Japanese Grand Prix preview

The Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka has always been admired by fans and drivers alike for its sequence of fast corners, which includes the fastest on the F1 calendar - the 200mph turn known as 130R.

For European television audiences, there's something special about the race - its early start time, slightly grainy TV pictures and place in history as the setting for so many dramatic drivers' title conclusions, all of which give the race a unique feel.

Suzuka's greatest moments

1987 - Nigel Mansell injures his back so badly in a high-speed crash in the Esses that he is out for the rest of the season, handing Williams team-mate Nelson Piquet the title.

1988 - Ayrton Senna drops from pole to 11th place on the first lap but fights back brilliantly through the field, exploiting drizzle and a damp track to pass McLaren team-mate Alain Prost and clinch his first world title.

Suzuka track facts

Race distance: 53 laps (191.054 miles/307.471km)

First grand prix held: 1987

Circuit length: 3.608 miles/5.807km

2011 winner: Jenson Button (McLaren)

2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)

Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) in 2005 with a time of 1min 31.540secs

1989 - Prost and Senna collide at the chicane as the Brazilian tries to pass the Frenchman. Senna rejoins and wins the race but is controversially disqualified for cutting the chicane, handing the title to Prost.

1990 - With Prost now at Ferrari, Senna rams into the back of the Frenchman at the first corner taking them both out and ensuring the Brazilian wins the title. Senna later admitted he did it deliberately as revenge for F1 boss Jean-Marie Balestre, who was involved in the 1989 controversy, putting pole position on the wrong side of the track.

1994 - In torrential rain, Williams's Damon Hill drives the race of his life to thrillingly beat Benetton's Michael Schumacher in a race that is decided on aggregate times after a stoppage, keeping the title alive until the final race of the season.

2000 - Schumacher, now at Ferrari, wins a flat-out, race-long duel with McLaren's Mika Hakkinen to clinch the Italian team's first drivers' title for 21 years.

2005 - Rain in qualifying leaves the front-runners at the back of the grid and produces arguably the greatest grand prix of all time. Renault's Fernando Alonso passes Schumacher with an outrageously brave move at 207mph around the outside of 130R and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen clinches victory by passing the Spaniard's team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap.

Drivers' views of Suzuka

Red Bull driver Mark Webber : "The Suzuka Circuit has an incredible combination of corners. You have to be very accurate and rhythm is very important. It's a good challenge for the drivers."

Analysis

"The track is arguably the greatest test of a racing driver on the planet- a succession of fast sweeping corners; narrow; small run-off areas and unforgiving barriers ready to claim the careless or over-ambitious. The Japanese fans are enthusiastic and the place teems with the history of dramatic battles between great men. It is a place where legends are made, and the true measure of grand prix drivers emerges. It's so good no-one even minds the day-long journey to get there."

Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi: "The Japanese fans are great and the mood and atmosphere they create is an enormous support. And it is not only me who they cheer for. They are true Formula 1 fans and that is why I'm really proud of them. Nowhere else will you find the fans being at the circuit so early in the morning and staying for so long at night, no matter what the weather is like."

Force India driver Paul di Resta: "It's a track that's all about aerodynamics so it's a real test of your car. I also find it very technical with corners like the 'S' curves where you need a good change of direction. Finding the sweet spot isn't easy because half the track is made up of straights so you need efficiency as well as downforce for the high-speed corners. Tyre degradation is also high so a neutral car is what you need during the race."

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel: "I love the Suzuka circuit. It has the most amazing corners and brilliant fans, I really like coming here. The track itself is huge and almost every metre of it is special."

Japanese Grand Prix 2012, day two

  • Saturday, 6 October: Third practice 02:55 BST; 5 live Sports Extra and live text online. Qualifying 05:55 BST; 5 live Sports Extra and live text commentary online. Highlights on BBC One 13:00 BST.

Japanese Grand Prix 2012, day three

  • Sunday, 7 October: Race: 06:55 BST, 5 live and live text commentary online. Highlights on BBC One at 14:05 BST and Mon 8 Oct on BBC Two at 00:35 BST.

Japan's memorable title deciders