Beware Suzuka: the tiniest of slips can send you off the track

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The Independent Online

The drivers love Suzuka as much as they do Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

The Esses at the beginning are like a needle that must be threaded with great precision at very high speed, while, as Lewis Hamilton showed yesterday morning, the two Degner corners exact a high price for even minor errors.

Smoothness and braking stability and consistency are essential for the hairpin and then the Spoon Curve sections, which precede the very fast run back to the final chicane that takes the drivers flat out through the daunting left-handed 130R corner. That is still one of the great challenges of modern F1.

"It's a real driver's circuit," Hamilton says. "The first sector esses are very demanding and the higher speed corners towards the end of the lap require real precision and an excellent car set-up."

"If you go off at either of the Degners, turns eight and nine," his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button says, "the accident has usually begun with a mistake in the esses, because that then puts you off line for all of the tricky corners that follow."

Fernando Alonso loves the place. "I think all the drivers enjoy the high-speed corners of Suzuka, but it's also a technical track which gives the engineers a big challenge," the double champion says. "In terms of set-up, you have to work hard to make sure you have a car with a good front end for the changes of direction, and a stable rear so you have the confidence to attack the high-speed corners."

Michael Schumacher has won here seven times – nobody else has done so more than twice – and says: "It's a great feeling to be driving this track again. I have always loved Suzuka and particularly the first sector which is cool and demanding at the same time. If you get it right, you enjoy it big time."