This weekend it’s round 15 of the 2012 Formula One season and this means it's Japanese Grand Prix time. Teams are currently warming up on the Suzuka circuit where conditions have been good.
The 3.6-mile circuit is notorious for its figure of eight layout, which features nearly every possible corner, from high speed kinks to flowing linked turns to profiled curved bends, chicanes and hairpins.
As such, it’s a tough challenge for the engines, which need to deliver across the entire power spectrum without sacrificing drivability and responsiveness. Equally, drivers need to stay focused as gear changes are frequent. Perhaps it comes as no surprise then that the safety car has been deployed at every Japanese Grand Prix since F1 returned to Suzuka in 2009.
So far, it’s been McLaren on top. Free practice got underway this morning and last year's winner Jenson Button was quickest, followed by his teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber during the initial session.
Following his win two weeks ago in Singapore, Red Bull Racing’s other driver Sebastian Vettel has moved into second spot on the Drivers’ Championship ladder, with his 164 points tally short 29 points of the lead of Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso. Kimi Räikkönen of Lotus remains in third with 149 points. All three drivers will be going into qualifying with additional titles in mind.
In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull Racing remains the clear leader with 297 points, with McLaren in second with 261 points and Ferrari in third place with 245 points.
Some key drivers to watch will be Mercedes-AMG’s Michael Schumacher, who this week announced his retirement for the second time. He is being replaced be Lewis Hamilton next year, who in turn is being replaced at McLaren by Sauber's Sergio Perez.