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GP Week : Issue 192
It's not until you walk suzuka that you begin to understand the challenges presented to drivers and engineers compared to other tracks. The esses that run from turns three through to seven alone resemble something of a suspension bridge flexing during an earthquake, and when you consider the variable wind conditions faced over the weekend, it's a marvel the cars stay on track at all at such speeds. And just when you've caught your breath, the dreaded Degner curves are waiting to bite. Carry too much speed into the first section and the only thing to slow you will be the hard reality of a tyre barrier. Even Fernando Alonso was caught out there on Saturday morning; choosing to vault the first Degner and miraculously avoiding disaster at the second. This track has little regard for reputation and has retired rookies and champions alike. Turn 11 is misleading in itself. Disguised as a simple hairpin, the load carried off the preceding left- hander can unbalance the car and end up in a serious lock-up for those who haven't put all their ducks in a row, as we saw from Sergio Perez' fumbled attempts at a pass on Lewis Hamilton ther in 2012. Make an error and the mistake will be compounded on the long run up to Spoon Cur ve – and that's where the fun continues. The approach to Spoon is not dissimilar to Turn 11, in that the load needs to be squared off before entry. Other wise a car can impersonate a ball on a string that's been well and truly let go. The grip is there and there and then driver becomes passenger. The temptation to slow the car down in an act of self- preservation will only sacrifice crucial momentum over the crossover onto 130R. Even 130R isn't what it used to be, but in the Pirelli era the legendary corner seems to have regained some of its 'balls-out' characteristics. As Daniel Ricciardo will attest, having fallen off the cliff there while passing Adrian Sutil on Sunday afternoon. Those who make it through 130R will find that the downhill run to the chicane is a different beast to that of Barcelona and will catch out those a little too greedy with their brake application. In Saturday’s qualifying session, Esteban Gutierrez was within seven-thousandths of perfection when he lost six-tenths through the chicane alone. Even the Mickey Mouse stuff is a wolf in sheep's clothing at Suzuka. Land of the lock-ups ... 32 GPWEEK.com // 32 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> JAPAN