After you’ve boarded the high-speed Shinkansen from Tokyo, remember to switch to the Kansai line at Nagoya. That will take you on a train to Yokkaichi (situated in the Mie prefecture) and a short cab ride from one of the greatest circuits in the world.



The 18-turn Suzuka International Racing Course was designed by Dutch amateur motorcycle racer John Hugenholtz and originally opened as a test venue in 1962. The 5.807km circuit is one of only two FIA Grade 1 listed tracks that feature a figure-of-eight crossover (the other being Fiorano in Italy). That makes Suzuka the only F1 course which is both clockwise and anticlockwise…



In the early 1980s a chicane was added prior to the final corner, known as the Casio Triangle, and in 1987 the Japanese venue hosted its first-ever Grand Prix. It became an instant classic. Drivers cite the “Esses” — the sequence of switchback bends from Turn 2 to Turn 7 — as one of the greatest stretches of track anywhere in the world.



Following that roller-coaster ride are the two Degner right-handers, named in honour of German motorcycle racer Ernst Degner. Under the crossover, the circuit heads to a tight chicane and the tricky, long-radius Spoon Curve before heading to the most fearsome bend on the track: 130R.
Drivers approach the left-hander in top gear, close to 295km/h and don’t lift as they power through the corner.



Originally named because of its metric radius, 130R has since been tightened for safety reasons — yet still remains one of the most-exhilarating corners on the calendar. Very little changes have been made to the layout, so on-board comparisons reveal the advances in F1 speeds over the past 37 years. The pole lap in 1987 was 1m40.042s, while Pierre’s qualifying time last year was 1m30.509s.



Suzuka has held the Japanese Grand Prix 33 times — missing 2007 and 2008 when the race moved to Fuji — and a two-year absence in 2020 and 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Twice the event has been held in September, but all its other races have been in either October or November. This season marks the first time the race has a spring date, so expect the famous Japanese cherry blossom to be in full bloom. And as ever, the wildly-enthusiastic fans will be showing their support Pierre and Esteban as they enter the circuit each day.



Located a short distance from Ise Bay, Suzuka is part of an amusement park, complete with roller coaster and Ferris wheel and is also home to the Suzuka Circuit Hotel. This famously used to feature a karaoke bar known as the Log Cabin. It was the scene of many of post-race parties as drivers celebrated their world championship successes at the end of the season.



Earthquakes and typhoons have impacted Suzuka in the past. Three times qualifying has been postponed and held on Sunday morning. The first was when typhoon Ma-on made landfall and high winds and rain led to the circuit shutting in 2004, while the other occasions were in 2010 and 2019. Fingers crossed for good weather this year…