Japan has a strong link with Formula 1, with many dramatic World Championship deciders taking place in the Asian country – particularly the success of Britons James Hunt and Damon Hill.
Many drivers love the trip to Japan for, if nothing else, the atmosphere created by the fans, who pack the grandstands from the very first minutes of Friday practice all the way to the podium ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
Add in a circuit filled with fast, flowing corners, and you’re on to a winner, as former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi explains.
“Japan is one of my favourite circuits and favourite countries: it has everything,” said Alesi. “A bit like Spa or Monza, Suzuka is a really thrilling track for any driver to compete on, as it has a fantastic flow and so many high-speed corners. But it’s not just that: there is also a brilliant atmosphere because the Japanese spectators are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable: they are really crazy for Formula One!”
An element of racing in Japan that the teams will have to contend with is the ever-changeable weather, with sudden downpours not to be unexpected.
“I had a fantastic battle with Nigel Mansell and ended up on the podium in downpour conditions; Damon Hill won the race,” remembers Alesi. “This is the sort of rain that you can get in Japan from time to time, and that provides another aspect to the challenge. My career has taken in many different types of tyre regulations – from qualifying tyres to grooved tyres – and anything up to three pit stops is fine, in my view. Beyond three it might start to get confusing, but that has only happened so far on one or two occasions, which is a pretty good record.”
Pirelli have announced they will be bringing the hard and medium compound tyres to Suzuka, with 130R, the fastest corner on the F1 calendar, expected to play its part in a very demanding race for tyres.