2015 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka, Easily the Best!
I had been planning to visit my brother who is now studying in Japan and of course, the timing of it was just perfect for me to kill two birds with one stone. I get to visit my brother and at the same time I finally get to visit the amazing Suzuka Circuit. Of course, Suzuka is no where close to Tokyo so I got to visit a few more parts of Japan for my first visit to the country. I spent the first few days just exploring Tokyo and what makes that city great. Really colourful place and easy to get around thanks to the trains. I got to ride on the bullet train too (the Shinkansen), after all it’s the fastest way from Tokyo to Nagoya, the biggest city closest to Suzuka. And I have to say, I quite liked Nagoya too, really interesting place especially the place I was staying at.
After my usual McDonald’s pancakes breakfast (they’re really good there), it’s off to Suzuka. It didn’t take me long to figure out how to get there using their subways. I even had it written on my phone in case I forgot:
Sake to Nagoya -> Higashiyama Line
Nagoya to Kawarada -> Kansai Main Line
Kawarada to Suzuka Circuit Inou -> Isle Railway Line
All sorted, reached the Nagoya station and I find out there’s an express train from there going straight to Suzuka Circuit. Guess I didn’t need to do all my researching after all. And of all the places, I bumped into my friend Mark from New Zealand standing in the train. What are the odds of meeting someone at a place like that? It took about an hour to get to the circuit and we’re not done there. Turns out there’s another 20 minutes walk from the station to the circuit itself. Good exercise eh? And guess what? Suzuka has a lot of elevation so you don’t need a mountain for a good exercise, just go to the Suzuka Circuit, that place will give you a good workout already and we’re not even talking about the drivers and their cars.
We made it in time for the first practice session at 10am and yes, it was drizzling. But I found out that for Fridays, seating is free ANYWHERE (except the main grandstand of course). So now the big question, where do I watch the action from? I decided to start the day off at the C Grandstand, which gives a good view of the first two corners and the run up to the S curves and the first two bits of it. Not a bad place to watch these cars go around but just one problem…there weren’t many cars going around because of the rain. Still, at least there was one car going around the circuit most of the time so I can’t complain. And yup, I sat in the rain taking pictures of these guys. I mean that’s what the locals have been used to doing, so I might as well do it too.
But as there wasn’t much going on, I thought I’d walk around and check out the rest of the stands around the S curves. I really liked the view from the D1, D2 and E2 grandstands, mainly D2 as the cars were close by. And the best part about Suzuka I noticed right away, there is a lot of good spots to watch the action. And for those of us who like to take photos of these racing cars, there weren’t many catch fences in the way too, so that’s double the bonus to enjoy a day out at Suzuka watching these F1 cars.
As we had time to kill after the first practice session, I decided to check out the F1 Village area to see what’s happening at the main stage and just to see what’s up. Lots of stuff to get, especially McLaren Honda, I don’t need to say why. There were a number of cars on show, 5 classic cars that would have demo runs during the weekend, one of them being the MP4-6 that won the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix with the same guy who won it driving the car, Gerhard Berger. The last two McLaren F1 cars were also on show. We showed up at the right time too as Fernando Alonso showed up to speak to the fans for a bit.
I didn’t walk around much for the second practice session. I started out at the Q1 Grandstand, sitting at the very last row just so I can get the best view possible and it sure was. You could see Turns 1, 2, 5, 7, 16, 17 and 18. One of the best spots around Suzuka for sure. You’ll never know where to look with the cars going by either side of the circuit which I didn’t mind, beats having just a two second view of the car like what I had at the Bay Grandstand most of the time in Singapore the week before.
I stuck around at that seat for about an hour, taking a lot of pictures too and for once a lot of good ones as well. And it was the place to be to see drivers making mistakes. Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo all ran off at the chicane. I spent the last 30 minutes hiding in those entrance tents for the R and S Grandstands because it started to rain again and I wanted to see what the view was like there, which is alright but not as good as Q.
I had to get some stuff while I was there so I got myself the two versions of the 2015 McLaren Honda F1 diecast cars. Time to walk back and me being a silly newbie, I followed the crowd exiting out of the amusement park (and with Suzuka F1 tickets, you would get unlimited rides there for a few days, which I never got to use). Turns out that was the wrong exit and I got to the station 40 minutes later. If you’re wondering, the easiest way to get in and out of the circuit is the gate near the first corner.
I took it a bit easy for Saturday and went to the circuit a bit later than I would…turns out it was a bit late, we showed up just as the third practice session started. Because I don’t speak Japanese, I assumed a few parts of the circuit had a free viewing areas but it turned out to be a photographer area. And I’m not talking about the professional guys but people like you and me. Now I like Suzuka even more! They’ve got a few areas around the circuit for those with the photographer pass. And from what I see, they’ve got some good views too. I do wonder if people like myself who aren’t from Japan are allowed to get it. Would be nice if a few other circuits have a photographer area too, I do enjoy taking photos of these F1 cars too together with just watching them zooming past me.
So we wasted 30 minutes walking around but it wasn’t a total waste. While walking around Turn 7, I noticed a small little area with a number of flowers on it. Turns out it was the tribute area for the late Jules Bianchi who tragically had his fatal accident at that corner in last year’s race. I did my own little moment of silence to remember Jules, he was a great driver. Taken far too early, he would have been a future world champion, he was that talented.
I ended up watching the last half of FP3 at Turn 6, which wasn’t a bad place to see those cars. That and also there was a staircase nearby so why the heck not, just watch there. And there was a superscreen close by and I wanted to see how everyone was doing timewise. Thankfully this time the weather was perfect so I didn’t need to use my raincoast or my umbrella, which I forgot to bring the day before because I thought we were not allowed to bring it here. I mean they said no umbrellas allowed on the website so did I miss something?
For qualifying we watched it at our seats at I Grandstand which gave a great view of the Hairpin Curve (Turn 11), or as I like to call it, the Kobabashi curve because Kamui Kobayashi just loved to overtake and bash people at that spot and he made it work 9 out of 10 times, Turn 10 and the back straight before 130R (Turn 15). On the way there, I stopped at 130R to check out the classic cars on their demo runs and yeah, that 130R sure is a special corner. And the best part? It was a free viewing zone so that was a wasted chance for me to see those cars go flat out at 130R for FP3. Oh well, another time I guess?
The seats we had turned out to be a really good one. We saw a number of guys locking their brakes up before or during their qualifying runs. But I got my money’s worth later on when Max Verstappen stopped his Toro Rosso car right in front of us, giving me tons of great pictures so thank you Max for that (I got a picture with him too in Singapore the week before, nice guy). And to think I told my brother that Verstappen will give us a show with his overtakes there, well he did but a different kind of show.
And then came Qualifying 3. Those of you who saw that session knew what happened. THAT crash. Daniil Kvyat had that massive shunt at Turn 10, he lost control of his car and he hit the barriers quite hard, flipping his car too. And guess where I was? Yup, right opposite where he hit the barriers. I noticed right away a few sparks were coming out before he crashed so I thought something broke. And then the big crash.
That was easily the biggest accident I’ve seen with my own eyes and I’m so glad for Daniil that he got out of his car unaided too! The whole left side of that car was gone, I’ve never seen a race car that badly smashed up before and to think Daniil escaped without any injury is quite amazing, it just shows how safe these cars really are. It’s still a dangerous sport as we know with Bianchi’s and Justin Wilson’s accident recently.
The crash meant no-one could improve their lap-times and pole position went to….Nico Rosberg? Yup! The king of pole position this year had finally been beaten by his team-mate. And I did see Lewis Hamilton making that mistake at Turn 11 which did end up costing him that pole position. Bottas qualified 3rd for Williams so some hopes for them to challenge for the podium spot over the Ferrari guys. Now back to Nagoya and as if the 20 minute walk back from the gate to the station wasn’t bad enough, it turns out it was another 20 minutes from my seat just to get to the gate! More exercise then.
This video has 21,000+ views already? What the heck…
It’s race day! The 27th time Suzuka was hosting the Japanese Grand Prix and it’s the 27th of September. Did I mention 27 is my number? Nico Hulkenberg drives the 27 car and I’m a huge fans of his so more 27 there. I missed the support series so that was a shame but with the long travelling, I was ok with that. We got to see David Coulthard at the fan stage speaking to the fans and me being a fan, I had to stop for a while to hear him. Oh did I mention, I raced with good ol’ DC once? He personifies the term gentleman, you’ll never meet anyone friendlier than him (maybe with the exception of Hulkenberg and Ricciardo).
We got in time to see the F1 driver’s parade and thank god they did the parade with those classic cars individually and not the whole “everyone together in one shitbox” that the European races usually do and now Malaysia and Singapore were doing it too. At least Japan is doing it right. I saw the parade opposite from my seat just after Turn 9 and it turns out that was another good spot to watch the action. Because you don’t just get to see the cars go one way but both ways. Yes I’m talking about that section where the track crosses each other. If I do get to go to Suzuka again, I’ll surely catch a session from that area.
Almost time for the race and I have to say, it was nice to see a race where the majority are locals. The same cannot be said about Malaysia and Singapore where I’d say it’s about 50/50. Even in Melbourne, there were a number of foreigners but at Suzuka, not that many. So in a sea of Japanese people, the people seating next to me were from Toronto, Ontario, Canada! What are the odds? A bunch of Canadian people there and me who loves Canada. So yeah we spoke about Canada for a bit. As yes, Montreal is the #1 on my wishlist of races I’ve never been to that I really want to go.
Speaking of the fans, many of you may have seen from the TV about the crazy stuff the people will bring and I can tell, these Japanese fans are really creative when it comes to these stuff. I saw so many hats with cars on it, the famous DRS hat that actually works, a bunch of Samurais in Ferrari colours and even a guy wearing Kimi Raikkonen’s overalls and the helmet too! These guys are really funny. Same for the marshals. They actually put on a show during the track inspection and gave the SC a good scare. They know how to put on a good show don’t they? And did I mention how polite the Japanese people are? That was a nice change for once. Not many people are polite from where I’m from.
The area at the I Grandstand was a good spot to see some close racing, but not as many overtakes as I expected. Most of them came from Daniel Ricciardo who had a puncture early on, so damn that. Good spot to take pictures of more than one cars and also for just one car as the view was quite clear. I think it was the closest I was to the cars of any of the areas I’ve watched F1 cars at any of the four circuits I’ve been to. If you’re thinking about going to Suzuka, that’s one place I can strongly suggest watching the action from.
Lewis Hamilton won the race and it was a quick race, about 90 minutes and no safety cars which was alright with me. I had a bullet train to catch so I was more than happy with a quick race. I thought it was a good one, I got to see some good racing from where I was. Before Suzuka, I’ve always said Sonoma was the best circuit I’ve been to because it was a good circuit to drive on and also a good circuit to watch with so many great spots around the circuit. I can easily say now, Suzuka is the best circuit I’ve been to.
Many consider it the best circuit in F1 and from a fan’s point of view, I can say the same. So many great spots to watch the cars around here and well, the track is brilliant. And from wherever you are, most of the time, you’ll get a great view of these cars and at least more than one view of it. I can’t wait to get back there, really enjoyed my time there. Quite fitting that my 10th Formula One race live was at this legendary circuit. Really liked it there, I don’t know if I can say if that was the most fun I had at an F1 event but it might have been.
Races like the ones in Suzuka and Albert Park are the ones I enjoy the most, it’s just all about racing here. No concert or whatever like in Singapore, as cool as it maybe to see some superstars from that area but I am and will always be a motorsports fan. My main reason for going to these races are to see those drivers are cars in action, nothing else. Nothing beats that for me. This won’t be my last visit to Suzuka, that is for certain.