The Japanese Grand Prix returns to the Formula 1 calendar this weekend after last running in 2019. The race, which serves as round 18 of the 2022 season, takes place at the iconic Suzuka Circuit, a circuit that's unique in that the track layout forms a figure eight.
Ask any driver to list their three favorite circuits, and almost of them will include this one. It was designed in 1962 by Dutch car and racetrack designer John Hugenholz, originally as a test track for Honda, and innaugurated as an F1 circuit in 1987. It is notorious for its high speeds and limited runoff areas.
It's a circuit 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. As such, it’s a tough challenge for power units which need to deliver across the entire power spectrum without sacrificing drivability and responsiveness.
Equally, drivers can never stop working as there isn't much heavy braking and as mentioned above, limited runoff areas. It’s a track where finding a good rhythm and having good aero balance are the keys to success. The track is also quite narrow, making overtaking is difficult, so strategy is also vital.
Suzuka Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix - Photo credit: Getty Images
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 the harder C1 as the White hard, C2 as the Yellow medium, and C3 as the Red soft for the weekend.
Suzuka is well-known for its variable weather, too, with typhoons possible at this time of year. Friday's practice session saw some heavy rain, and the current forecast calls for sunny conditions for Saturday's qualifying and possibly more rain during Sunday's race.
After Friday's practice, Mercedes-Benz AMG's George Russell was the fastest, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Close behind were Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, third and fourth fastest, respectively.
Going into the weekend, Verstappen leads the 2022 Drivers' Championship with 341 points. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc is second with 237 points, and Perez is third with 235 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull leads with 576 points, versus the 439 of Ferrari and 373 of Mercedes. The winner of the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix was Valtteri Bottas, driving for Mercedes.