F1 2014 Japanese Grand Prix: Title momentum with Hamilton heading to Suzuka
PUBLISHED: 12:09 29 September 2014 | UPDATED: 12:05 03 October 2014
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton heads to Suzuka for the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix looking to make it three wins in a row following back-to-back victories in Italy and Singapore.
The title momentum has swung Hamilton’s way after the 29-year-old F1 driver from Hertfordshire took the chequered flag – and a maximum 50 points – from the races at Monza and the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Those victories, coupled with Nico Rosberg’s retirement in Singapore, have lifted Hamilton three points clear of his Mercedes AMG Petronas rival at the top of the drivers’ standings with five races to go.
Round 15 of the 2014 Formula One World Championship takes the drivers to Suzuka this weekend for the Japanese Grand Prix, held at the famous Suzuka Circuit.
Suzuka is one of the most revered circuits in the world. Its fast corners and undulations are a genuine test of man and machine, which might explain why 18 of the last 19 grands prix at the track have been won by world champions. In short, this is a race track at which only the best drivers succeed.
On the venue of Sunday’s race in Japan, 2008 F1 world champion Hamilton said: “Suzuka is one of the races on the calendar that drivers love the most – and arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world.
“There’s so much history and there have been so many defining moments there – like those unforgettable battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
“I’ve never won at this circuit and have only made the podium once, on my first visit way back in 2009.
“I’ve had a couple of chances and last season was probably the best of those.
Suzuka – the stats you need
* Race distance: 53 laps (307.471km/191.054 miles)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/06:00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 5.807km/3.608 miles
* 2013 winner: Sebastian Vettel
* 2013 pole: Mark Webber
* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-20) 1m31.540s (228.372km/h)
“This year, though, we have an exceptional car and I’m really hoping I’ll finally have my shot at the top step.
“All the greats of Formula One have won at Suzuka since the sport first came there in the 1980s and I’m determined to add my name to that list this weekend.”
Built in 1962 as a test track for Honda, Suzuka’s sweeping figure-of-eight layout has remained largely unchanged for more than 50 years.
The track hosted its first Formula 1 race in 1987, since when it has staged the Japanese Grand Prix every year, except on two occasions, in 2007 and 2008.
Pictures of the 2014 F1 Singapore Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton leads the field at the start of the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Lewis Hamilton on track in the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Nico Rosberg racing in the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Lewis Hamilton leading the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory in the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Lewis Hamilton on the podium after winning the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton holds his head on the podium after winning the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Lewis Hamilton lifts his trophy after winning the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Lewis Hamilton sprays some Champagne on the podium after winning the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
Champagne moment for Lewis Hamilton on the podium after winning the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]
As with most of F1’s classic circuits, drivers and team members know the corners by name, rather than simply by number. The Esses, Degner, Spoon and 130R are some of the most famous corners in motor racing, and each will demand ultimate respect and commitment from the drivers this weekend.
With an average speed of 225km/h (139mph), Suzuka is one of the fastest circuits on the F1 calendar.
All three sectors around the lap contain fast corners and a period of full-throttle, and the track is also very narrow and bumpy. It punishes even the smallest of mistakes.
Engine power is important and aerodynamic efficiency is vital, especially through the Esses in sector one. This sequence of five high-speed corners tests the agility of a car and it’s through this section that the drivers have to position their cars with pinpoint accuracy, or risk losing large chunks of time.
"All the greats of Formula One have won at Suzuka since the sport first came there in the 1980s and I’m determined to add my name to that list this weekend."
Another challenging feature of Suzuka’s 5.807km (3.608-mile) layout is the downhill grid. At the start of the race the slope requires the drivers to hold their cars on the brakes until releasing the clutch. If the task isn’t carried out seamlessly, a poor getaway is inevitable.
Pirelli are making available their two hardest rubber compounds – the Medium (Option) and the Hard (Prime) – as they did in Malaysia, Spain, Great Britain and Italy earlier in the year.
The reason for the conservative tyre choice is the number of high-speed corners on the lap, through which up to 800kg of load is placed on the tyres.
Looking back to his victory in the sport’s night race, Hamilton said: “Singapore was a good weekend for me. It’s the first time in quite a few races that I’ve not had to fight through the pack to get a result which made life a lot easier.
F1 World Drivers’ Championship standings
After 2014 Singapore Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 241 points
2 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 238
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 181
4 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 133
5 Sebsatian Vettel (Red Bull) 124
6 Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 122
“In the final stint, I had to clear Sebastian [Vettel] quickly after making the extra stop. But the car just felt fantastic and I could push whenever I needed to throughout the race.
“Of course, it was disappointing for the team to have another retirement but I know they have made this a priority moving forwards.
“It’s levelled things up in the Drivers’ Championship, so hopefully we’ll now have a straight battle right to the flag in Abu Dhabi.”
While things ran smoothly for Hamilton in Singapore, it was a disastrous weekend for his Silver Arrows colleague.
2014 F1 World Constructors’ Championship
After 2014 Singapore Grand Prix
1 Mercedes 479 points
2 Red Bull 305
3 Williams 187
4 Ferrari 178
5 McLaren 111
Nico Rosberg said: “I said at the time that Sunday in Singapore was probably the toughest moment of my year so far and, looking back on it, I still think that is true.
“To have the chance for a top result basically taken away before you even reach the grid is hard to swallow and, of course, it was a lot of points lost in the Championship battle.
“I can’t fault the effort of the team, though. I go to the factory and I see how hard everyone is working, so it’s clear that they want the results just as much as us drivers do.
“I have faith in my colleagues to improve our reliability and I know they will get it right.”
Looking ahead to Suzuka, the German driver added: “Next up we have the Japanese Grand Prix, which really is one of the special races in motorsport.
“There’s so much history at this race – especially at Suzuka. It’s definitely one of the best tracks in the world.
“The fans, too, are just unbelievable. They go absolutely crazy for Formula One and it’s so nice to see their enthusiasm for the sport.
“They show us so much support – the teams and all of us drivers individually – so we all really enjoy going there and seeing them all.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend, particularly with the car we have at the moment which should give us a good chance to get a great result.”
Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said: “Singapore was a bittersweet event for the team, with both of our drivers producing strong performances throughout the weekend but only one leaving with the result he deserved on Sunday.
“Whilst it was good to see the pace of our car used to full effect by Lewis in the race, Nico’s problems left us under no illusions that our reliability must improve.
“With five races to go and three points separating Lewis and Nico, it is now a straight fight between the two of them and each will be looking to gain the first advantage in Suzuka, one of the best drivers’ circuits in the sport.”
Mercedes’ exeuctive technical director Paddy Lowe added: “We left Singapore with mixed emotions. Lewis produced a fantastic drive in difficult circumstances with the safety car to take a great victory.
“Credit must go to the team in terms of the strategy, which was bold but absolutely the right call.
“It demanded a lot from Lewis in terms of his performance in the final phase of the race, but as always he delivered faultlessly.
“On the other side of the garage, it was very disappointing to have lost Nico’s car in Singapore.
“This was down to the failure of a part which we have been running faultlessly since its introduction six years ago and so demonstrates the challenge of ensuring reliability in a modern Formula One car.
“Clearly, this is an area in which we need to perform a lot better in the future.
“Reliability is something we have been working on intensively over the past 12 months and we will redouble our efforts moving forwards.”
On the challenge of Suzuka, Lowe added: “It’s a fantastic track – unique in its figure-of-eight configuration with some spectacular corners, and a very well-liked circuit amongst the drivers.
“It demands the utmost skill from the driver in order to get the right lines – particularly through the ‘S’ Curves – and good all-round performance from the car in terms of power, braking and cornering.
“We hope that will play to our advantage and that we can bring home another good result.”
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