japanese lewis hamilton fans photo 2019 suzuka

Japanese Grand Prix popular and packed with history

japanese lewis hamilton fans photo 2019 suzuka

There are few more popular races on the Formula 1 calendar than the Japanese Grand Prix. It was labeled by Sebastian Vettel as his dream track after racing there for the final time in 2022.

The German admitted that he would only come out of retirement if he was to race at the Suzuka Circuit. He is not the only driver to relish the challenges of the track, most agree and thus Suzuka has iconic status in motorpsort

But, what makes the Japanese Grand Prix one of the races on the calendar that jumps out for drivers, and why is it typically one of the most dramatic races of the season?

Early History of the Japanese Grand Prix

Go On An F1 Flashback With A Rain-Soaked 1976 Japanese Grand Prix •  Petrolicious

Motor racing in Japan has been hugely popular throughout history, with the first Japanese Grand Prix taking place at the Suzuka Circuit in 1963. The track continued to play host to races of the highest level until Formula 1 brought a race to Japan.

At this point, the location for the race was changed, as Fuji Speedway played host to the inaugural Japanese Grand Prix in 1976. It was a hugely important race on the schedule, as it was the title decider between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, with the race taking place in monsoon conditions.

There was also a dramatic end to the title chase, with Lauda withdrawing from the race claiming that his life was worth more than a championship. That wasn’t the worst decision either, as the driver was still recovering from life-threatening injuries suffered after a crash at the German Grand Prix earlier in the campaign. Hunt drove aggressively in the closing stages to rise up through the ranks and finished in third to claim the title.

The British driver would achieve more success at Fuji Speedway the following season, as he won the race. However, there was a feeling that the track wasn’t safe, as a collision involving Gilles Villeneuve saw his car somersault into the restricted area, killing two fans. This signaled the end of the line for the track, as it didn’t re-appear on the Formula 1 calendar for ten years.

Move To Suzuka Circuit

Suzuka aerial japanese grand prix track

After a long break away from Japan, Formula 1 finally returned in 1987, with the Suzuka Circuit playing host to the Japanese Grand Prix. Its figure-eight layout made it one of the most testing tracks to drive on the calendar, meaning that fans were always treated to captivating battles between drivers. There was an immediate sense of this in 1987, as Nigel Mansell crashed in his world title decider against Nelson Piquet.

Japan also played host to a chapter in the storied rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. In 1988, the Japanese circuit hosted the title decider between the pair, with Prost needing to win the race to win the title. The Frenchman enjoyed the better start, as he charged ahead, while Senna struggled at the back of the grid. However, heavy rain aided Senna, as the Brazilian charged through the pack before overtaking Prost near the end of the race.

Return to Suzuka

welcome to suzuka sign

After a break away from the Suzuka Circuit, the race finally returned in 2009. Both of the races in 2009 and 2010 were dominated by Red Bull, with Vettel later claiming his second world championship after finishing third in the 2011 race.

However, it was a memorable night for the hometown support, as Kamui Kabayashi finished third in the race. That finish ensured that he became the first Japanese driver to finish on the podium in 22 years.

The long-standing success and popularity of the race saw the contract extended from 2013 until 2018, with a further extension granted in 2018 to keep the race in Japan until 2020. However, the emergence of COVID-19 saw the race canceled in 2020. But, the race looks set to play a key role in determining the world champion for future seasons, as it was recently announced that the Japanese Grand Prix will continue to be held at Suzuka until at least 2024.


There will be great excitement with the Formula 1 season getting underway at the beginning of March, but fans will already be counting down the rounds until the action hits Japan.

The 2023 edition of the race will be held on Sunday, September 24, just seven days after the Singapore Grand Prix, and a few weeks before the Qatar Grand Prix.

Once again, the race is set to play a key role in the championship battle this season, as Max Verstappen heads the betting for Japanese punters at However, there will be no shortage of stars gunning for the top spot in the world of F1 this year.