Hitting the Apex: Circuit Suzuka

It’s Japanese Race Week! Read on for everything you need to know about the Circuit Suzuka.

Written by Mees Drijgers

April 4, 2024

Circuit Suzuka, officially named Suzuka International Racing Course but often referred to as Suzuka, is a racing circuit located near Suzuka City in Japan. Plans for a racing facility near the city emerged when Soichiro Honda, founder of the car manufacturer Honda, was looking to build a test track for Honda. Land was purchased in 1959 and construction started the following year.

Circuit Suzuka (Photo via @alfaromeostake on Instagram)

The track was designed by John “Hans” Hugenholtz, who had also helped design Zandvoort. Though Circuit Suzuka was opened in 1962, it would welcome F1 25 years later. Before the first F1 race in 1987, the Degner curve was made into two corners instead of the long curve it used to be. More crash barriers and run-off areas were added to improve safety and to bring the circuit up to F1 and Grand Prix motorcycle standards, and exposed vegetation was barricaded off. The Japanese Grand Prix moved to Tokyo’s Fuji Speedway in 2007 and 2008, but returned to Suzuka in 2009. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand Prix was not held in both 2020 and 2021, however racing returned to the circuit in 2022.

Many championships were decided at Suzuka, especially in the 80s and 90s. Damon Hill, Mika Häkkinen, and Michael Schumacher are a few examples of drivers who clinched the title at the Japanese Grand Prix, and in 2022 Max Verstappen became the most recent driver to win the championship at this circuit. In 2024, the circuit will swap places with Baku City Circuit on the F1 calendar, giving up its usual spot in September to host the fourth round of the championship in April instead

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on track at Circuit Suzuka (Photo via @mercedesamgf1 on Instagram)

GENERAL INFORMATION

  • Track distance: 5.807 km / 3.6 miles

  • DRS zones: 1

  • Corners: 18

  • Elevation: 40.4 metres

  • Laps: 53

  • Race lap record: 1:30.983 Lewis Hamilton (2019)

  • Direction: clockwise

According to F1.com, Suzuka configuration for this year is as follows:

 

PREVIOUS TYRE COMPOUNDS

  • Selected compounds in 2023: C3 (soft) C2 (medium) C1 (hard) 

  • Selected compounds in 2022: C3 (soft) C2 (medium) C1 (hard)

The most successful driver at the track is Michael Schumacher, who won the Japanese Grand Prix 6 times. McLaren and Ferrari are the most successful constructors at the circuit with 7 wins each. The pole position record at the track belongs to Michael Schumacher with 8 poles. Exactly 50% of the races held at Suzuka have been won from pole position.

Aston Martin on Circuit Suzuka (Photo via @astonmartinf1 on Instagram)

Suzuka is considered to be one of the world’s most demanding and rewarding motor racing circuits. It features a mix of almost every type of corner in a very compact space. The circuit is loved by many drivers and fans alike, and is often referred to as one of the ‘old school’ circuits. One of its most interesting features is its shape: Suzuka is designed as a figure 8 and therefore includes a cross-over. It is one of only a few tracks to have this feature.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

  • 2023 Max Verstappen

  • 2022 Max Verstappen

  • 2019 Valtteri Bottas

  • 2018 Lewis Hamilton

  • 2017 Lewis Hamilton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mees was introduced to the world of F1 by one of her friends in July 2020 and hasn’t missed a race weekend since. Her favourite drivers are Alex Albon, Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri, and George Russell; outside of F1, she also actively supports Liam Lawson and Callum Ilott. She specialises in writing about F2, but is looking to specialise in FE and IndyCar as well, after starting to watch both series in 2022. After getting her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Culture, she is currently getting MA degrees in Translation and English Literature & Culture. When she’s not watching motorsport, she’s either watching football matches (preferably Real Madrid), reading a book, or watching streams on Twitch.

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