Japanese F1 2021 setup guide
The Suzuka F1 circuit in Japan is a fantastic racing track. It’s been on the Formula 1 calendar for an extremely long time, and is made up of long, fast sweeping corners. It’s certainly one of the funnest tracks to drive in F1 2021, despite being a tricky circuit to master.
How to create a great Japanese car setup in F1 2021
One of the main areas to focus your energy on while creating a car setup for Japan in F1 2021, is ensuring you have a well balanced car. Balance is crucial around Japan, as the sweeping corners require a responsive yet stable car setup.
There is a mixture of high and low speed sectors, which adds to the complexity of your setup. The last sector features an extremely long straight, with a flat out left hand kink of 130R which requires balls of steel and a great aero balance.
In comparison, the first and middle sectors both feature slower corners. There are a combination of slow corners such as the hairpin of turn 11, and more medium speed corners such as the turns 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 sequence.
The first two corners, and the longer sequence of corners which follows are all characterised by being long sweeping turns. These types of corners play havok with your tyre wear, making them wear rather quickly.
In terms of downforce, you should look to keep your aerodynamic setup reasonably balanced. The first two sectors reward a higher downforce setup, while the last sector limits how high you can run. If you setup your aero too high, you’ll be extremely slow through the last sector, making it hard to progress forward during a race.
Suzuka is a track which is front-limited. This means your performance will be limited by your front tyres. Your front tyres will bare most of the tyre wear through the long sweeping corners, with rear traction being less of an issue. This means we don’t need to manage our rear traction too heavily with our differential setup.
To maximise your performance through the longer corners where you ideally want to maintain as high of a mid-corner speed as possible. You should look to run your on-throttle differential higher than at many other tracks.
A higher on-throttle differential setup will allow your car to have peak acceleration performance, rather than focusing on low-end traction.
The long sweeping corners lend themselves to a high camber setup. The higher your camber setup, the more you can lean on your tyres through the longer corners, which means the higher minimum speed you can carry through each corner.
You can also look to setup your toe setup reasonably high. The higher your toe, the more responsive your car will be, which is important, as Suzuka features a few fast direction changes.
If you find yourself really suffering with tyre wear, you can look to reduce some of the toe angle. This will cause less drag in a straight line, which in turn will lower some of the excess tyre wear. It’ll also increase your top speed potential a little which will help your final sector time.
Following the trend of our car setup to this point, our balanced approach should carry over to the suspension setup. You don’t want a car that is too soft, otherwise it’ll be sluggish through the sweeping corners that make up a lot of the Japanese circuit.
But you don’t want a car that is too stiff otherwise you’ll suffer from higher tyre degredation as well having a car which could potentially be snappy under harsh direction changes. Neither of these outcomes are ideal for a track as difficult to master as Suzuka.
So try to keep your suspension and anti-roll bar setup reasonably balanced between the two. You can lower your ride height some what, but not too far. There are a fair few height changes around Suzuka, as well as a few kerbs which you’ll be driving over, so an overly low ride height setup will cause instability.
Managing tyre wear in our car setup
We can look to offset a little tyre wear that is common around Suzuka in our tyre setup. By lowering the tyre pressures a little bit, we can lower the overall tyre temperatures which in turn will help reduce some tyre wear.
You shouldn’t look to lower the tyre pressures too much though, as the lower your pressures are, particularly the front pressures, the less responsive your car will be.
If you are struggling with understeer or front-end turn in, you can increase your front tyre pressure a touch to add a little more responsiveness at the expense of tyre wear.
You can set your brake pressure to your own preference. There aren’t many heavy braking zones, other than into the chicanes of turns 16 and 17. This means locking a wheel isn’t too much of a danger around Suzuka. In fact the most common place to lock a wheel is actually into the slow turn 11 hairpin, as you’ll be braking while applying a little wheel angle.
Keeping your brake bias fairly neutral and balanced will help offset some of the front braking power into the rear. This will go towards limiting the possibility of locking a front wheel.