LOOKING AHEAD TO JAPAN

Our official race previews are your guide for every lap of every race in 2017.
Hear from the team, drivers and management as we prepare for round 16 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the Suzuka International Racing Course.
Follow McLaren TEAMStream for all the build-up to the Japanese Grand Prix.

LOWDOWN

Race title 2017 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix
Circuit name Suzuka International Racing Course
First race 1987
Previous winners
2016 Nico Rosberg, 53 laps, 1:26:43.333s
2015 Lewis Hamilton
2014 Lewis Hamilton
History lesson Suzuka was built by the Honda Motor Company in 1962. Its innovative figure-of-eight design was the brainchild of Dutchman John Hugenholtz and the layout has changed little over the years. The biggest alterations came in the early ’80s, when a chicane was added at the end of the lap and the Degner curve was made into two separate corners. This year’s race is the 29th Japanese Grand Prix to be staged at the track

TRAVEL

City Suzuka
Time zone BST+8/CET+7
Population 200,000
How far? Suzuka is 9,590km (5,959 miles) from the McLaren Technology Centre
Getting there With the Japanese Grand Prix taking place a week after Malaysia, time is of the essence. The team is catching a charter flight from Kuala Lumpur to Nagoya on the Monday between the two races; it will then travel from Nagoya to the hotel in Suzuka by coach
Surprising fact More than 70 per cent of Japan is mountainous. The landscape includes more than 200 volcanoes, the highest of which is Mount Fuji (3,776 metres). Situated at the base of Mt Fuji is Fuji Speedway, which staged the Japanese Grand Prix in 1976/’77 and 2007/’08
Local speciality Japan has more Michelin-starred restaurants than France, so it will come as no surprise that there are many culinary delights awaiting fans. Traditional Japanese cuisine is based around rice with miso soup; to make miso, all you need is some cubed tofu, soy sauce, miso paste and spring onions
Weather Average daytime temperatures in October are 21 degrees and there’s a 35 per cent chance of rain. Humidity is relatively high, making this a tough physical challenge for the drivers

TRACK

Track length 5.807km/3.608 miles (5th longest track of the year – longest: Spa-Francorchamps, shortest: Monaco)
2016 pole position Nico Rosberg, 1m30.647s
2016 fastest lap Sebastian Vettel 1m35.118s (lap 36)
Lap record 1:31.540s (Kimi Raikkonen, 2005)
Tyre choice Red Supersoft, yellow Soft and white Medium compounds – the eighth time this combination has been used in 2017
Distance to Turn One 350m/0.217 miles (longest of season: Barcelona 730m/0.454 miles)
Longest straight 900m/0.559 miles, on the approach to Turn 16 (longest of the season: Baku, 2.1km/1.305 miles)
Top speed 320km/h/199mph, on the approach to Turn 16 (fastest of season: Monza, 360km/h/224mph)
Full throttle 65 per cent (highest of the season: Monza, 75 per cent). The longest period of full throttle is 16s, on the approach to Turn 16
Brakewear Low. Only 10 per cent of the lap is spent braking
Fuel consumption 1.8kg per lap, which is average
ERS demands Medium. With only one heavy braking zone, into Turn 16, it’s a challenge to harvest enough braking energy around the lap
Gear changes 42 per lap/2,226 per race

RACE

Laps 53 laps
Start time 14:00hrs local/06:00hrs BST/07:00hrs CET
Grid advantage Pole position is on the outside of the grid, on the racing line. There is more grip available there, but it’s a downhill start and a lot can be won and lost on how the driver releases the brake pedal
DRS There is one DRS zone, on the approach to Turn One
Don’t put the kettle on…Two pitstops, on or about laps 15 and 35, has been the winning dry-weather strategy for the last few years. But Pirelli has gone one step softer with their compound choices this year and that could force drivers to make an extra stop
Pitlane length/Pitstops 413m/0.257 miles (longest of the season: Silverstone, 457m/0.284 miles). It takes 20s to make a stop
Safety Car likelihood 60 per cent. The track is narrow, the barriers are close and accidents usually take place at high speed, resulting in a lot of debris
Watch out for…The fans, who are passionate and knowledgeable. If it rains heavily, the track’s undulations produce rivers and aquaplaning is a real danger

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO
#FA14 MCL32-02

“Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the calendar, and along with a lot of the other drivers I always look forward to racing in Japan every year. It’s one of the classics and its configuration is completely unique. It has a bit of everything – it’s demanding, fast, and a big challenge for a driver and for the engineers, so it’s the perfect racer’s circuit.
“It’s an important race for us given our connections with Japan, and for me personally it’s a special place. I’ve always found Japanese culture fascinating and the incredible support from the fans make this race weekend one of the most exciting and crazy of the season. I always try to make the most of our time there, make a couple of trips to the must-see places in Tokyo and really get a feel for this incredible location.
“I’ve had a couple of difficult races recently, so I’m looking forward to getting back on track and working with my engineers to turn our fortunes around. I feel that we’ve definitely had the pace there in the car – and Stoffel has been able to demonstrate what we’re capable of – but bad luck and struggles in traffic have meant we haven’t been able to score the points we’d hoped for on my side. Both of us will be pushing hard for the Japanese contingent of our team, our partners and of course our fans, and I hope we can finally show the progress we’re making with our car.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE
#SV2 MCL32-03

“After two really positive races, I’m really looking forward to heading back to Japan. It’s one of my favourite countries and I always enjoy spending time there. The culture, food and people make it really special, and for a long time I’ve been looking forward to experiencing the Suzuka circuit in a Formula 1 car for the first time.
“For me, Singapore and Malaysia were a real boost, and we were really able to get on top of every session and maximise what we had available in our package. We know there has been potential all season, but for one reason or another we weren’t able to show it – so having two strong results back-to-back has been really encouraging and I’m keen to see how we will do in Japan.
“It’s a much tougher circuit for our car than Sepang, and requires a lot more outright power. The advantage is that I won’t be coming to this circuit fresh this weekend, as I’ve tested and raced at Suzuka a few times before – the last time I was there I won in Super Formula. I’m working very hard with my engineers and we’ll be putting in the same level of preparation for this race, so I hope we can keep pushing forward and have another strong weekend.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

McLAREN HONDA RACING DIRECTOR

“Everyone at McLaren Honda is excited to return to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, in a country that has effectively become our second home. Suzuka is one of the most iconic tracks on the entire calendar, and of course an important venue for us and our partner Honda. Naturally, our aim is to do everything we can to support both them and our amazing fans there, who are among the most passionate of any country we visit all over the world.
“After some encouraging signs in the past couple of races, we would like to continue the progress we are making and, particularly at this special race for the whole team, enjoy a strong result on both sides of the garage. Our spirit is strong, and we’re working hard together to maximise every race weekend in an effort to make a dent on the constructors’ championship before the end of the year.
“We know Suzuka won’t be the easiest track on which to shine, but every team up and down the paddock loves it for its formidable twists and turns, and its unique set of challenges that make it all the more rewarding to get right. We’re all aware of its characteristically power-dependent nature, but there are technical sections, such as the flow of corners in Sector One, where our package should be better able to show it strengths, and it’ll be good to see just how fast these 2017 cars go on this track.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

HONDA R&D CO. LTD HEAD OF F1 PROJECT & EXECUTIVE CHIEF ENGINEER

“After having another positive weekend in Malaysia, we have built up good momentum heading to our home grand prix in Japan.
“We always enjoy going back to our home circuit and being waited for by warm and cheerful Japanese fans. The atmosphere encourages us a lot and we hope we can give them a great race.
“Many drivers mention Suzuka as one of their favourite circuits, and I think this is because it has both technical and power-hungry features. For engineers, it’s a very exciting track as we are able to show our ability in terms of finding the perfect set-up, although we also find it very challenging. The balance of the car will be very important, so we need to make sure we set up the drivability in accordance with McLaren’s chassis requirements.
“It will be our last Japanese Grand Prix as McLaren Honda, therefore it is a special race for the team. I myself have strong feelings for this race and I‘m hoping to make it as memorable as possible for both the team and fans. “