Fuji Speedway makes its second appearance in as many years on the Formula One calendar on Sunday 12th October for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The first leg of the Japan - China double header and the last of the three back-to-backs this season, Fuji opened for business as a racing venue in 1963 and hosted the first ever Japanese Grand Prix in 1976 only for the track to be removed from the calendar after only two races having been deemed too dangerous. Bought by Toyota in 2000, the circuit’s original Nascar-style banking and antiquated layout was subjected to a complete Hermann Tilke-overhaul, the only remaining element being the 1.5km pit-straight.
With the new design a rival for other new tracks appearing on the calendar at the time, the circuit was reinstated as a Formula One destination in 2007.Located 62 miles outside of Tokyo in Oyama, part of the Shizuoka Prefecture, the Fuji Speedway is set in the foothills of Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest peak and one of the country’s hottest tourist spots.
In front of a substantial crowd, last year’s inaugural race was subjected to some severe weather conditions. An earthquake shook Formula One to its foundations after the Grand Prix, while the race itself was so rain-soaked the opening 19 laps were run under the safety car, making for one of the most visually dramatic races seen all year.
As the only Japanese driver on the grid, AT&T Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima will be hoping to make a good impression while racing in front of his home crowd for the first time as a Formula One driver having recently renewed his contract with the team. The team itself will be looking to capitalise upon the momentum from Singapore where Nico Rosberg took second place to assist in the fight for Championship position as the season draws to its conclusion.
Nico RosbergAfter our second place in Singapore, we want to go to Japan with the same momentum and continue our high. Fuji Speedway might not be the best circuit for our car but weather could play a big part in the proceedings this weekend. Last year’s race was a washout and there’s a strong possibility it will rain again this year. If that happens, we’ll have a good chance of a strong finish as our car goes well in the wet. This is Toyota’s home track so I’m looking forward to driving in front of their home crowd.
Kazuki NakajimaI’m really excited about my home Grand Prix and this will be the first time I’ve been back to Fuji for three years. It used to be my F3 team’s home track so I lived in the area for a year. It feels really good to be going back, and this time I’ll be driving a Formula One car so I can’t wait. I think there will be some expectation from the fans because I’m the only Japanese driver at the moment so I’m a bit more nervous for this race. The atmosphere will be great though and I’ll just do my best to relax, enjoy the weekend and hopefully bring home some points.Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams F1
After a great weekend in Singapore, we are looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. It’s always nice to see the passion that Japan shows for motor racing and the track at Mount Fuji is a great venue. Last year’s race was dominated by weather conditions. Fog and rain were the main issues over the weekend, and it could be the same this year. The FW30 has always been good in wet weather so we will go there to score points in any conditions.
The track layout is great, with predominantly low and medium speed corners, with the exception of Turns 3, 4 and 5 which offer a high speed combination for the car and drivers to deal with. There are plenty of other corner combinations across the lap which all need to be hooked up in order to bank a competitive lap time so the drivers need to really be on the ball this weekend.
With a very long main straight and two intermediate straights, downforce levels are lower than they usually would be in Fuji due to the drag penalty. Another point to note is the altitude. The track is about 570 metres above sea level so the air pressure will be around 950mbar which will also have to be considered within the set-up.
Fuji Speedway, Japan
Fuji Speedway is still a relative unknown in Formula One. Although the circuit debuted on the calendar last year, the majority of data collated was distorted due to the torrential rain which affected the sessions.
However, what is clear is that 33% of the 4.563km Fuji lap is dominated by the start / finish stretch which provides plenty of overtaking opportunities. Measuring 1.5km in length, it’s the longest straight driven all season, one on which drivers will reach top speeds of 195mph and spend almost 20 full seconds on the throttle. The end of the straight is then met by a hairpin at turn one, followed by a series of six left and ten right-hand low speed winding loops and gradient changes before the drivers journey back onto the start / finish straight.
There are no extremes at Fuji so the best lap times will be achieved by those cars with the strongest mechanical and aero principles. Set-up direction will ultimately be dictated by Fuji’s long straight but must also take into consideration the slower speed corners. A medium downforce configuration, to carry speed and assist overtaking, coupled with strong brakes and a balanced ride through the winding corners, will be the optimum operating level for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at the Fuji Speedway.