It may have a fairy mundane name, derived simply from its radius, but Suzuka’s 130R has long been renowned as one of the greatest - and fastest - corners in the world. On the eve of the 2015 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, we remember some of the most spectacular moments at the 300km/h+ bend, from barely believable passes to ‘can you believe he didn’t hit anything’ saves…
Alonso does the unthinkable on Schumacher (2005)
This wasn’t simply one of the gutsiest, seat-of-the-pants overtaking manoeuvres in F1 history, it was also one of the most symbolic: Fernando Alonso, the rising star of Grand Prix racing, passing Michael Schumacher, whose gleaming championship crown he was about to claim, at Suzuka’s most revered - and feared - corner. Regardless of the pace differential between the two cars on the day, passes like this - at 320km/h, around the outside - simply weren’t supposed to happen at 130R, asphalt run-off or not. Special doesn’t begin to describe it.
Alesi throws caution to the wind (1995)
Mercurial French racer Jean Alesi enjoyed a fanatical following in Japan - and it was largely down to moves like the one above. This brave pass on Johnny Herbert’s Benetton - car wriggling beneath him - occurred during the 1995 race when Alesi was fighting his way back up the order after a stop-go penalty for jumping the start. What made the overtake so impressive - other than the fact that it was into a flat-out corner in tricky wet-dry conditions - was the fact that the risk-reward ratio made it barely worth attempting. The Ferrari star pulled into the pits to change tyres less than 20 seconds later, handing the position back to Herbert…
Kobayashi’s ‘save of the century’ (2011)
There are saves and then there are saves. This moment from home favourite Kamui Kobayashi coming out of 130R during FP2 in 2011 definitely falls into the latter category. “Save of the century from Kobayashi,” F1 racer-turned-broadcaster Martin Brundle tweeted after witnessing the incident first hand. “Standing on the bank at 130R watching as he opens the DRS and spins at 190mph - didn't hit a thing!” Unbelievable luck or unbelievable car control? You decide.
Hulkenberg takes the inside line (2013)
The 2013 race at Suzuka saw a host of passing attempts at 130R, but this move - from Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg on Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo - was one of the very best. Having got a run on the Australian out of Spoon Curve, Hulkenberg boldly lunged up the inside of his rival as they approached the fearsome left-hander before completing the manoeuvre with barely a lift of the throttle. Little wonder the Sauber pit wall broke into spontaneous applause…
Raikkonen shows Gutierrez the way (2013)
It was a case of anything you can do, I can do better for Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen, as a lap after Hulkenberg’s move on Ricciardo the Finn pulled this ballsy pass on the other Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez. “Seriously... through 130R?!” an incredulous Lotus team tweeted moments later. “You just can't do that... unbelievable bravery from the Iceman. Have some of that!”
Ricciardo pays the penalty (2013)
"Before I go and kill somebody, was it for the move in Turn 15?" You could well understand Daniel Ricciardo’s sizzling resentment over race radio when, having put his neck on the line with this audacious, around-the-outside pass on Adrian Sutil’s Force India later on in the 2013 race, he was told that the stewards had given him a drive-through penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Whether the Toro Rosso driver benefited or not is open to debate, but the Australian’s courage in attempting the move is without doubt.
Gutierrez miraculously avoids the barriers (2014)
Three years on from Kobayashi’s super save another Sauber driver held his breath as his car made a bee-line for the tyre wall on the exit of 130R. This time Esteban Gutierrez was the man fighting to stay in control as he lost the rear of his Ferrari-powered C33 in the early stages of FP3. Somehow, despite at one stage facing directly towards the barriers, the Mexican managed to regain charge of his errant machine, escaping with nothing more than some badly flat-spotted tyres, a pair of gravel-filled sidepods, and (presumably) one enormous sigh of relief.