What A Country And What A Race!
Did you know the Suzuka track is one of the few on the calendar that follows a figure of eight design? With eighteen other twists and turns, this unique circuit is a driver and fan favourite. Did you also know it is built on a giant fairground and is famous for its big wheel?
If that does not entice you to make a trip, its illustrious history will. Read on as we give our essential guide to the Japanese Grand Prix.
Formula One GP in Japan
Japanese Formula One Racing started in 1963. Numerous sports car races were held under the name of the Grand Prix during this period, though they did not join the official FIA calendar until 1976.
However, Japan did not stay on the calendar for long. The Fuji Speedway was the first addition in the Far East but was a dangerous track that produced numerous injuries and fatalities. Though it was loved by fans and drivers, after the 1977 Grand Prix it would be sidelined for a decade.
Its new home was the Suzuka Circuit. Despite a short return to the Fuji Speedway in 2007 and 2008, this would be the permanent home of races in Japan for the foreseeable future.
Though Grand Prixs are no longer held here, the Fuji Speedway plays a large part in Japanese racing history. Under the shadow of Mount Fuji in Oyama, Shizuoka, it is a taxing circuit that was both loved and feared by drivers.
The first Grand Prix here in 1976 was a nail-biting finale that decided the World Championship. Though Mario Andretti won the race, James Hunt managed to gain enough points to claim the season. Hunt would go on to win the next year's race at the circuit.
After exiting the calendar and moving to Suzuka, in 2006 it was announced that the race would return to Fuji. Now owned by Toyota, the track had undergone a significant redesign by track designer Hermann Tilke.
This was not a welcome change for many drivers, who loved Suzuka and many of whom had issues with other tracks around the globe designed by Tilke.
From 2009 onwards, Fuji and Suzuka were supposed to alternate every year. However, global financial troubles meant that Toyota decided it was not financially viable for them to continue. The Grand Prix returned to the Suzuka circuit for good.
Suzuka had its first Grand Prix race in 1987. Housed inside a giant funfair, the track was an immediate hit with spectators. The track itself was extremely unique, interesting, and challenging for the drivers.
The circuit is built around a figure of eight. Situated southwest of Nagoya, it has numerous famous sections.
As drivers start, they encounter a drop in elevation going into turn one. This corner is taken at around 260 kph. This then gives way to a series of S turns that test the driver's skill.
After this, they pass under a bridge at the centre of the figure of eight. The next turn can be very tricky when wet, which it often the case at Suzuka. Soon it gives way to the famous spoon corner.
Prost vs. Senna in 1988
One of the most famous races in Japanese Grand Prix history was the battle for the 1988 World Title between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Arguably the two greatest drivers on the planet around at the time, they qualified in first and second to set up a perfect race.
Senna stalled at the start, letting Prost take a quick lead. Falling to 14th place, Senna quickly made his way up the field. Prost's failing gearbox and the rain favoured Senna, who made his way to the front quickly.
Without changing to wet tires, he managed to grasp pole position and win by a 13-second lead. The point difference for the race, three points, was just enough to snatch him the championship.
The 2014 Typhoon
In 2014, a typhoon hit the track. Many people felt aggrieved that the start time was not moved and the race went ahead, allowing Rosberg and Hamilton to enter into a nail-biting battle.
On the 45th lap, Adrian Sutil spun his Force India car off the track, and it needed recovery by crane. Jules Bianchi then spun off at the same spot, smashing into the crane itself. Unfortunately, at the hospital, he had to be placed in an induced coma and would pass away nine months later.
The next year saw changes made to the track, particularly along the Dunlop curve where the accident had taken place. Added drainage ensured that most of the water would be removed. Cranes were also relocated to prevent any reruns of the tragic accident.
Where Is the Best Place to Watch the Formula One GP in Japan?
There are quite a few grandstands at Suzuka that each gives a unique view of the circuit. Grandstand I, will let you look over the hairpin, which often attracts the most incidents.
Two of the most popular grandstands are D and E. They give a view over the S curves so you can get a good look at the drivers showing their skill in the turns. Grandstand G is also popular as it gives a view of the left flank.
Japanese Grand Prix Facts
The driver with the most wins at the Japanese Grand Prix is Michael Schumacher with six. He is closely followed by Lewis Hamilton on five wins and Sebastian Vettel on four.
Constructor championships go to Mclaren, who have racked up nine wins since 1977. Ferrari is after this with seven and Mercedes next with six.
Now you know the history of the Japanese Grand Prix, plan your visit. Not only do you get to watch an exciting race, but you can also visit this amazing country.
Your first pit stop should be at Grand Prix Adventures. We have a range of hospitality packages for all the world F1 events. Contact us here so we can arrange your next trip and get you trackside.