The 2024 Formula 1 World Championship battle continues this weekend with round four, the Japanese Grand Prix, which takes place at the legendary Suzuka Circuit.

The race is normally held much later in the season but has been brought forward to sit next to nearby races on the calendar, in this case the previous Australian Grand Prix and upcoming Chinese Grand Prix, to help ease logistics. Teams will observe different weather at this time of year, which will undoubtedly affect track conditions. The current forecast calls for cool but sunny conditions for the weekend.

The Suzuka Circuit is famous for its figure-eight track layout, which 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. It was converted into an F1 track for the 1987 season.

Suzuka is 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 to profiled curved bends to chicanes and hairpins—a trait that makes it a favorite track of many drivers. There aren't many straights, though, which means there's only a single DRS zone.

Suzuka Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix

Suzuka Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix

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 hardest compounds for the weekend: C1 as the white hard, C2 as the yellow medium, and C3 as the red soft.

Reigning world champion and current points leader Max Verstappen retired in the previous race in Australia due to car troubles. After some practice sessions on Friday, which were cut short due to heavy rain, the Red Bull driver set the pace early on, followed by teammate Sergio Perez, though rival teams were much closer than in previous practice sessions, particularly Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz AMG.

Going into Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race, Verstappen leads the 2024 Drivers' Championship with 51 points. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc is second with 47 points and Perez is third with 46 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull leads with 97 points, versus the 93 of Ferrari and 55 of McLaren. Last year's winner in Japan was Verstappen driving for Red Bull.