Pirelli reveal challenges of new Japanese GP date change

Formula 1 is back in Asia for the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit

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Formula 1 makes its return to Japan in just over six months following its last appearance in the country. This year marks a historic first for the Japanese Grand Prix, as it takes place in April instead of its traditional scheduling in the latter part of the season, typically September or October.

Suzuka, a track synonymous with crowning world champions, has witnessed Max Verstappen securing his second title in 2022 and Red Bull claiming constructors’ glory last year.

The April timing of the event coincides with the peak of the cherry blossom, or Sakura, season, adding a picturesque backdrop to the race. It also marks the first instance of the Japanese GP being held during this period, with previous editions predominantly scheduled in October.

The early spring setting introduces lower temperatures than usual, ranging between 15°C and 20°C, challenging the teams accustomed to Japan’s conditions.

Suzuka Circuit, owned by Honda, stands as a true classic in F1, featuring a demanding layout characterised by a figure-eight design, a rarity in the sport.

The track not only tests the skill of drivers but also challenges the resilience of tyres due to its high asphalt roughness and abrasiveness.

Multiple pit stops expected

Pirelli, opting for the hardest tyre compounds, faces the challenge of providing durability amidst the demanding conditions, similar to the selection in Bahrain, the season’s inaugural race.

While a two-stop strategy remains common due to tire wear and stress, the colder temperatures may open possibilities for a one-stop strategy, especially for drivers who conserve their tires. However, maintaining optimal tyre temperature poses a challenge, particularly during out-laps from the pits.

Despite potential advantages, a one-stop strategy diminishes the effectiveness of the undercut, a favoured tactic at Suzuka.

Following the Japanese GP, Pirelli will conduct two days of tyre testing on April 8-9 to develop compounds and constructions for the upcoming season.

Suzuka track layout

The Suzuka circuit boasts 18 corners, including iconic ones like Spoon, 130R, and the challenging uphill combination from Turns 2 to 7. Lesser-known are the Degner corners, named after German motorcycle racer Ernest Degner.

Degner’s story intertwines with the evolution of Japanese motorcycling history. His collaboration with Suzuki marked a turning point, despite the risks he faced, including fleeing East Germany amidst surveillance by the Stasi. The Suzuka track commemorates his contribution, immortalising Turns 8 and 9 in his name.

Degner’s journey, fraught with challenges and triumphs, remains a testament to the pursuit of excellence amidst adversity, leaving an indelible mark on the motorsport landscape.

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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