A lap of Suzuka with Sato

BAR's Takuma Sato describes a lap of Suzuka, his home circuit "Suzuka is a great combination of high speed and technical corners. We start the lap on the main straight doing about 320kmh, which is very fast, and go downhill into Turn 1 - it is...

BAR's Takuma Sato describes a lap of Suzuka, his home circuit

"Suzuka is a great combination of high speed and technical corners. We start the lap on the main straight doing about 320kmh, which is very fast, and go downhill into Turn 1 - it is VERY exciting! Basically you almost go flat until the apex and you have to start braking as the car is still cornering very fast and it is very difficult to find the right balance before Turn 2."

Takuma Sato.
Photo by LAT Photographic.

"This turn is also very important - it is all about cornering and braking and the lowest speed is about 150kmh through it. You have to get it right on this corner otherwise your lap is completely ruined! The exit of Turn 2 decides the total time for sector one and so it is important for the whole lap."

"We accelerate up to about 250kmh for the following Turns 3, 4, 5 and 6 which are the 'Esses' and take them in 4th gear. Basically the speed dips up and down around 220kmh as we balance with the steering wheel and throttle through the corners and try to be as smooth as possible."

"You have to be really quick out of Turn 2 and find a good rhythm through the 'Esses'. When you get that series of corners right, it feels SO GOOD! But if you get it wrong, there is nowhere to recover the lap so it's a very important part of the track."

"After the 'Esses' we go into the Dunlop curve, an uphill left-hander. This is a totally blind corner where you can still go flat but you have to be accurate on the line otherwise it is very easy to lose speed."

"Just before the Degner Curve the car reaches 290kmh in 6th gear. Degner is two right-hand corners. The first one is blind again and you shift down a gear, then it's a fast turn in and in the second part you drop down 120kmh and into 2nd gear."

"After Degner there is the bridge where the circuit crosses over itself. This makes Suzuka a unique circuit in F1 because there is almost an equal number of left and right-handers, making it a very equal track which is very nice to drive."

"Then we get to the hairpin curve which is taken at only 60kmh - the slowest corner on the circuit in 1st gear. This is not a really tricky corner but is frustrating because it's so slow! At least after the hairpin you have massive acceleration towards the Spoon Curve."

"This is a slight right-hand curve but basically straight in an F1 car. It goes down and uphill but the driver can actually relax a little bit because there is not really much to do here."

"We get up to 300kmh here in 6th gear before the Spoon Curve. This is very tricky and designed as two corners. The first part we take in 4th gear at about 200kmh and again you have to balance the car very carefully because it's easy to get over- or understeer if you get it slightly wrong on the difficult road camber."

"The second part is naturally an understeer corner, taken at about 150kmh in 3rd gear. This is important again because it leads to the very long straight into 130R."

"Now that 130R has been modified, it is flat from the exit of Spoon Curve all the way to the Chicane. 130R used to be a corner where you needed to be very brave to go flat but now everyone should be flat with the changes. It is much safer now and although we have lost a bit of a challenge through 130R, you can now follow another car closely and it makes for a better overtaking opportunity into the Chicane."

"Suzuka was always well known for being a circuit where it was difficult to overtake, but now at least there is one good chance for overtaking. It is definitely much better for the spectators, but personally I was a bit disappointed because I used to like going flat through 130R! Cars are probabaly scrubbing off 15kmh through the corner and then over 300kmh again before the Chicane."

"It is very difficult to find the correct braking point for the Chicane, the final corner, because at the braking point you cannot actually see it! There is a slight incline and at the braking point the car is turning slightly to the right, so it's easy to get it wrong and lock up a wheel. At the Chicane it's possible to overtake but also easy to defend. It is also then possible to have a good battle down the main straight."

"This means that the Chicane is a trigger point for overtaking, either it happens in the corner, or you can go for it on the main straight down to Turn one. From the driver's point of view again, it is frustrating because it is so slow and the car comes down to 1st gear and 70kmh with not much traction, but it is still an important part of the track."

"There is a big following for F1 in Japan and for me the feeling is unbelievable. For every driver their home Grand Prix is always special and the fans at Suzuka always support me very well, they are so enthusiastic. When I am driving there I can see the fans around the whole circuit waving and cheering me on, it is an incredible feeling."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato