#4 Fernando Alonso on Michael Schumacher, Japanese Grand Prix
130R. To a non-Formula One fan, that may sound like a consignment number, gibberish or strange digits thrown together arbitrarily. In fact, 130R is one of the most notoriously difficult turns on the Formula One calendar.
Until it was redesigned, it was also considered one of the most dangerous. As the name suggests, it’s a turn with a 130m radius, and is often compared to the treacherous Blanchimont at Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Toyota’s Allan McNish crashed spectacularly at Suzuka in 2002, and was sent through the barriers during qualifying for that year’s Japanese Grand Prix. Thankfully, McNish walked away from the crash, although he was in serious shock at the time.
The following year saw a fatality at the track, although that was not in Formula One but MotoGP. The track had been redesigned to make 130R a double apex – and thereby less dangerous, and the year-opening Japanese MotoGP was on schedule.
At the new Casio Triangle, a result of the redesign of 130R, Japanese MotoGP rider Daijiro Kato, who lost control of his bike at the sharp turn and with his bike weaving at high speed, was rendered comatose, passing away in hospital two weeks later.
The 2005 Japanese Grand Prix saw Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher on pole, with his iconic brother Michael qualifying in 14th, and eventual 2005 World Champion Fernando Alonso qualifying in 16th ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Every ‘big name’ was far down the grid at this race.
Alonso decided to take reigning World Champion Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari on at 130R, having put pressure on him with Kimi Raikkonen, who had qualified behind him in 17th.
In a gutsy move, the Spaniard revved at a place no other driver likely would – one of F1’s sharpest corners, with no straight in close sight – and it paid off.
From beginning at the back of the grid and behind the 7-time champion, Alonso managed to pull off a podium finish at that race, in third behind an equally shocking winner – Kimi Raikkonen, and Alonso’s own teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, who had been expected to win that race.