand Prix 2017: Circuit and strategy preview

RealSport takes a look at one of the sport's historic tracks, and the strategy options heading into a vital weekend in the championship.


Since its introduction in 1987, Suzuka has become a regular feature of the Formula 1 calendar, and a favourite amongst fans across the globe. It is deemed one of F1’s most challenging circuits, due to a variety of high-speed corners, as well as some tight and twisty turns, which test the drivers’ ability to the maximum. 

The 5.807km clock-wise circuit consists of average speeds in excess of 140mph, making it one of Formula 1’s fastest and most loveable tracks. Drivers will have to be at the top of their game going into Sunday’s race, with immense focus needed to navigate Suzuka’s 19 corners and 53 laps. 

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Overtaking opportunities 

The track’s first corner presents arguably the best overtaking opportunity on the circuit, especially considering that this is where drivers will potentially have DRS assistance. The detection point for the Drag Reduction System is just before the chicane at turn 16, and combined with a slipstream, DRS can be quite effective in helping drivers to overtake into the first right-hander. 

Another common overtaking zone comes after one of the sports most infamous corners, 130R. This incredibly high-speed left hander is easily the circuit’s fastest corner, and it often proves a great spectacle, as drivers are sometimes side by side due to the lengthy straight prior to it. Overtaking at 130R would be a huge risk, which is why drivers tend to opt to perform their manoeuvre into the final chicane that closely follows the high speed turn. 

Strategies

Suzuka is a track where tyre degradation is notoriously high, so many were expecting Pirelli to bring the hard compound tyre to Japan, as was the case last season. Instead, they have opted for softer compounds than last year, offering the supersoft, soft, and medium to teams in 2017. This perhaps doesn’t come as much of a surprise since Pirelli have increased the durability of their compounds this season, so the hard compound of last season is essentially the medium compound this season.

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 As was the case in Malaysia, McLaren have been the most aggressive once again in terms of tyre selection, opting for 10 supersoft compounds for both of their drivers. The Red Bulls have also been combative, along with Renault and Sauber, who have chosen 9 sets of the red-mark compound.

These teams are likely to struggle to make a one-stop strategy work, which may already be a tough ask going into the race. A two-stop approach seems like it will be the one which most teams adopt, as was the case in last year’s grand prix. However, the two championship challengers have both been relatively conservative in their tyre selection, so definitely don’t count out the prospect of teams at least attempting to complete the race with just the one pit stop.

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Shwuaib Malik

A 19 year old undergraduate with an affection for Formula 1, who hopes some may enjoy reading his insignificant opinions.

Japanese Grand Prix 2017: Circuit and strategy preview

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