Mount Fuji forms a majestic backdrop to the track

Posted on Sep 27, 2007 by

Around this time
of year you suddenly start wondering where the season has gone, with only three
races left. It’s been an eventful year, for both good and bad reasons, and the
last three flyaway events hold the key to the drivers’ championship. There’s
still four ways it could go, if only just, and the final sprint for the title
begins with the Japanese Grand Prix on unfamiliar ground at the Fuji Speedway.

Formula One
makes a return to Mount Fuji for the first
time in 30 years with the Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix on September
28-30, where Bridgestone’s medium and soft compounds will be put through their
paces on the Hermann Tilke redesigned track.

Named after
Japan’s highest mountain, the Fuji Speedway is located in the foothills of this
world-famous landmark and, at 4.563km, the track is almost 800 metres longer
than the mountain is high (3776m). Mount Fuji
itself is a dormant volcano but fans should expect plenty of action to erupt on
track over the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.

At
1.475km long, the circuit layout features one of the longest straights in
motorsport where the cars are expected to reach a top speed of 315kmph, meaning
that a low downforce car set-up will be essential. But other than that long
straight it’s not a particularly fast circuit; the majority of the corners are
slow with only turn three and the right hand sweep of four and five being medium
to high speed. However, low downforce set-ups also mean that the emphasis will
be on the mechanical grip of the tyres in the tight and twisty aspects of the
track.

 

 

Grands Prix have
only twice before been held at Fuji,
with Japanese Grands Prix being held in 1976 and 1977. The long straight is the
only feature of the track which is the same as 30 years ago. The most recent
re-profiled and resurfaced version of the track opened in April 2005.

The first
championship Japanese GP was hosted by Fuji
in 1976 and saw James Hunt clinch the title with third place in torrential
conditions. The race disappeared from the calendar for 10 years and on its
return in the mid eighties it was hosted by Suzuka, where it has been until
now.

As far as racing
F1 cars is concerned Fuji
is new ground for all the drivers and it will be a race of unknown variables.
Nonetheless, all teams have their own computer simulations to prepare for this
race, with no previous data for modern F1 cars available, and the technology is
fairly adept at providing the information needed. Things such as mechanical set
up, downforce levels, brake specs and gear ratios can be decided in advance and
then put to the test and fine-tuned during the free practice sessions.

Naturally most
of the interest this coming weekend will be focused on the front of the grid
and how the drivers’ standings develops – perhaps more on the battle between
McLaren teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari duo of Kimi
Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are hanging in there, but it will surely take some
disaster to befall the McLarens for the reds to realistically stay in the
fight.

 

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