Soon to retire Sebastian Vettel has said he d consider a one-off return at Suzuka, and he isn t the only one in love with the track.
The four-time world champion has been asked his favourite Formula 1 track on many occasions, and it brings the same response:the Japanese Grand Prix.
Now, for the first time in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, F1 is back at one of its most iconic circuits, and everyone is over the moon.
Since a flurry of appearances in the 1960s and 1970s, Suzuka has been a near constant on theF1 calendarfrom 1987 until today, and the mammoth challenge still remains the same.
One of the most difficult circuits in motorsport is also one of the most fun with near constant turns and high-risk moves supplying big rewards, meaning Vettel isn t the only driver whose face lights up when he hears the S word.
Max Verstappencould well take his second world championship this weekendshould he win and score the fastest lap with Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez fighting to delay his crowning.
But despite so much on the line for the Dutchman, the other 19 drivers likely won t be too bothered as they re back at one of their favourite locations, and here, talkSPORT looks at why they love it so much.
Old school antidote to the modern F1 track
With Formula 1 to host three races in the US next year, there s understandably sighs all around from purists after the Miami Grand Prix offered little more than a tarmacked car park with walls around it.
That s sadly been the trend with the majority of F1’s newest circuits, but Suzuka couldn t be any more different, winding up and down hills with elevation changes, off camber surfaces and even a fly-over.
It s an amazing circuit, all the drivers love this circuit, because it s one of the most old-school designs, Lewis Hamilton said.
Since I’ve known the track and seen it on TV, it’s one that hasn’t changed, Vettel added. “It’s a very fast track, a lot of fast corners. I think sector one is just the best part of track that I can imagine.
Japan is a motoring giant worldwide, but their impact in F1 more recently has really been limited to Honda, whose sponsorship returns to Red Bull s chassis this year with their partnership re-igniting.
Last year Verstappen s team planned a white livery for the event to mirror the country s flag, but had to run it in Turkey instead with the pandemic cancelling the Japan race.
Having been off the calendar since 2019, fans have been able to spend their off time designing race wear that makes them like no other in the sport.
Attendees arrive with an extraordinary number of different hats featuring car parts and even the circuit itself, and drivers often spend extra time signing autographs and taking pictures with such an incredible group of fans.
Steeped in title-deciding history
Having been on the calendar almost constantly since the 80s, Suzuka understandably has a lot of history, but much of that is due to how good the circuit is.
The likes of Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 and Fernando Alonso in 2006 have staged some of the most jaw-dropping comeback drives the sport has ever seen, with their talent and bravery on display for all to see at such a challenging track.
One of the sport’s greatest rivalries – if not the greatest –Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost peaked in 1989when the two McLaren drivers collided while fighting for the lead and championship.
Prost was out but Senna managed to keep going and win the race, before being disqualified for a dangerous re-entry, handing the title to his French rival.
The following year the situation was reversed, with Senna taking Prost out at the first possible opportunity heading into turn one, claiming the title for himself.
Turn 15 has been given one of the most iconic names in F1 simply due to its 103 degrees radius, but it s not just the angle that makes it so brilliant.
Coming off of the Spoon Curve, drivers head up a slight hill before going flat out into the ferocious left hander, where they then slam on the brakes for the final chicane.
Modern cars are able to stomach the tricky turn far easier than their predecessors, but it s still a huge challenge of a driver s mettle, especially going two wide for one of the most spectacular overtakes of the season.
Legendary Japanese drivers
Alpha Tauri s Yuki Tsunoda recently signed a new deal to stay in the sport in 2023, but he ll be nearly as delighted about racing back home in Japan.
So far the 22-year-old has been more about moments of brilliance than consistent class, but he has a lot to live up to with his countrymen that have come before
Takuma Sato and Kamui Kobayashi were both well-respected drivers during solid careers in F1 where they both took a podium each, the latter doing so at Suzuka.
However, the most memorable driver of all was the frankly terrible Taki Inoue, whose two year run from 1994 to 1995 painted him into F1 folklore when he first crashed into a safety can in Monaco, and later was run into a medical car while attempting to help marshals in Hungary.