The Japanese Grand Prix has a long and storied history. A winding ribbon of tarmac, the Suzuka circuit is not for the feint hearted. With 18 corners that flow together quickly, there is very little time for rest. Setting up your car correctly is vital here, with the winding S curves at the start of the lap and then the tricky Degners and Spoon toward the end of the lap. You need great balance for all the corners but straight line speed cannot be ignored due to the flat out run through 130R.
The aerodynamics need to be pretty balanced for Suzuka. You can’t add too much to help through the corners otherwise you’ll be far too slow through the straights, and if you take too much away you will struggle to get into the corners, especially the tricky braking zones through turn 1 and into the hairpin at turn 11. The 6-5 set up gives you enough downforce without compromising straight line speed.
The transmission part of the setup is all about how the power gets transferred through the rear tyres and into the tarmac. With all the slow corners, getting the power down and accelerating out of them is very important. We have locked up the on throttle differential to 85 percent to increase traction, but too much will wear the tyres, and they already take a beating around Suzuka. The off throttle differential is unlocked a little to 73 percent just to help us get into the corners and allow the tyres to rotate more freely under braking.
This part is all about how the tyres are aligned to the body of the car. Camber is the vertical alignment of the tyres, and all F1 cars are always setup with negative camber, meaning the top of the tyre is closer to the body of the car than the bottom is. This helps with cornering grip, but also causes more tyre wear. In order to have the tyres survive a stint we are taking some camber off the tyres. This costs us grip, but we’re going to get some responsiveness back later.
Toe is the horizontal alignment, with front tyres set to toe out (the front of the tyre is further away from the car than the rear). This adds responsiveness to the car but again at the cost of tyre wear. As a result we are leaving the front toe alone. Rear tyres are set to toe in to provide stability under acceleration, which we like given how frequently we are getting the power down at awkward angles, so we are adding a touch of rear toe.
The suspension set up is really the key to finding pace around Suzuka. With so many changes of direction at speed we need a very stiff set up so that the car responses to us. The 11-5 setting is quite extreme, but it gives us excellent responsiveness through the S curves and allows weight to move rearward under acceleration, aiding traction.
The anti-roll bars are similarly biased toward the front, with the 10-6 setting making the car extremely pointy while letting the rear weight move more easily and so letting us get the power down. All of these wears the tyres, which is why our geometry was so conservative. It will also make some of the bumps and bigger kerbs, such as at the final chicane, a little tricky, but you can lose so much time in the S curves if the car doesn’t respond well so you have to make those sacrifices.
Ride height is set to 4-4 so we can reduce drag down the straights again and help us with the top speed that we may otherwise be lacking.
A higher brake pressure reduces stopping distance, but it also increases the chances of lockups. For Suzuka there is one huge braking zone at the final chicane which is also the best overtaking spot on the lap, but you also have a tricky braking zone into turn 2 and have to get the car stopped in a very short space for the hairpin of turn 11. As a result we have gone with an 85 percent setting.
Brake bias is set a little rearward to help create some oversteer and look after the front tyres a bit more.
Tyre pressure have been increased in both the front and rear tyres to improve responsiveness. This does increase wear once again, but with the savings we have made in the geometry set up we can afford to tax them a little more here. 23.8psi on the fronts and 21.9psi on the rears really helps get the car into corners and reduces rolling resistance on the straights.
The ballast is set to 7 to help create better traction and some oversteer. There is very little need to ever move it from 7 for most circuits this year.
So that is our setup for Suzuka. It is perhaps the biggest challenge in F1 2018 for drivers. There are no barriers to scare you into braking early but also very few runoff areas that don’t severely punish you. There are more gravel traps than most tracks, and with elevation changes, bumps, and very technical sectors it is as unrelenting a circuit as you are likely to find. This setup provides the ability to one-stop for a race while also giving enough single lap pace to compete in qualifying if you nail your lap time. See you on the time sheets!
Japanese Grand Prix Wet Setup
Front Wing: 7
Rear Wing: 8
On Throttle: 65%
Off Throttle: 75%
Front Camber: -3.10
Rear Camber: -1.40
Front Toe: 0.11
Rear Toe: 0.38
Front Suspension: 7
Rear Suspension: 6
Front Anti-Roll Bar: 6
Rear Anti-Roll Bar: 5
Front Ride Height: 5
Rear Ride Height: 6
Brake Pressure: 83%
Front Brake Bias: 56%
Front Tyre Pressure: 23.0 psi
Rear Tyre Pressure: 21.1 psi
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