Suzuka’s Japanese Grand Prix race promoter Hiroshi Soda has played down suggestions Honda’s return to Formula 1 will see a Japanese driver on the grid again.
It emerged this weekend at Spa that Bernie Ecclestone has inked a new five-year deal to keep the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka until at least 2018.
Many insiders made a link between the new race deal and the fact that Suzuka is owned by Honda, the Japanese carmaker that is returning to Formula 1 in 2015 as McLaren’s works engine supplier.
Another part of the deal, it is rumoured, could be Honda ensuring a Japanese driver is on the 2015 grid.
But Soda, president of the Suzuka operator Mobilityland, insists: “That is pure speculation.”
“The return of Honda is very important for us, but it would be wrong to say that automatically means a Japanese driver will be at the start,” he told Speed Week.
“Of course though it would help us — in the best of times we had a full house with 160,000 fans,” he admitted. “Of course, we will try do have this again. I expect a lot of synergy with Honda.”
Kamui Kobayashi was the last Japanese driver on the F1 grid, who also happened to be the country’s most successful driver to ply his trade at the pinnacle of the sport. (GMM)