Formula 1 announces multi-year extension with Suzuka until 2024

Formula 1 announces a multi-year extension with the Japanese Grand Prix, ensuring that racing will remain at Suzuka Circuit for at least another three years. The multi-year extension between Formula 1 and race promoter Mobilityland will see the FIA Formula One World Championship continue to visit the historic circuit until 2024.

A mainstay on the Formula 1 calendar since 1987, the circuit has hosted many iconic championship deciders as well as some of its most memorable moments. Its only breaks in 34 years came in 2007 and 2008 when Fuji Speedway took over, including when it was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Japanese Grand Prix’s contract had been due to expire after the 2021 season.

Suzuka has struggled financially at times, not helped in part thanks to poor fan interest with no Japanese presence on the grid, the last being Kamui Kobayashi in 2014. The 2017 Japanese Grand Prix saw a 5.5% decline in attendance, the biggest percentage drop on the Formula 1 calendar at the time. Moreover, the Japanese Grand Prix only counted for 2.8% of TV audience in Japan, compared to 5.5% for European races.

However, there has been a remarkable shift in Japanese participation and success in recent years. Honda became the sole supplier for Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, taking seven victories in little over two seasons. Additionally, highly-rated Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda has given the Japanese fans someone to support, hopefully for years to come.

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Image) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1:

I am truly delighted that Formula 1 will continue to race at Suzuka Circuit for another three years. Japan holds a special place in the hearts and minds of F1 fans all over the world, and Suzuka has played host to many of the sport’s most legendary moments, with 11 Drivers’ titles being decided there. The Japanese Grand Prix has always showcased gripping, edge-of-your-seat drama, and I am thrilled we can continue to bring the action and excitement that is Formula 1 to the passionate motorsport fans of Japan.

“This extension is part of our long-term commitment to growing the sport in Asia, and we are pleased to be able to continue our successful relationship with Mobilityland. I’d like to personally thank Mr Tanaka and his team for their continued efforts in reaching this agreement, and we look forward to working with the promoter to increase the popularity and fanbase of Formula 1 there.”

Kaoru Tanaka, President Representative Director of Mobilityland Corporation:

“As a result of repeated negotiations with Formula 1, we have been able to conclude a contract on hosting the event from the year 2022 and onward. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Formula 1 members, including first of all Mr Stefano Domenicali, for the great understanding that was shown during the negotiations.

“We are determined to continue to our efforts together with local residents of Mie Prefecture and Suzuka City so that Suzuka Circuit will continue to be loved by fans all over the world and contribute to the prosperity of the motorsports culture.

“In 2022, Suzuka Circuit will celebrate its 60th anniversary. In addition to the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix that will be held from the year 2022 and onward, we will take on new challenges for the future while also cherishing the history and traditions of the sport so that we may provide fans with surprises, joys and emotional experiences. Please look forward to the events to come.”

With the likes of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato in IndyCar, Le Mans winner Kazuki Nakajima and Yuki Tsunoda in Formula 1 – it has never been a better time to be a motorsport fan in Japan.

The 2021 Japanese Grand Prix is set to be held on the 10th October providing no further postponements or cancellations.

Japanese Grand Prix Preview: As a typhoon looms, is Hamilton storming towards the 2019 title?

Just when things looked to be in peril for Mercedes in the second half of the season, stepping up to stop Ferrari was, erm… Ferrari.

An evident storm is brewing within the Italian giant as the rivalry intensifies between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, and imminent typhoon Hagibis will either threaten to ignite that combustible tension or will give them the necessary push to overcome their Russian demons.

Indeed, the title is now all but wrapped up by the imperious Lewis Hamilton who leads the championship by 73 points with just 128 still up for grabs.

His tour towards his inevitable sixth world title brings us to the 5.8-kilometre Suzuka circuit. It’s easy to get tied up in knots here, with it being the only figure-of-eight circuit on the calendar, and having the awe-inspiring yet terrifying first sector, featuring high-speed esses that require skill, talent and bravery in equal measure.

2018 Japanese Grand Prix, Saturday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Such sections tend to become more difficult in treacherous conditions, and we are expecting no shortage of those this weekend. The typhoon is expected to affect practice, qualifying, and the race, although it is difficult to predict with any certainty.

Form generally gets tossed out the window in conditions like the ones anticipated in Suzuka – cast your minds back to Hockenheim – and the favourites for the weekend would be tough to predict in normal situations. Suzuka requires a pinpoint balance of power and downforce, and Ferrari – save for their spectacular in Sochi last time out – have seemed to excel at both since the teams returned from the summer break, but Mercedes will fancy their chances through the technical first sector.

Indeed this is a big weekend for Ferrari. Vettel had a complete nightmare last year in Japan, when a crazy, kamikaze move on Verstappen cost him any chance of a podium finish, and Charles Leclerc’s race was ultimately ruined after an incident at the start of the second lap with Kevin Magnussen.

Ferrari were in trouble before the race even began in Russia last time out. They had planned for Leclerc, starting on pole, to allow Sebastian Vettel, starting third, to slipstream his way past to ensure they had a one-two off the start. This was all well and good, but there’s one aspect Ferrari failed to factor in – pride.

Vettel, who is no stranger to team order controversy, was never going to allow Leclerc back past as the team had planned. Leclerc is an upstart who has walked into Vettel’s team and all but overthrown him. He needed to make a statement to his team, his team mate, and the world, saying that he is a four-time world champion, and that this is his team.

GP RUSSIA F1/2019 – DOMENICA 29/09/2019
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Ferrari gave Leclerc the undercut to pass Vettel in the pitstops, only for the German to suffer an engine failure. He stopped the car off track, brought out the virtual safety car, gave Mercedes a free pit stop for both their drivers, and, ultimately, a one-two.

It is fair to say, then, that Ferrari have a point to prove, but so do Mercedes. They must prove themselves able to throw down with Ferrari after a post-summer break that has seen their form undulate. They want to change that, and issue an emphatic message to their counterparts.

Elsewhere, Toro Rosso will give an F1 debut to reigning Super Formula and Super GT champion Naoki Yamamoto. The Japanese home hero will take Pierre Gasly’s seat in the first practice session, before Gasly returns to the cockpit for the rest of the weekend.

It’s set to be a tough weekend with Typhoon Hagibis looming, and there’s a storm brewing between Mercedes and Ferrari as we head towards beautiful Suzuka.

 

[Featured image – Charles Coates/Getty Images)