The bottom of the hill known as Dunlop represents a Suzuka base camp, with the most intricate, technical part of the climb completed but with a colossus of a challenge still ahead. It begins with this fourth-gear uphill sweep, the entry to which is taken just after the cars have been subject to a compression as they slide downhill out of Turn Six, the final part of the Esses.
It’s an alpine start this Friday morning, but the sun’s already playing its part. The front tyres are trying to claw the asphalt but most don’t quite have a grip on the initial entry and only load up fully a second or so later. This momentary lack of full response threatens to spit the car out of what is a very thin groove, off line, off camber and off throttle. So it’s all about taking in good entry speed while still preventing it coming out of that narrow furrow where you find lap time gold. The less downforce the car has, the harder compound its tyres, the more ragged this process looks.
Most menacing of all in its behaviour is the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein, a vicious two-step approach with a nasty twitch in between. It doesn’t deter him, though; he’s doing this dynamic belay every lap, a daring mamba with the mountain.
To lend perspective, Valtteri Bottas skims past on a light fuel load and soft tyres, the Williams grips up smartly, grinds itself into the tarmac, its plank sparks still visible even after the car itself is out of sight, around the crevasse and continuing towards the summit.