Since its debut in 1987, Suzuka has become a firm favourite among Formula 1 fans and drivers alike.
Unique (to F1) in its figure of 8 layout, its high speed corners, changes in elevation and proximity to retaining walls gives the track a ‘proper’ Grand Prix track feel, in an age where runoff areas are becoming further and further away from the asphalt, and sand traps and grass are being replaced with acres of coloured tarmac.
Japanese Grand Prix Fans are also particularly passionate, attend in good numbers and provide the Grand Prix with a fitting atmosphere for such an iconic event.
Because of its position on the calendar – it usually takes place in October and so towards the end of the Formula 1 year – it has seen the F1 World Championship decided on no fewer than 13 occasions; every one of them memorable.
Who can forget the epic encounters between Senna and Prost in 1989 and 1990, and the controversy that went with them: Both times the two would collide, once handing the title to Prost (and a scandalous suspended ban to his Brazilian rival!) and the second to Senna (for which he really should have received said ban).
The Williams F1 team have featured in several of these title deciders over the years, most notably in 1996 when Damon Hill won to take the title from team-mate Jacques Villeneuve, prompting Murray Walker to utter the words ‘…and I have to stop because I have a lump in my throat’, and 1987 Nigel Mansell crashing heavily at Spoon curve, injuring his back sufficiently to rule him out of the remaining two races of the season, handing the championship there and then to team-mate and fierce rival Nelson Piquet.
Mansell again found himself walking away from the punishing Suzuka circuit a loser in 1991, the big prize evading him once more when he spun his FW14 going into T2, beaching his car in the sand resulting in his retirement, Senna taking the spoils for a third and final time. (All three of his F1 World titles were won at Suzuka).
And then there were races that didn’t directly decide the championship, but live long in the memory nonetheless. One such race being Damon Hill’s drive in the wet in 1994, beating ‘regenmeister’ Michael Schumacher on aggregate in a race that would have sealed the championship for the German had Hill failed to finish.
The 2018 Japanese Grand Prix won’t decide either championship, and with Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin finishing FP1 and FP2 in the bottom five on both occasions, it’s unlikely that the Williams Team will be fighting for too much other than pride come Sunday afternoon (or morning for those of us in the UK).
Suzuka has been known to throw up a surprise or two come raceday so who knows what might happen.