The racetrack is unique in that it features a figure-eight layout with two levels of racing surfaces. The layout makes it the only F1 track that runs both clockwise and counterclockwise. It was designed in 1962 by Dutch car and racetrack designer John Hugenholz, originally as a test track for Honda, and was later converted into an F1 track in time for the 1987 season.
It’s a track of two halves, stretching 3.6 miles in length and featuring virtually every possible type of corner, from high-speed kinks to flowing linked turns and profiled curved bends and chicanes and hairpins. There aren’t many straights, though, which means Suzuka is just one of four racetracks on the calendar that has a single DRS zone.
There also aren’t many heavy braking zones or runoff areas, which makes it a real challenge for drivers. The narrow width also makes overtaking difficult. The best strategy is finding a good rhythm and having good aero balance.
The track surface is also among the roughest and most abrasive of the year, which means tire wear and degradation is on the high side. As a result, Pirelli has nominated its harder compounds for the weekend: C1 as the white hard, C2 as the yellow medium, and C3 as the red soft.
Suzuka is well-known for its variable weather, too, with typhoons possible at this time of year. However, the current forecast calls for warm and sunny conditions throughout the weekend.
After some practice on Friday, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen was the fastest, followed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris. AlphaTauri also confirmed that reserve driver Liam Lawson will once again fill in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo.
Going into Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race, Verstappen leads the 2023 Drivers’ Championship with 374 points. Fellow Red Bull driver Sergio Perez is second with 223 points and Mercedes-Benz AMG’s Lewis Hamilton is third with 180 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull leads with 597 points. Mercedes is second with 289 points and Ferrari is third with 265 points. Last year’s winner in Japan was Verstappen driving for Red Bull.
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