Race Facts – Japanese Grand Prix

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The Suzuka circuit has been home to the Japanese Grand Prix for all but two years since 1987. Its unique ‘figure of 8’ layout, which includes the fearsome 130R corner, has been host to many memorable F1 moments over the years, including several championship deciders. The 2020 race takes place on October 8-11.

The Japanese Grand Prix has been staged over 40 times, though not all races have been part of the Formula 1 World Championship. A record 13 championships have been decided in Japan, largely due to the race having a late-season calendar slot for much of its existence. The first (non-championship) race was held on the Suzuka Circuit in 1963, shortly after the circuit had been built by Honda. Over the years, the race has been shared by Suzuka and the Fuji Circuit, owned by Toyota. It was in Fuji that Japan first hosted a round of the F1 world championship in 1976. The race was run under atrocious wet conditions, as depicted in the film Rush. James Hunt finished third and was crowned world champion over his title rival Niki Lauda, who refused to risk his life in the treacherous conditions.

Suzuka’s Memorable Moments

  • 1989: Senna and Prost collide: The events of the 1988 Japanese Grand Prix are still argued about today. Did Alain Prost deliberately crash into Ayrton Senna? Was Senna wrong to have tried such a bold move? Whatever your opinion, the title-deciding crash between the McLaren pair goes down as one of the most controversial moments in F1 history. Prost was eliminated on the spot, while Senna was able to keep going – but was later disqualified from proceedings for the manner in which he re-joined the track. All of this led to Prost sealing his third World Championship, while Alessandro Nannini celebrated the sole victory of his F1 career.
  • 1990: The first lap collision: One year later, the title was once again decided between Senna and Prost in controversial circumstances. Senna had secured pole position for the event, but was unhappy with the side of the grid which he started on. As many had expected, Prost got the better start in his Ferrari. Senna had already vowed that he would attempt to maintain the lead at Turn 1, regardless of the consequences, and there was an air of inevitability when the pair collided. For a second year in succession a crash had determined the outcome of the Drivers’ Championship – but this year it had done so in Senna’s favour.
  • 2000: Schumacher’s first Ferrari title: There were celebrations for Michael Schumacher at the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix as he clinched his third World Championship win – and his first of five with Ferrari. Schumacher was the first Ferrari driver to win the title with the team since Jody Scheckter in 1979. The race weekend is also remembered for a titanic qualifying battle between Schumacher and title rival Mika Hakkinen.
  • 2005: Raikkonen wins from 17th: What was arguably the greatest drive of Kimi Raikkonen’s career came at the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix. Qualifying resulted in a mixed up grid, with Raikkonen starting only 17th for McLaren. Ralf Schumacher led from pole but was overtaken by Giancarlo Fisichella twelve laps in. Raikkonen forced his way through the field over the race distance, and found himself in a position to challenge the Renault driver in the closing stages. On the final lap, Raikkonen overtook Fisichella with an audacious move at Turn 1 and went on to take his most remarkable victory.

Japanese Grand Prix: Did You Know?

  • Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver at Suzuka, having recorded six victories between 1995-2004. Hot on his heels is Lewis Hamilton, who recorded his sixth Japanese Grand Prix victory in 2019. He has won five times at Suzuka and once at Fuji.
  • Ferrari and McLaren are the most successful teams at Suzuka, having won here seven times apiece.
  • Despite taking five victories in a row between 2000 and 2004, the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix remains Ferrari’s last win in the country.
  • Following Ayrton Senna’s disqualification, Alessandro Nannini was declared the winner of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in 1989, his one and only F1 victory.
  • Seventeen Japanese drivers have competed in Formula 1. The best result for a local driver on home soil was jointly recorded by Aguri Suzuki (3rd in 1990) and Kamui Kobayashi (3rd in 2012).
  • The 1993 Japanese Grand Prix saw Mika Hakkinen his first of 51 podium finishes in F1.
  • Suzuka and Fuji are not the only circuits in Japan to have hosted an F1 race. In 1994 and 1995, Okayama International Circuit (previously known as TI Circuit Aida) staged the Pacific Grand Prix.
  • There have been eleven occasions where a World Champion has been crowned at Suzuka, including in five consecutive seasons between 1987 and 1991.
  • In addition to Drivers’ Championships, the Constructors’ Championship has been decided here nine times, most recently in Mercedes’ favour in 2019.
  • The 2009 and 2018 Japanese Grands Prix are the only races at Suzuka where the top three finished in the order which they started.

Read more facts and statistics about Suzuka on GPDestinations.com

Circuit NameSuzuka International Racing Course
Race first held1987
Track Length5.807km (18 turns)
Race Distance53 laps (307.471km)
Lap Record1:30.983, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes, 2019)
2019 Result1st Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:21:46.755
2nd Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +13.343s
3rd Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +13.858s
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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He's been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

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