Japanese Grand Prix: 5 greatest moments from this consistently madcap race
newsonjapan.com -- Jun 23
There was a great sense of sadness when it was announced by F1 officials that the Japanese Grand Prix in 2020 would be cancelled.

This is perennially one of the best-loved races on the circuit, and many a driver has professed his love for the Suzuka circuit – no less a judge than Sebastian Vettel has claimed that this is F1’s best track.

To celebrate Suzuka in all of its glory, we thought we’d take a look at the five most exhilarating moments in the history of the Japanese Grand Prix.

#5 – Honda Power

The Suzuka circuit was originally designed and built as a testing facility for Honda, but F1 officials were so impressed with the layout that they granted it official race status in time for the 1987 season.

And what an opportune moment that was to start, with Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet locked in a fraught battle for the Drivers’ Championship heading to Japan.

Suzuka is an exciting, high speed track with some surprisingly sharp bends – as Mansell would find out to his cost. He suffered a huge crash in practice, and his resulting injuries would ultimately end his season.

Gerhard Berger claimed victory in his Ferrari, but Piquet would have the last laugh when he won the championship despite retiring next time out in Australia.

#4 – Home Comforts

Suzuka is a circuit where the cream rises to the top, and that’s why in the Japanese Grand Prix F1 betting odds you tend to find the best drivers are so well fancied.

However, in 2012 there was a huge surprise – much to the delight of the home crowd.

Japan hadn’t seen a local driver finish on the podium since Aguri Suzuki in more than two decades earlier, but Kamui Kobayashi – a rising star for Sauber – would bring that drought to a thrilling end.

Starting from third on the grid, Kobayashi was rarely off the coattails of the leaders, and the atmosphere in the stands was reaching fever pitch – they thought they would see a Japanese driver win an F1 race for the first time.

In the end, the Sauber man had to settle for a podium finish in third, but this was an astonishing and hugely surprising result for the home crowd.

#3 – Hill Makes History

In 1996, Damon Hill made history when he won the Drivers’ Championship – ensuring that he and dad Graham would enter the record books as the first father-and-son combination to clinch the title.

And the British driver did it in style at the Japanese Grand Prix, ousting his nemesis and Williams teammate Jacques Villeneuve in a titanic battle.

Hill rounded the Canadian early on, and with Michael Schumacher closing in he was just able to hold on to spark emotional scenes of celebration.

#2 – Raikonen’s Remarkable Renaissance

One of the greatest drives in Japanese Grand Prix history came from Kimi Raikonen.

After a below-par qualifying session, the McLaren man found himself down at seventeenth place on the grid.

However, this was 2005 and McLaren had the fastest car in F1 at the time, and it didn’t take Raikonen long to begin slicing his way through the field.

Heading into the final lap, he and leader Giancarlo Fisichella were just a car length apart, but an epic overtaking manoeuvre from the Finn saw him hit the front to secure hat is surely one of the best comeback victories in the sport’s history.

#1 – Senna vs Prost

It’s one of F1’s most famous rivalries, and the battle between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost is indelibly linked with Suzuka.

Back in the late 1980s and '90s, the Japanese Grand Prix was the penultimate race of the season and so, when the Drivers’ Championship was in the balance, Suzuka was the perfect venue for a dogfight.

In 1989, Senna had to defeat Prost to have any chance of claiming the title, and the two could not be separated heading into the 47th lap.

The Brazilian attempted to overtake the Frenchman, but Prost was having none of it, blocking Senna’s route. They collided, and while Prost was out of the race, Senna was able to get going again with a push start. He went on to win, technically. However, he was later disqualified and Prost would clinch the title.

Just a year later, the pair were at it again. This time, Senna was leading the Championship and he would have his revenge, clearly taking out Prost in one of the most shocking moments ever seen on the track.

It’s a move that would land Senna the title, and cement the status of the Japanese Grand Prix as one of the most exciting on the planet.

News source: newsonjapan.com
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