Japanese Grand Prix - facts & figures 09 Oct 2004
Just a few things you probably did not know about the celebrated Suzuka circuit, venue for this weekends race in Japan.
The city of Suzuka lies on the south-eastern coast of Japan's main island of Honshu and has a population of approximately 184,000.
Suzuka is regarded as one of the toughest circuits in Formula One. It is the only one with a figure of eight configuration and includes every type of turn, from the tight Spoon Corner to the high-speed 130R.
The Suzuka track is owned by Honda. Built in 1962, it was originally designed by John Hugenholtz as a test circuit for the Japanese motor manufacturer. Dutchman Hugenholtz also produced the Zandvoort and Jarama tracks.
The race track is situated in the middle of Suzuka Land, a theme park built for the families of Honda employees.
In 2002, the circuit was reduced in length, courtesy of the realigning of several key corners to provide greater run-off areas. Retaining walls were also moved back and the track slightly altered at the S-Curves and Dunlop Curves.
For 2003, this programme of modernisation and re-profiling continued with 130R, tweaked into a two-radii sweeper to provide a faster and more fluent corner with an earlier turn-in. More changes were made at the revised Casino Triangle chicane, which is now more open than before. These alterations added about three metres to the overall lap.
2004 marks the 18th Japanese Grand Prix to be held at Suzuka. Prior to Suzuka's first Grand Prix in 1987, two Japanese Grands Prix were held at the foot of Mount Fuji in 1976 and 1977. In 1994 and 1995, the Pacific Grand Prix was staged at Japan's Aida circuit.
On the Suzuka circuit's Formula One inauguration in 1987, Nelson Piquet claimed his third World Drivers' title in a Williams, while Gerhard Berger, in a Ferrari, took the first victory.
Japan is no stranger to earthquakes and minor tremors are a common occurrence. The Formula One paddock was 'lucky' enough to experience a small 'quake during the 2000 Grand Prix weekend at Suzuka.
A lap of Suzuka measures 5.807 kilometres while the total race distance is 307.573 km (53 laps). The Grand Prix starts at a slightly unusual 14.30 local time on Sunday.
Michael Schumachers 2002 victory at Suzuka marked the 70th Grand Prix win for Japanese tyre suppliers Bridgestone.
The only current Japanese driver, Takuma Sato, made his Formula One race debut at Suzuka with Jordan in 2002. He finished an impressive fifth, becoming one of the few drivers to score points on his Grand Prix debut.
Sato scored again at Suzuka in 2003, this time on his race debut for BAR. The unexpected early departure of Jacques Villeneuve from the team allowed Sato to finish sixth, much to the delight of his adoring home fans.
Before Sato, the last time a Japanese driver scored points at Suzuka was in 1990 when Aguri Suzuki finished third for Lola, with compatriot Satoru Nakajima sixth for Tyrrell.
Nakajima was the first Japanese driver to compete regularly in Formula One racing, partnering Ayrton Senna in the Lotus-Honda team from the start of 1987.
The most successful driver in Japan is Michael Schumacher. The world champion has won at Suzuka on five occasions - with Benetton in 1995 and with Ferrari in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2002. No other driver has won more than twice. The double winners in Japan are Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill and Mika Hakkinen.
Schumacher has also scored seven Japanese pole positions more than twice that achieved by closest rival Ayrton Senna on three. The German took P1 on the grid in 1994 and 95 for Benetton, and then every year between 1998 and 2002 with Ferrari.
McLaren and Ferrari have won more Japanese Grands Prix than any other team - six each to be precise. All but one of Ferraris have come courtesy of Michael Schumacher, Gerhard Bergers 1987 triumph being the exception. McLarens first came at Fuji in 1977 with James Hunt, then at Suzuka with Ayrton Senna in 1988 and 1993, with Berger in 1991 and with Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999.
The 1989 Japanese Grand Prix saw Italian Alessandro Nannini take his first and only Formula One win. He finished second on the road, but then inherited victory after Ayrton Senna was disqualified following his infamous clash at the chicane with McLaren team mate Alain Prost.