It is now certain that Sunday’s Grand Prix will be the last at Suzuka for a while, at least. Everyone seems sad to see it go – it is a driver’s circuit and presents some of the most challenging corners in F1. With the championship poised on a knife edge, it looks as if it will host a classic as its last GP.
Rain washed out most of today’s practice sessions but the main protagonists, Ferrari and Renault, headed the times at the end. As usual, nothing much can be read into this and we will see the real performance of the cars tomorrow in qualifying. The weathermen say it will be drier than today so things could be pretty close between the front runners.
Suzuka is the sole F1 venue that has a figure-8 shape and there are many other unique aspects to it. There are more difficult corners but, for me, the one that says “Suzuka” most emphatically is the Spoon. That long, sweeping bend, more than 180 degrees, is seen nowhere else.
Times change, however, and there is little we can do but accept it philosophically. Next year we will be at Fuji, Toyota’s circuit in one of the most dramatic settings of all – as can be seen from this photograph, with Mount Fuji in the background and snow covering the hills.
The circuit can be seen at the bottom of the picture. It has a much simpler layout than Suzuka but has seen its share of dramatic races in the past too. Coming at the end of the season as it does, the Japanese Grand Prix is often the venue for the last acts in a titanic battle between two or more contenders for the championship. Let us hope that Fuji is able to provide suitable challenges for such struggles.
There is some hope that, in the future, Suzuka might return as an alternating venue with Fuji in similar fashion to the Hockenheim/Nurburgring possibility. That would be ideal, I think, and would keep everone happy.