Hamilton raves about Suzuka circuit
Hamilton raves about Suzuka circuit
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Oct 2009   |  11:03 am GMT  |  71 comments

Lewis Hamilton had his first taste of Suzuka today, a track which he admits he has always dreamed of racing on.



A lot of this has to do with his great admiration for Ayrton Senna. Hamilton has a yellow crash helmet styled after Senna’s and is well aware that many of the most iconic moments in the Brazilian’s career happened here, like the championship -deciding collisions with Alain Prost in 1989 and 1990. Hamilton is unusual among drivers in having a pretty good knowledge of and interest in, F1 history.

Even though it was a bit of a washout today, especially the second session, a dry line did appear towards the end of the morning session and Hamilton has got the buzz,

“I love the track. For me it’s the best track I’ve ever driven, ” he said. “It’s different from Monaco and the street circuits. We weren’t supposed to go out in the second session but I couldn’t help it, I had to go out and have some fun.

“The track is very special, I’ve always wanted to drive here since the very early stages, when I was watching Formula 1, I remember what happened here in 1989. Yesterday I was walking the track and I was thinking, “This is where it happened with Ayrton and Prost and then there’s turn one and all there is so much history here. I got on the track this morning and the first couple of laps are quick. I’m just looking forward to getting out there in the dry and seeing how much you can push on this track.

Given what’s happened recently in Formula 1, it’s quite ironic that people still look back nostalgically on those incidents, where Senna and Prost settled their differences – and the championship – by deliberately crashing into each other. The second one was really fierce, Senna driving Prost off the road at over 120mph going into turn one. Everyone knew he was going to do it, even Prost knew he was going to do it, yet somehow everyone forgave him and no action was ever taken.

No-one else from his team was involved in it, but if you compare what happened then with Piquet’s premeditated crash at Singapore, it shows how times and attitudes have changed.

Hamilton says that the fact that all the running has been wet will make tomorrow’s one hour dry practice session a really big challenge,

“Tomorrow we will have to predict how the wind’s going to be, affecting our gear ratios, predicting the downforce levels, tyre temperatures. There’s quite a lot to guess. For those of us drivers who haven’t been here before even though we’ve driven it in the wet, it’s completely different in the dry. Tomorrow it’s going to be a serious challenge of who’s going to be the quickest at getting on the ball.”

The management here has done a great job in upgrading the facilities, without losing the character of the place. The paddock is similar to before, but the rabbit warren of team offices, has been replaced by semi permanent tents, like in Fuji.

The track has been resurfaced since we were last here in 2006, but Bridgestone are on top of it. It’s a very high grip surface apparently.

I love it here, always have. It’s not so popular among many of the team and media personnel because the hotel rooms are tiny, there is only Japanese food to eat (which is fine by me) and all the signs are in Japanese.

But Hamilton is right; here you feel the history, it’s not Monza-type history with the pre-war heroes and the banking. This is recent history, epic nonetheless, forged by men like Senna, Prost and Mansell.

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Its great that Suzuka is back in the fold. I saw Damon Hill win his championship there in ’96.

However (& this probably goes against the grain of general opinion!), I feel its a shame that the original plan to alternate with Fuji seems to have been dropped. Its clear that Fuji isn’t near being the racing track of Suzuka, but it has a unique atmosphere of its own up in the foothills of the mountain.

I went to the last 2 races there – Hamilton’s win in the rain was truly magical (& I guess the Hunt race must have been…). Only after the race ended did the sky clear and the setting reveal itself. It was like the mountain had to show its hand in the race…

Last year sat at the first corner and enjoyed a great battle lap after lap between Kimi and Kubica.

Hopefully, once the economic situation has settled in a few years time, Fuji & Suzuka might alternate as planned. Variety is the spice of life and all that…


To those of us that have loved F1 for longer than we care to remember, it’s really great to see a talented young driver acknowledge our sport’s history; even more so when he is bowled over by a truly great circuit.

A former colleague of yours, James, once said to me so regretfully, “Schumacher doesn’t give a sh*t about F1’s heritage” and that approach is such a shame. F1 is exciting, vibrant and, quite rightly, utterly modern but its past offers the greatest sporting heritage on the planet.


If my memory serves me well my favorite Japanese driver Takuma Sato is also quite knowledgeable about F1’s history.

I was him a few time at Goodwood’s FoS and you could see he enjoyed being there big time.

James I saw on the formula1.com photo gallery that Taku is in Suzuka, please if you have a chance ask him what his prospects are for next year, ta!


Not looking great, apparently


I meant to say: I saw him.



Love the Website; lots of insight, lots of knowledge and always ahead of the game. Thanks. One question though… The ‘mobile’ version was great for easy navigation on my iPod; I could go straight to any story or the comments, but it seems to have disappeared! Any plans to bring it back? Thanks


Yes. We are working on it.

Paige Michael-Shetley

I thought all along that Hamilton would be right at home at Suzuka. He seems to really excel on technical and street circuits, and this is a higher-speed technical circuit.


Great to see F1 back at Suzuka. It’s an awesome track that makes the new street and Tilke circuits pale in comparison, in my opinion. As others said, let’s hope circuits like Suzuka, Spa, Monza, Silverstone stay on the calendar.

To follow up on another comment made about Senna at Suzuka running through the gears. Personally, I’d love to see F1 regulate a return to clutches and manual gear changes. Put a little more driver skill back into the sport and add a little uncertainty at the same time. It wasn’t long ago that missing a gear would get you passed.

Anyway, great to see the boys back at Suzuka.


He says he remembers what happened there in ’89 – I can’t say I remember much of anything from when I was 4…


hamilton’s ever happy face makes me sick. he raves about suzuka? from what i’ve read, it’s quite wet over there right now, and that probably means he can’t go as fast and feel the track flow as it does in dry. all those fast curves don’t feel that great if they aren’t taken as fast as in the dry. plus, how many laps he did all together till now?


A marketeer’s job is to get your sponsor’s logo onto the front page.


Brace, Perhaps you could give us all some details about your fastest lap there in the dry, as I’m sure we all wait with baited breath to hear it. I’m assuming you actually drove there and not on some video game.

I’d also enjoy hearing you further expound on how easy it is to drive a 750 hp F1 car on a wet track, as so far as I’m aware, aquaplaning and lack of visibility make it rather difficult.


What are you on about? Seriously you need to get some help


Jealous much?


Don’t forget Damon Hill’s superb drive in the wet in 1994. He raised his game considerably that day taking on and beating Schumacher in the rain. In my view the drive of Damon’s career and best drive of 1994.


I was there shooting in 1994. Yes, I agree with you. Damon drove briliantly that day. Still have a nice 12″ x 15″ Ciba chrome of him in the wet. ( and its not for sale) Funny, 1993 was wet when Senna won, and 1994 as well. Both were interesting races, but, Suzuka in the wet is no fun for photography. Nice shots of course, but, dragging camera gear around there is hard work.


Wonder if those nifty upgrades there in suzuka could be an example for silverstone to follow?


Outstanding post, James. My mind really went tripping reading that one.

I´m a journalist myself and I reckon being an F1 journo is about as good as it gets second only to being an actual F1 driver. I really only wish I could travel all around the world talking and writing about the sport I love the most.

Thanks for sharing all your thoughts and info on our beloved F1.

Regards from Brazil!


Tomek,did you read the article?

James Allen wrote:

Hamilton is unusual among drivers in having a pretty good knowledge of and interest in, F1 history.


“It shows how times and attitudes have changed.”

Indeed true, Suddenly Nurburgring’05 came to my mind, when a team left driver with “Car in unsafe condition” on track to go for a win and nobody said, anything, applauded the racing spirit of the team. Compare that with Recent Renault hearing of “Unsafe release of driver”.

I am sure what happened in Singapore’08 was thought about by other teams and there might have been cases in long history of sport that something similar must have been tried. But it was Renault that got caught only because the driver in question was fired. If the driver was still having his drive, nobody would have talked about it, though everything about that crash and resulting win for the team smelled fishy from onset


Hi james – thanks for another excellent blog your website is my first read for F1 opinion. Out of interest how much time do you spend on your blog each day?




James – I concur what someone else has mentioned here. Suzuka, with Spa , Monza ( and Silverstone) are beloved circuits of everybody Drivers, Engineers, and last but not least Fans (though Fans should have been not least important, but thats how F1 treats them).

So whats all the deal about –

a) “Hamilton is unusual among drivers in having a pretty good knowledge of and interest in, F1 history.”

b) “I love the track. For me it’s the best track I’ve ever driven, ” – Don’t all the drivers give comments on these very lines, I am sure they (including) will do the same lip service every time a new track in unveiled on calendar, remember Turkey (oooh the 180), China .. and very soon we will hear the same for Abu Dhabi and what wonderful circuit it is.

Only time I heard driver frankly telling about circuit was Jarno Trulli on Indy – “Its a pretty Boring circuit, only challenge is to find optimum balance on car setup for Long Straight vs the twisty infield, but its pretty much a flat circuit no gradient, but for some on the banking section.”


Webber was very blunt about his feelings for the Valencia circuit this year.


yeah they do make it known when they don’t enjoy a circuit. one that sticks out in my mind was webber again, saying the design of Fuji must have been on mushrooms!


Great article James, I agree in Suzuka being a bit of a modern classic – F1 really shouldn’t race anywhere else in Japan. As a boy as I always transfixed by the massive scalextric feel of the track, it’s quite unique.

I think my favourite memory is from ’93 when Eddie Irvine in his first race memorably unlapped himself past Senna. Classic!!


Really really love Suzuka!!


James, any more impressions from Kimi that he is losing his love for F1 (which I and many others hope not).

Noble mentioned that he walked twice through the Mclaren garage..how was the reaction to that?

How does Lewis (and Anthony) see the possible arrival of Kimi?

When would Mclaren announce their line up?


Suzuka has always been a special circuit and one that should never leave the F1 calendar.

Im hoping for a wet race on Sunday, it will spice things up and add more excitement. I predict a Hamilton win and Button to seal the WDC…


I thought the colour of his helmet was decided by his dad. He wanted him to have a brightly coloured helmet so that he could see him coming out of the first corner clearly whilst karting so that he knew he was safe.

Yes, I’m that pedantic.


Never mind Senna, Prost and Mansell.

It seems poetic to me that the last time we were here Alonso overtook Schumacher on the outside of 130R.

As an F1 and Ferrari fan I’m salivating about the return to Suzuka and next season in general. F1 just gets better and better!


Yes, but his car was 1 sec per lap faster….do not forget it.


Yes times have changed, they were much braver and really prepared to give everything (including their lives….) to get what they want and believe is correct. (Not that I’m condoning putting other people’s lives at risk but if you want it THAT badly and prepared to make the sacrifice then you deserve it !) Guess people nowadays are all about political correctness isn’t it ? Doesn’t look good for any chance of JV coming back then..


“But Hamilton is right; here you feel the history, it’s not Monza-type history with the pre-war heroes and the banking. This is recent history, epic nonetheless, forged by men like Senna, Prost and Mansell.”

..and long may the history be written here. So glad to see it back on the calendar!

Alistair Blevins

Are tickets still available by a lottery system at Suzuka, or have those days passed?


James, I think you should make a difference between 1989 (Prost deliberately “closed the door”(and low speed and few risks)) and 1990 (Senna deliberately “bumped” the Ferrari (120 Mph and more risky)). Even if the result if the same, the way it happened is different.


I do make the distinction; I said the second one was ‘fierce’


Maybe “outrageous” would be a better word! It makes Schumacher’s escapades look innocuous by comparison.


Absolutely awesome track, no doubt, plus a real test for the rookies out there. Love that 1st sector’s sweeping curves, they make the Silverstone esses look easy to negotiate.

I foresee Alguersuari and Grosjean struggling badly here. BTW James, time for a post on how these two guys are doing? Alguersuari may be trying his best to stay out of trouble is worryingly slow (he drives a brick but Buemi is squeezing that brick way better than him, and 1.5 secs per lap is a Badoer-like lag, isn’t it?) Grosjean isn’t exactly shining either…


Beumi had a full winters testing and a many more races to get used to the car. It hugely unfair to say Jaime is ‘worryingly’ slow when you have zero data to compare him to.


No intention to bash Alguersuari whatsoever, as a spaniard I’d even like him to succeed big time.

But I just don’t see his laptimes any close in qualifying and race to his teammate, particularly in Singapore, a venue that was also new for Buemi. And by ‘not any close’ I mean fastest personal lap in the race some 1.8 secs slower than Buemi’s. I could understand him being an average of 6 / 7 tenths off the pace due to his inexperience but nearly 2 seconds… In F1 that’s a fortnight!!

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