Pink Panthers Turning Japanese for Suzuka Grand Prix
4 October 2018 | Ravenol Marketing
This weekend our Technical Partners Force India received a warm welcome to the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka from some very excited locals.
But what does the Suzuka Circuit have in store for them? Ranked as one of the best circuits on the calendar by drivers and fans alike, it’s often famed for its extremely wet weather – I mean, who on earth puts a grand prix on in the middle of typhoon season? Yes there is another one on its way. And yes, the forecast is for rain over the weekend, but thankfully it looks to be clearing up by race day.
Despite imaginatively named features, such as “First turn”, “Last corner” and “Hairpin”, the layout is actually quite exciting and contains long, fast straights; complicated twisting sections and a good mix of fast and slow corners. The elevation also allows spectators to see large sections of the circuit, hence its popularity with fans, despite the large run-off areas meaning the grandstands are pushed back.
Pirelli are bringing the tougher supersoft, soft and medium tyres with them this weekend, due to the lower temperatures and rougher track expected at Suzuka. That and the high downforce generated on the long straights means tyre management will be a factor. However, the increased number of straights do not mean extra DRS zones – there’s only one at Suzuka down the relatively short pit straight – with the drivers giving mixed opinions on increasing overtaking opportunities, despite the consensus that it’s hard to follow other cars in the high-speed sections. This means that qualifying will be a very important decider in the final order, and of course rain is forecast for Saturday. But having two all-weather drivers on our side, that could work in Force India’s favour.
We caught up with Force India’s “Driver’s Eye” to hear what Sergio “Checo” Perez and Esteban Ocon had to say about Japan:
“Suzuka is a proper drivers’ track and it is definitely one of my favourite circuits of the year,” Checo told them. “I love its flow and the high speeds, especially in the first sector.
“130R is my favourite corner of the track. You get there at more than 300kph and it’s a sharp left in seventh gear – you’re still doing 300kph at the exit. It’s such an amazing feeling. The corner is a bit less imposing in the new-generation cars because you have a lot more downforce, but you still need to focus perfectly to avoid making a mistake.”
Esteban agreed, “I think all the drivers love Suzuka. The characteristics of the track make it so special – there are big corners, a lot of history and it’s a very difficult lap to get right.
“There are some truly great corners all the way through, but the Esses in the first sector are something special. They’re just so much fun to drive: I love quick changes of direction and the flow through that sector in qualifying, with a light car and lots of grip, feels just awesome.
“Last year we had a very solid weekend in Suzuka. I ran third for a long time before finishing seventh, so hopefully we can have another strong weekend. If we can score a similar result this year it would be a great effort.”
We wish our Pink Panther pilots all the best of luck (ko-un) and hope they push hard (gan-bat-te) and get another double points finish!