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Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, MoneyGram Haas F1 Team
Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

Round 4 of the 2024 FIA Formula 1 World Championship takes MoneyGram Haas F1 Team to the Suzuka International Racing Course for the Japanese Grand Prix. 

MoneyGram Haas F1 Team heads to Japan keen to build on an encouraging start to the 2024 season, with a return to the top 10 in Saudi Arabia followed by a double points finish in Australia, as Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen added to the team’s points tally in a close battle in the midfield.  

Japan has been a cornerstone of Formula 1’s championship for several decades but 2024 marks a tweaked landscape, with the grand prix moving from fall to spring for the first time in its history, aligning with the country’s famed cherry blossom season. Japan has long been a country where world titles are decided, from its very first outing at Fuji Speedway in 1976, when James Hunt was proclaimed, through to Max Verstappen’s coronation in 2022.

In that timeframe the likes of Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have all clinched world titles around Suzuka’s famous sweeps. But the temporal change means Formula 1 arrives at Suzuka not with the season’s sunset on the horizon but with the majority of the campaign still stretching out along the road ahead. 

Japanese GP Statistics

Suzuka is unique among the Formula 1 calendar in being the only circuit on the schedule to feature a figure-of-eight layout. The track is universally acclaimed as one of the finest in the world due to its high-speed sections, quick changes of direction, and undulating topography.

Drivers have to build up confidence through the course of the weekend, particularly through the rapid esses in the first sector, in order to extract maximum lap time from their machinery. Even minor errors around the 5.8km circuit can be punished, with grass, gravel traps and barriers lurking close to the edge of the narrow ribbon of tarmac. 

Hulkenberg and Magnussen both have vast experience at a circuit where prior know-how is an advantage. Hulkenberg has started 10 grands prix at Suzuka, twice registering sixth position, while Magnussen has contested its grand prix seven times, recording a best of eighth with the team in 2017. 

To coincide with the Japanese Grand Prix, new video content has been made available on the MoneyGram Haas F1 Team media site, featuring a Q&A with Team Principal Ayao Komatsu (in English and Japanese).

Ayao Komatsu, MoneyGram Haas F1 Team
Ayao Komatsu – Team Principal:

“Having done three races this year on very different circuits, I’m really pleased that we’ve scored twice out of three events, with one point in Jeddah and three points in Melbourne. We’ve shown our race pace is better than our qualifying pace, especially in Melbourne, so that’s clearly a strength. At the same time, qualifying in Melbourne showed the weakness of the VF-24 and it will be a bit similar in Suzuka unfortunately in terms of circuit requirement, as Suzuka has sector one with high-speed corners. 

“When we saw those high-speed corners in Bahrain, in Jeddah around sector 1, and in Melbourne, we saw our car is not quite there in the high-speed areas, so sector 1 in Suzuka is going to be a huge challenge for us. How we’re going to manage that lack of high speed, grip and balance needed to perform in qualifying in Suzuka will be important, as it’s not an easy circuit to overtake. That’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’ve got a couple of ideas, so we’ll be looking to do a few experiments on Friday to improve that side. Regarding race pace, like in Melbourne, I think it will be stronger than our qualifying pace, so thinking about our race strategy we’ll need to look at how we can capitalize on that, having a better race strategy in Suzuka.”

Nico Hulkenberg, MoneyGram Haas F1 team
Nico Hulkenberg:

“The track is a classic and definitely iconic. It’s technical and challenging, so it’s difficult to get the perfect lap in qualifying, it’s not an easy one to get right, so that makes it interesting. The fans are always enthusiastic and passionate – that’s always an experience – and the fans give amazing gifts, I bring extra luggage to take them home in! I think Suzuka is a mixture of low-, medium-, and high-speed, and it’s maybe the first time this year that we’ll be going to a high-degradation circuit, so it will be interesting for us to really learn and see where we stand regarding that. It’s a challenging circuit and historically a high-degradation race, so it’s going to be important for us to learn for the year ahead. This season there are definitely positive signs and it feels better from inside the car compared to six months ago, but still, it’s early days.”

Kevin Magnussen, MoneyGram Haas F1 TeamKevin Magnussen:

“Suzuka is one of the classics. Driving-wise, probably one of the races throughout the year where you can have the most fun driving. Japanese fans are unique and they do fan culture differently, and that’s always an experience in itself. On paper, Suzuka doesn’t look like it’s going to suit us that well but I still think we have a better foundation in the car than we did last year. Hopefully, even if we can’t qualify as well there, we’ll still be able to race well and that’s certainly the hope.”

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