The Japanese Grand Prix will remain at Suzuka until at least 2018, after a contract extension was agreed by Suzuka President Hiroshi Soda and F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone. The confirmation will see the Honda-owned circuit once again host a home race, with the Japanese marque set to return to the sport in 2015 with McLaren.
Whilst the sport emerged from the traditional summer break to reconvene at Belgium’s legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, another favourite amongst the fans and drivers was confirmed until at least 2018. The iconic circuit has seen many Champions crowned in the past, including Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen and Sebastian Vettel.
Formula 1 was first held at Suzuka back in 1987, a race which was subsequently won by Gerhard Berger in the Ferrari ahead of Ayrton Senna’s Lotus and Stefan Johansson’s McLaren. The race has been held at Suzuka almost every year since, apart from 2007 and 2008 when Formula 1 returned to Fuji as Suzuka underwent major redevelopment under the eyes of circuit designer Hermann Tilke. Just like Spa-Francorchamps, the Japanese circuit located in the Mie Prefecture is a favourite amongst the drivers. Sebastian Vettel in particular adores the challenge of the circuit, where he won his second world title in 2011.
“Looking back to Suzuka, I think I’ve had fantastic races there.” Enthused Sebastian Vettel, “I’ve been very lucky. I think the last four years I’ve always been on the podium: won three out of four races there so yeah, I really like the circuit, it’s fantastic. The first sector is great, similar to here [Spa]: you have some corners which are very similar. I think we all enjoy the fact that when we get to challenge ourselves, not only ourselves but also the cars, and really get the cars to their limit and feel, once or twice, on these special types of circuits, what the cars can do and the corner speeds we have just through the first sector at Suzuka is very impressive. I enjoy that a lot, to feel the speed, to really get that sensation. It’s just a great level of satisfaction and that’s why it’s like a drug, you want more and more every lap and if you have a great car which fortunately I had the last couple of years, then it’s just great to go for another lap and another lap.”
For Suzuka President Hiroshi Soda, the return of Honda to Formula 1 in 2015 with McLaren will hopefully have a positive impact on ticket sales at the circuit. Although a boom in sales is not immediately expected, the interest in the Japanese marque once again rekindling their relationship with McLaren will undoubtedly be an enticing prospect for many. The last Honda-powered car to win an F1 race at Suzuka was Gerhard Berger back in 1991 for McLaren, at the end of an era dominated by the Woking-based outfit and Honda.
“Definitely public interest has increased since the Honda announcement, but Honda’s return is still two years away so we are not expecting a direct impact on ticket sales,” explained Hiroshi Soda to AutoSport.
The Formula 1 circus returns to Asia later next month after the final two European races of the season at Belgium and Italy, with the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso still striving to catch Championship leader Sebastian Vettel. The German sensation has won three out of the last four races at Suzuka, and will be aiming to add to that tally come October.
Picture Copyright © Lotus F1 Team