Japanese F1 Grand Prix

Introduction  Circuit details  |  Transportation  |  Accommodation Results

Of the Asian countries active in F1, Japan has the longest history in motor racing. It has become a key market for engine builders, but also for sponsors for the F1 racing. However, major players such as Honda and Toyota have recently exited F1 due to its high costs, although Honda has recently announced that it may re-join F1 as an engine supplier, possibly in 2015.

Japanese GP

Over the years, the Japanese Grand Prix has become synonymous with excitement and controversy as it is normally held at the end of the season. Many a championship has been won and lost in Japan! In fact, of the 38 Grand Prix’s Japan has so far hosted, 11 have seen the title decided for both drivers and teams.

The first Japanese Grand Prix took place in 1976 at the infamous Fuji racing circuit. This race is a F1 legend now, as it was a championship title decider between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The racing conditions were abysmal, with pouring rain. Lauda, who had survived a near fatal crash at the German Grand Prix earlier in the season, drove cautiously and then retired from the race, letting Hunt finish the race in third place and giving him the Drivers’ Championship title by a single point! This was recently captured in the movie Rush. In the following year, James Hunt returned to win the race this time, but this was overshadowed by a collision between drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Ronnie Peterson, which forced Villeneuve’s Ferrari into a restricted area, killing a marshal. Because of this, the Japanese Grand Prix was removed from the F1 Championship calendar.

Almost a decade later, in 1987, Japan was back on the F1 Championship calendar, but no longer at the Fuji track, instead at the new Suzuka track. Suzuka remains unique in the F1 circuit line-up and many feel that it is just as challenging, if not more, than other historic tracks, such as Monza and Spa. Built in 1962 as a testing track for Honda, the track has many turns and is the only figure-of-eight track on the F1 calendar and the only track with a crossover!

Hosting the Japanese Grand Prix every year since 1987, there have been some historic racing moments at Suzuka. It began its Grand Prix legacy with Nigel Mansell crashing his Williams-Honda during practice, giving the championship title to team mate Nelson Piquet. However, Suzuka will always be remembered for the legendary feud between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna during the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. Senna was racing to keep his championship hopes alive and tried to overtake Prost, who swerved into him, eliminating both men from the race, leaving Prost to take the championship title.

A year later, Senna paid Prost back by ramming him off the road at the first corner and winning the championship title himself. Later, Senna admitted that he had rammed Prost on purpose. In 2000, it was a duel between Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen, where Schumacher won the race and his first World Title for Ferrari (his third) under extreme rainy conditions.

In 2006 the FIA announced that the redesigned Fuji circuit would again be hosting the Japanese Grand Prix, moving the Grand Prix to the Hermann Tilke designed, Fuji Speedway. The news was received with certain trepidation as many drivers favoured Suzuka. From 2009 onwards, Fuji was supposed to alternate with Suzuka, but Toyota pulled out of F1 and it was decided that Suzuka would host the Japanese Grand Prix from 2009 onwards.

Michael Schumacher has the most Japanese Grand Prix wins, with six races (all at Suzuka). Sebastian Vettel has won the Japanese Grand Prix four times, between 2009 and 2013, with Jenson Button winning once in 2011.

Introduction  Circuit details  |  Transportation  |  Accommodation Results