Wednesday, October 6, 2010

F1-Geeks Track Analysis - Suzuka

Starting life as a test track for Honda, the Suzuka circuit has been around since 1962.   Aside from it’s challenging double apex corners with varying radii, figure 8 layout and huge Ferris wheel, Suzuka is alone in the calendar as the circuit with the highest number of "Hello Kitty" tattoos per capita.
With the race this weekend in Japan, here’s F1-Geeks track analysis of the Suzuka circuit.*
Past the pits down to turn one, flat out and one of the two moments you have to take a breath.  Drop your shoulders and reset your focus for the upcoming sequence.   You go into turn 1 hot and brake hard past the apex to slow you down enough through turn 2 without slipping out onto the gravel.   If you’ve hit it right, it’s back to full throttle on the exit heading into 3, 4 and 5.    All the track maps say you should be in 5th gear or maybe 4th through the “S” curves.  Not this geek.  I didn’t have the nerve or experience to get through there without some engine braking.

Turns 6 - 7 are nice and you start to open it up for Dunlop.  Don’t get too excited as the entrance is deceptively sharp and you can turn a great feeling curve into a disaster easily.  
Now we approach what became my most hated set of curves in Formula 1.  Degner.

The dreaded Degner curve
 Named for the East German, Ernst Degner, who defected to Japan, won the the World Championship for Suzuki, and burst into flame at this corner. Degner curve hated me and I returned the sentiment.  (I have never sworn so much at a video game.  Ever.)  I could not consistently get the apex right.  No matter how hard I tried, I almost always ended in the gravel.  Maddening.  If you manage to get through Degner, turn 9 is right there to teach you all kinds of new humility.

Still, when you do get them
both right, it’s like sweeping your opponents feet out from under him with a "tiger-tail" sweep.  Sublime bliss, and I guarantee you’ll have a grin on your face as you speed under the bridge.

If Degner is bad, it’s still not as embarrassing as blowing the hairpin.   You know it’s coming up.  You know it’s there.  You can see it in your mind as you hit the apex of 10 and next thing you know you’re locked up, full turn to the left but going straight into the gravel.
See, the thing about 10, is that you’ve hardly been at full throttle, since turn 2 and you miss it and turn 10 looks a lot like 12 and you want, (no… you NEED) to open it up and get some speed.  But you can’t.  Just as it starts to feel good you have to brake and brake hard for the hairpin.  Timing is everything on this one.  Too late you’re sliding into the gravel.  Too early and you’re Driving Miss Daisy.

Even when you get it right, it’s just not that satisfying.
It just whets your appetite for Spoon and you relish being flat out.

You hit turn 12 while coming up to speed so there’s no need to brake going in.  A brief straight and hard on the brakes turning left but you don’t bleed off the bulk of your speed until the exit of Spoon.   Get this right and you feel like you’ve pulled off a slingshot around the moon and are headed out to space.   You get on the throttle earlier than you think you should and you wrestle the car through the exit of 14.  Cue grin.

Flat through 15 isn’t that hard but it’s not a cakewalk either.   You are moving fast.  Really fast, and a slip in concentration and you are too busy correcting to remember to brake for the Casio Triangle chicane.
Super slow, super easy to miss.   I can’t tell you how many warnings I got for cutting that chicane.  I can, however, tell you how many grid spots I was penalized for cutting that chicane and others just due to mistakes.  The answer there would be fifteen (15).  Yes, fifteen spots for mistakes that cost me all kinds of time.  A relatively mistake free lap got me to 2nd, my bad laps bumped me down to 17th on the grid.  Seems like even in the virtual world, if you aren't Mark Webber, you're going to get a penalty.

Pass the pits, take a breath , try to remember the hairpin this time…

*As experienced through Codemasters Formula 1 2010 set on Medium difficulty.

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