FORMULA 1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
Suzuka is one of the most iconic and unique circuits in Formula 1, and we love racing there. Japan is the final race of the East Asian triple-header before the last stretch.
On a brief reflection of Malaysia, it is safe to say we leave there feeling disappointed. It was a very tough weekend and we couldn’t quite make the car work as we have in previous races.
The first lap put us on the back foot and both cars failed to work their way up into the points. We tried an aggressive strategy with Nico, but that gamble didn’t pay off. Jolyon had a couple of spins late on and lost some positions. It’s one of those weekends we are keen to brush aside. We are fortunate that the Japanese Grand Prix comes soon after so we can make a swift return to where we are.
On a brighter note, it was great to see our partner team Red Bull Racing taking victory with the Renault power unit.
Suzuka is a favourite for the drivers due to the unique challenge it offers and its fast bends. It’s a well-balanced track, not too power sensitive, so we think we can be competitive there. Back-to-back races are always challenging, but it means we head to Japan determined to return to the points.
We will have some aero upgrades in Suzuka which we hope will bring performance and so points. They are essential if we are to reach our end of season objective of fifth in the Constructors’ Championship.
Tooth and nail
Suzuka throws up a special challenge for both car and driver as Technical Director Bob Bell explains.
What’s the outlook heading to Suzuka?
It’s a challenging track and a Grand Prix which always produces exciting racing. The circuit is a mix of low and high-speed corners and frequent changes of direction such as the S bends. It should suit the R.S.17; speed-wise it’s a bit like Spa and Silverstone where we went well. We head to Japan feeling hungry and positive. We want to get over the disappointment of Sepang as rapidly as possible.
Any caveats to the positive outlook?
Japan is a venue where you never quite know what you’re likely to get with the weather. We have seen numerous wet races in Suzuka across the years and even some more extreme weather too. However, if we look at our recent wet weather performance, we can see that we struggled a bit in Monza on the Intermediates, but we weren’t bad in the Wets in Singapore. We’re making progress and learning how to handle different conditions.
In summation, we don’t go to Japan with many major concerns. We need to keep working on our reliability as we have the pace in the car to meet our objectives, it’s more a case of getting the car across the line with both drivers.
What went wrong in Sepang?
It came as a wake-up call. We realised on Friday the car wasn’t on the pace as both drivers weren’t happy with the balance. We were encouraged that we made some changes before qualifying and it was there or thereabouts. But lots of things went wrong in the race, most notably at the start and thereon it was difficult to close the gap back. It’s complex to analyse but, with decent starts and in maximising opportunities points would always have been possible. We will use lessons learnt to do better in Suzuka.
A bitterly frustrating outing in Sepang means Nico Hülkenberg is determined to return to the top ten around the legendary Suzuka circuit.
What are your thoughts on the Japanese Grand Prix?
Japan is very special. The fans are amazing; they are among the most enthusiastic out of all the places we visit. They are super supportive; day, night, whatever the weather. It’s certainly one of the race weekends I look forward to. I have a fairly decent and consistent record around Suzuka, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and hopefully continuing the run.
Is Suzuka one of your favourite circuits?
I love coming to Japan as Suzuka is one of the best tracks to drive on the calendar. It has a good flow, it’s very quick but a nice feeling. You can be quite aggressive in places. It’s quite up and down, which you don’t really see on TV. 130R is flat out, a big corner and a lot of fun. This year’s cars will be a cool sight to see there! It’s a great pleasure to nail these corners.
What are your feelings after Malaysia?
It was a difficult weekend for us and we struggled throughout the three days. We didn’t really find the balance or grip. Qualifying was good and we squeezed some performance out. The first lap of the race wasn’t great and put us on the backfoot and we couldn’t recover. It was a frustrating weekend, but we’ll analyse and regroup and push again in Japan.
Jolyon Palmer is keen to take a second points finish of the season in Japan as the Formula 1 season heads into the final straight.
How is Suzuka to drive?
It’s an old-school circuit, highly unique especially the first sector which is fast and flowing with quick changes of direction. The middle sector is cool with the two Degners, which are quick and crucial to get right. 130R is mega and the chicane features a good overtaking spot. It’s three challenging, but enjoyable, sectors and I went fairly well there last year, so looking forward to it.
What’s the atmosphere in Japan like?
The fans embrace Formula 1 like no other country and Suzuka is always packed out when F1 is in town. The fans are so passionate which makes it a special weekend. There’s crazy merchandise and crazy hats there and everyone really shows their support. That’s what we love to see! The history of Formula 1 and Japan is well-known. As for other aspects, I’m quite partial to sushi and teriyaki so I’ll be eating well when I’m there.
How do you reflect on Malaysia?
Malaysia was a frustrating weekend, but in Japan we should be stronger. We can take some positives from Sepang. Back-to-back races are good, especially after a disappointing weekend, as it means we can put it behind and aim to do a better job in Japan.
Renault Sport Academy Round-Up
Aitken ready to chase down Russell in Jerez
Renault Sport Academy Driver Jack Aitken will make a return to action as the GP3 Series resumes in Jerez for round seven of the championship on the Grand Prix weekend.
Jack, fresh from his recent outing in the Renault-powered 2012-spec E20 Formula 1 car, will aim to cut the lead to George Russell in the title battle. Team-mate and compatriot Russell currently leads the series by 43 points with Jerez and Abu Dhabi in November the final two rounds of the championship.
Jack Aitken: “I’m really looking forward to getting back in the seat as it’s been over a month since the last round. The championship is still up for grabs, I need to go to Jerez and get some good results. It’s a track I know well, I’ve just done a Formula 1 test there, so it shouldn’t take long to get back in the rhythm of GP3. Of course, the aim is to take the title battle to the final round.”
Rowland and Latifi set for Formula 2 penultimate round
Renault Sport Formula One Team Development Driver Oliver Rowland and Test Driver Nicholas Latifi jump back into the cockpit as the Formula 2 Championship heads to Jerez on 7-8 October.
Rowland, second in the championship, has scored one-point from the last two rounds in Belgium and Italy as he sets his sights on taking the title battle with Charles Leclerc to the final round in Abu Dhabi.
Latifi, fifth in the series, will want to make a return to the podium as he remains in the mix to finish in the top three.
Oliver Rowland: “After a month break, it’s exciting to jump back into the cockpit again. It’s the penultimate round of the championship so we go there with determination to take the title battle to the final round. It’s an enjoyable circuit and we’ll aim to get some good results.”
Nicholas Latifi: “I’m really looking forward to getting back in the seat again. We’ve had a month off, which is a long time waiting around to get back racing! I’ve spent my time doing lots of training and karting to try and stay sharp and really hoping for a strong weekend to climb back up the order in the driver standings!”
Fewtrell extends top rookie lead, season-best for Opmeer
Max Fewtrell extended his lead at the top of the Formula Renault Eurocup rookie standings as the series resumed at Spa-Francorchamps (22-24 September).
Max took a fifth, fourth and ninth across the three races to increase his advantage in the rookie championship to 18 points.
Jarno Opmeer also had a bright weekend in the Ardennes with finishes of eleventh, tenth and a season-best sixth in race three.
Sun Yue Yang struggled for pace throughout the weekend with an engine failure in race three forcing him to retire.
Max Fewtrell: “Overall, it was a very good weekend where we never left the top five and I even grabbed a podium in the last race. But due to an issue with my clutch at the start I was handed a penalty. I’m really looking forward to the last round in Barcelona where I believe we can fight for some wins and end the season on a high note.”
Jarno Opmeer: “It was a good weekend for me. We had a better qualifying compared to recent races with an eleventh, sixteenth and twelfth. This put me in a really good position to fight for points. The second race went well, I had a great opening lap with some overtakes to give me a point. In the last race, I made a rocket start from twelfth to ninth by La Source. And with some consistency I managed to take sixth.”
Sun Yue Yang: “Overall it wasn’t been a great weekend for me. We struggled for pace and consistency and just couldn’t quite make it work. It was good to keep learning about the car and different techniques. I have one month before the next round and I’m going back to China to train and get ready.”
Mixed weekend for Lundgaard and García in Jerez
Christian Lundgaard and Marta García experienced an up and down weekend in the Spanish F4 Championship in Jerez (22-24 September).
Christian saw his lead at the top of the standings reduced to 23 points despite taking a brace of third place finishes.
Marta topped the timesheets throughout practice but unfortunately couldn’t convert that pace into podiums in the races. The Spanish teen had to settle for a sixth and a fifth before a collision in the final race, whilst running fifth, saw her fall outside the top ten.
Christian Lundgaard: “We wanted to take as many points as possible in Jerez, and overall we did quite well. We struggled for pace right from the beginning of the weekend, but we managed to keep making improvements. I think the best we could have achieved was second, credit to Smolyar, he was fast all weekend.”
Marta García: “I think it was a positive weekend in Jerez. I had a decent qualifying which put me in a good position but I didn’t make the best starts and this made me lose some positions. The races went well, I had a sixth and a fifth. It was a shame in the last race as I had a crash with another driver with one lap to go. But we can take the positives and aim to keep improving and take it all to the next race in Navarra.”
Renault e.dams launch 2017/18 challenger
Renault e.dams officially unveiled their challenger for the 2017/18 Formula E season on the Champs Elysees, Paris, last weekend.
The Z.E.17 will be driven by Sebastien Buemi and Nico Prost for the fourth season of Formula E as the duo aim to retain Renault e.dams’ Team Championship title beginning in Hong Kong in December.
Alain Prost: “I am delighted to finally lift the veil on the colours we will use to defend our title in this new season. Our goal remains the same as it has been for the past three years: win the Teams’ and Drivers’ championships. We have seen that the competition will be tougher with some major car manufactures joining us in the championship, but we have a very good team and a very solid technical partner with Renault. We also have two excellent drivers, who have worked very well together since the beginning of our adventure.”
Suzuka is one of the legendary circuits in Formula 1, famed for its frequent fast, sweeping corners. The S bends in sector one, and the flat-out 130R in sector three are standouts around the 5.807km circuit which hosted its first Grand Prix in 1987. 53 laps on race day will be a tough, physical test for the drivers with the often unpredictable weather sure to throw up some surprises.
T1/2 – Turn 1 is a very fast corner with light braking required in preparation for the slower Turn 2.
T3-6 – S Curves. Understeer needs to be minimised for the constant change of direction through the fast S Curves, with a well-balanced car maintaining the speed.
T8/9 – Two tricky turns make up the Degner Curves. The first is short and narrow with a cautious approach required thanks to the inner kerb, to which drivers need to get as close as possible without making contact. The second has very little run-off, so mistakes can be costly.
T11 – Heavy braking into the hairpin as drivers take a wide line and search for good traction on the cambered exit.
T13/14 – Understeer saps speed through the Spoon Curve and so needs to be minimised, with a fast exit necessary onto the following straight.
T15 – 130R is flat out, but more difficult when the cars are heavy with fuel.
T16 – Heavy on the brakes for the chicane leading into the final turn. Easy to lock-up here and compromise the lap.
Power Unit Notes:
Suzuka is one of the toughest circuits of the year for the ICE. The sustained bursts of throttle test the internals’ strength, while the heavy braking events challenge reactivity and reliability.
Over 65% of the lap is taken at full throttle, but the majority of this comes in the second half of the track from the exit of the Spoon corner (Turn 14) to the chicane on the entry of the pit straight. This includes a pass through the 130R, which is taken at over 300kph despite being a flowing left hand bend.
With a top speed peaking at almost 330kph, Suzuka gives rise to one of the highest speed seen in the second part of the year. Inside the ICE the pistons will turn at an incredible 200 times per second, generating enormous internal forces.
The second slowest corner is the chicane, which is taken at approximately 80kph. This is the best chance to recover energy through the MGU-K as the cars approach at well over 310kph. Braking down to under 100kph generates huge amounts of heat and energy in
the brakes. At this point there is even excess energy that engineers are not allowed to recover as a result of the regulations.
Tyres: Takeshi’s Castle
Medium (white) – Stepping stone – It’s either slow and steady or a fast blast.
Soft (yellow) – High Rollers – Better to go quick on these.
Super-soft (red) – Bridge Ball – Everyone’s favourite, but comes at a price.
6,852 – Japan is made up of 6,852 islands
17 – Japan consumes around 17m tons of fish every year
18 – Trains in Japan are one of the most punctual in the world with average delays of 18 seconds.