It was the 30th anniversary of the Suzuka Formula One Grand Prix this year and it was a big one. The weekend ended with both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes extending their lead in the drivers and constructors championship.
Japan’s grand prix is one of the most loved on the Formula One calendar and the Suzuka circuit is spectacular with its high speed corners and flow. We had the chance to attend the Japanese Grand Prix this year and we thought we would right about our experiences and whether it was worth a visit.
In this review we are going to cover everything from buying the tickets to getting to the circuit and the race itself. By the end of this review we hope to give you a good idea whether it will be worth it for you.
Everything You Need To Know About The Event
Buying The Tickets for The Suzuka F1
Purchasing the tickets for the race is a fairly straightforward experience, however, you will need to decide on where you want to sit (we will get to the seating later in this article). There are a number of different places you can purchase the tickets, including the official Formula 1 website, but we opted to purchase the tickets directly from the circuit itself.
The Suzuka circuit website may not be as slick as the official Formula 1 website, but it was easy to navigate and most importantly the tickets were cheaper (around 5 to 10%). If you buy the tickets through the official F1 website, they will send them to you anywhere in the world, while buying them from the circuit means you need to pick them up.
Picking up the tickets was a straightforward experience and there was no que on the Friday. We simply walked up to the ticket collection point, showed our email confirmation and id, and then received the tickets. We are not sure if this would take longer on the Saturday or Sunday, as these days had a higher turnout.
Seating and Areas
On the Friday you have the chance to sample any of the seats, so we took the opportunity to do so. We first tried out grandstand S and R, which we thought were okay. You can see some pit action and can view the cars coming through the final corner. There was also a TV, so you could follow the action elsewhere on the track.
After this we moved onto general admission area G and felt that it was an excellent place to view the raw pace of the fastest F1 cars ever. There wasn’t much seating and we had to plonk ourselves down on a grassy slope to see the action. You could also see the cars go through the tunnel under 130R, which was great as well. We felt that this area was excellent for a bit, but we’re not too sure if it would be comfortable for the whole weekend (especially if it rained). If you are looking for a cheap ticket and get there early, we would definitely recommend general admission G.
Following this, we decided to carry on down the track and take a look at “Spoon Curve”. Here you will find general admission areas L, M and N, which once again are great if you are looking for a cheaper ticket. There was no TV, so you can’t see any of the other action on tack unless you livestream it. We are also not too sure how it would be in the rain, as it can get pretty wet in Suzuka.
To finish of the Friday, we moved to the “Hair-Pin” to watch the classic F1 cars blast around the track (more on that later). Here you have a nice big TV and there is always plenty of action and overtakes.
Between Spoon Curve and the Hair-Pin you can get quite close to the cars in certain sections. The sense of speed is mightily impressive and you can really see the drivers working the car. When the classic cars made their appearance on track we decided to come back to this area and we certainly weren’t disappointed by the noise.
For the Saturday and Sunday, we were seated in Grandstand D and we felt that this the best area that we had tried. You could see the exit of the pit lane, all the way through the first corner and the “S-Bends”. Watching the cars go through the S-Bends was mightily impressive and you could see just how fast the cars were. Once again, there was a TV so we could keep up with all the action elsewhere on the track.
Race day is of course the main reason to attend a Grand Prix weekend, but there are plenty more events to keep you entertained. As those familiar with F1 with know, the weekend consists of two practice sessions on the Friday, a practice and qualifying on the Saturday, and the race on Sunday.
To fill in the waits in-between the different Formula 1 sessions, there are other events that go on. As we have already said, there were some classic F1 cars on show from Mika Hakkinen’s 1998 McLaren to Felipe Massa’s 2006 Ferrari. This was a real spectacle to see and it was great to be able to compare the old with the new. These cars were wheeled out on all three days, which was great for both old and new F1 fans alike.
The busy F1 weekend schedule also played host to the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan. On the Friday there was a practice session, the Saturday held host to the qualifying and then the Sunday was the race (before the F1 race).
There were also a number of other events from a night pit walk on the Saturday, to a drivers’ parade in a bunch of classic cars and even a wedding. If you are worried about a lack of content, you need not worry as there were almost too many things to do and see.
Information and Commentary
Naturally, all the commentating is done in Japanese, so unless you are well versed in the language you probably won’t have a clue what is going on. Luckily, my partner is Japanese so she could translate what was going on. For those that aren’t travelling with a Japanese speaker, we suggest that you get yourself a radio or stream the commentary in your own language.
While the commentary was all in Japanese, getting around and finding out information was easy. There were plenty of English speaking staff at the circuit and pretty much everything is translated into English. Additionally, there was both and English and Japanese programme guide that had everything you needed to know about the weekend’s events. It also had a load of information about food and other activities to do around the circuit.
Other Things to Do and See
Along with the main events, there are also plenty of other activities to indulge in. We didn’t get the time to try everything, so this is sort of a basic overview.
Japan is famous for its food and you certainly won’t be disappointed by the choices available to you. Each main seating area has a range of different food and drink items you can try, so don’t worry about having to walk too far to get some lunch.
The main issues we had with the food and drink arrangement is that the lines can get pretty long and the food is reasonably pricey. However, with an event such as the Formula 1 you can only really expect this. If you are looking to save a bit of coin, we recommend that you bring some food with you. If you are staying in somewhere like Nagoya, look for one of the many amazing convenience stores before you get on the train to go to Suzuka circuit.
Motopia Amusement Park
In addition to the incredible circuit, there is also a complete amusement park. The amusement park is motoring themed and there are rides for all ages. The lines weren’t too bad and the prices were surprisingly reasonable given the location.
For those inspired by the F1 drivers or those who just want to have a bit of fun, you can give go karting a go. There were a couple of go kart tracks, but they were pretty expensive for the number of laps you got.
If you are travelling with kids, the Motopia amusement park is definitely worth a visit. For those who just want to watch some racing, you can probably give the park a skip, as there is plenty to do and see already.
Transportation to and from Suzuka Circuit
As with many circuits around the world, getting to Suzuka can be a bit of a hassle. Thankfully, Japan’s rail service put on direct trains from Nagoya station (the closest major city to Suzuka circuit) to and from the circuit. As I was using a JR rail pass (would highly recommend getting one if you are travelling Japan) the only cost was 300 yen one way. For those who don’t have a rail pass, the total price of a one-way fare was just over 1,000 yen.
The station is pretty small and the crowds are big, so there was a bit of queuing at the end of Saturday and especially after the race on Sunday. We recommend that you get your return ticket in the morning, as it can get pretty hectic later in the day.
The walk from Suzuka Circuit station to the circuit itself isn’t too long and is actually quite nice after sitting on the hard grandstand seats.
For those who are driving, there appeared to be plenty of parking, with the most expensive that we saw (6,000yen for three days) closest to the circuit and the cheapest further out. There was definitely quite a bit of traffic after the race on Sunday, so we still feel that the train is probably your best option (unless you own a helicopter).
Would We Go to The Suzuka Formula One Grand Prix Again?
Definitely! Whether it is your first Formula One experience or you have been to other ones around the world, the Japanese Formula Grand Prix is well worth a visit. The circuit has rich history surrounding it and the high speed, flowy corners make for some exciting racing. Both me and my partner felt it was a well-run event and there was plenty to keep us entertained.
Best Tips for The Japanese Formula One Grand Prix
While we are going to do a bigger guide on the Japanese F1 GP, we thought we would quickly list some of the best tips for the event:
Book your tickets and accommodation early. The best tickets sell out pretty quick, so make sure you don’t miss out on the ones you want. In addition to this you need to book your accommodation early as well. Hotels, Airbnb places and hostels were booked up very quickly. We booked about two and a half months in advance and had to settle with Nagoya Travellers Hostel (which was good for the price).
Check out the different seats and viewing areas on the Friday. As you sit pretty much anywhere on the Friday, we recommend that you take a look around. It is great to be able to see all the different parts of the circuit.
Stay in Nagoya. Nagoya is where most people stay for the Formula 1 and for good reason. It is about one hour from Nagoya to the circuit and the rail company puts on special direct services for the event. There are other places to stay, but Nagoya is probably the easiest place for travellers.
Buy food and drinks before you get to the circuit. If you are on a budget, we recommend that you purchase food and drinks at a convenience store in Nagoya. This will save you money and time, as the lines can get pretty long.
Purchase your supporters gear early. Japanese fans go wild for their supporter’s gear and if you wait until the Sunday, you will probably find that it is all sold out. Buy everything you want on the first day you are there.
Book your tickets through the Suzuka circuit website. We found that the tickets on the Suzuka circuit’s website were slightly cheaper than the official Formula One website.
Take lots of photos! Photographing F1 cars is fairly tricky as they move pretty quickly. We suggest that you check out this article from RaceFans. While taking photos and videos is important, remember to enjoy the event from your own eyes as well.