Singapore was a good weekend for me. It’s the first time in quite a few races that I’ve not had to fight through the pack to get a result which made life a lot easier. In the final stint, I had to clear Sebastian quickly after making the extra stop. But the car just felt fantastic and I could push whenever I needed to throughout the race. Of course, it was disappointing for the team to have another retirement but I know they have made this a priority moving forwards. It’s levelled things up in the Drivers’ Championship, so hopefully we’ll now have a straight battle right to the flag in Abu Dhabi. Suzuka is one of the races on the calendar that drivers love the most – and arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world. There’s so much history and there have been so many defining moments there – like those unforgettable battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. I’ve never won at this circuit and have only made the podium once, on my first visit way back in 2009. I’ve had a couple of chances and last season was probably the best of those. This year, though, we have an exceptional car and I’m really hoping I’ll finally have my shot at the top step. All the greats of Formula One have won at Suzuka since the sport first came there in the 1980s and I’m determined to add my name to that list this weekend.
Suzuka: In The Cockpit with Lewis
It’s downhill on the way into Turn 1, which is incredibly fast and taken flat out. You’ve then got to brake briefly into Turn 2 – shifting down to third gear, or maybe fourth in these new cars, using all of the track on exit. Next it’s the legendary ‘S’ Curves. It’s really important to hit every apex just right through here to carry the momentum. You actually run quite wide out of Turn 5 and then really hug the apex through Turn 6 – bringing you out to the right-hand side of the track for a good line through Turn 7. You have to get the car hooked up through here to hit full throttle as early as possible for the flat-out run up the hill.
Next, you’re into the Degner curves, which always seem to catch people out. You don’t want to brake too late into the first part, Turn 8, or you’ll find yourself straight into gravel. Then, for the second part at Turn 9, the car can get really out of shape at the apex and it’s so easy to make a mistake. There’s no room for error through this section as there’s very little run-off area.
After a short, slightly curved straight it’s into the Turn 10 hairpin, which is really difficult to attack. There’s so little grip through here – partly because the circuit is so dependent on high-speed performance that your setup is not as optimised for low-speed corners as you’d like. It’s important to get a good exit here, as you’re flat-out all the way through Turn 12 on the long run down to Turn 13. The Spoon Curve, made up of Turns 13 and 14, is really tricky to get right. It’s very fast on the way in and, once you’re there, it’s all about keeping the minimum speed up all the way through the corner. You really do have to use all of the circuit on exit and get on the throttle as early as you can for the back straight.
Turn 15, the spectacular 130R, is so fast. Today, we easily take it flat-out but it must have been so tough years ago. After a short run down to the final chicane, Casio Triangle at Turns 17 and 18, you’re braking hard for the crucial finale to the lap. You use all of the kerbs through here and, once again, hitting full throttle early is key as the following start / finish straight provides one of the best overtaking opportunities around the lap.