Japanese Grand Prix
The Japanese Grand Prix is synonymous with the words, excitement, thrilling and controversy. Since it hosted its first Formula One Japan has frequently been at the end of the season, and has been the scene of joy and heartbreak for years. The Japanese Grand Prix has seen many Championship crowns won and has seen many of them lost. So, with being the last race of the season, and an extremely challenging and nail biting circuit, the Suzuka Circuit has been host to a number of Championship decider races and seen title destinies fulfilled. The Suzuka Circuit, host of the Japanese Grand Prix, is completed in 53 laps and is a total race length of 307.57 kilometers.
Approximately forty miles outside Yokohama, lies the Fuji Speedway – the venue that hosted the very first Formula One Japanese Grand Prix, in the year 1976. The decider between legendary drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt, shot this event to fame. Lauda had experienced a near fatal accident earlier in the racing season at the German Grand Prix. The track was overwhelmed by monsoon conditions, and Lauda chose to withdraw from the race. Hunt needed to take third position in order to win the championship, which he did. Hunt also won the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix. During the race Ronnie Peterson and Gilles Villeneuve collided with each other, which caused Villeneuve’s Ferrari to be thrown into a somersault that resulted in the death of a marshal. Formula One would not have the Japanese Grand Prix on their racing schedule, for the following decade.
In 1987, the Formula One races returned to Japan, but this time, the venue was at Suzuka Circuit, located to the south west of Nagoya. Honda owned the track that was designed by John Hugenholtz, and was constructed inside a funfair. Honda used the Suzuka Circuit as a test track. It is also the only track on the Formula One circuit that is designed in a figure eight. And with the return of the Grand Prix, Suzuka did not disappoint. Nigel Mansell was set to win the Championship, but he unfortunately crashed his Williams-Honda, and Nelson Piquet, Mansell’s teammate, walked away with the championship. But amongst the different events, it is the feud that took place between legendary drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost that will forever be etched into the history of the Japanese Grand Prix. The year was 1989, and Ayrton Senna was trying to overtake Prost. He needed to pass Prost if he was going to win the Championship. This risky move had Prost swerving into Senna, and both drivers out of the race. Alain Prost won the Championship. In 1990, Ayrton Senna repaid Prost by bumping him off the track, and winning his World Crown.
Suzuka was home to the nail-biting duels between Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher, as well as being the scene of Schumacher’s first World Title, won for Ferrari. Due to the typhoon that was experienced in 2005, the FIA announced on 24 March 2006, that all future Japanese Grand Prix’s, will be held at the Fuji Speedway which had been redesigned by Hermann Tilke. Reportedly this news was not welcomed by drivers who counted Suzuka as one of their favorite tracks. In September 2007 it was announced that, beginning in 2009, the F1 Grand Prix would alternate between the two tracks.
The 2009 Japanese Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton take the victory in heavy rain. Second place was claimed by Heikki Kovalainen, with Kimi Räikkönen coming in third, making it the first time in F1 history that two Finnish drivers stood on the podium together. The 2008 Japanese Grand Prix was won by Fernando Alonso, with the 2009 victory going to Sebastian Vettel. The 2010 F1 Grand Prix will take place at Suzuka on 8-10 October, with spectators and drivers looking forward to seeing the action on one of the F1 Championship’s favorite tracks.