Formula 1: Top 10 most iconic moments in Japanese GP history
The F1 Japanese GP is one of the most beloved tracks on the calendar, thanks in part to its traditional nature and fast corners. Over the decades, this circuit has witnessed some of the most pivotal and breathtaking moments in the sport’s history. With F1’s return to the Land of the Rising Sun, let’s take a closer look at the top 10 most memorable moments of the Japanese Grand Prix.
10. Hamilton’s dominance in 2017
Second to only Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton’s dominance in the Japanese GP is nothing short of extraordinary, and his win in 2017 is a testament to it. Securing pole position, Hamilton masterfully defended his lead from rivals, including Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, ultimately clinching the race.
9. The Iceman’s victory in 2005
Kimi Räikkönen’s victory at the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix is etched in Formula 1 history as one of his finest achievements. Starting from the seemingly disadvantaged 17th position, he displayed remarkable prowess in his McLaren MP4-20, steadily working his way up the field, overtaking several competitors, and ultimately claiming victory.
8. Michael Schumacher’s first title for Ferrari in 2000
Michael Schumacher’s dominant era with Ferrari began in 2000, securing his first title with the team after winning the championship twice with Benetton in 1994 and 1995. His victory at the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix, where he won 10 races, marked a pivotal moment in his career.
7. James Hunt’s title win in 1976
The 1976 Japanese GP was the penultimate race of the F1 season, with a championship battle between arch-rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Due to horrific weather conditions, Lauda retired from the race, effectively handing the championship to Hunt.
6. Tragic loss of Jules Bianchi in 2014
Although the Japanese GP is a fan favourite, the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, held under treacherous conditions with heavy rainfall and the looming threat of Typhoon Phanfone, witnessed one of the most tragic moments in recent F1 history. On Lap 43, young Marussia driver Jules Bianchi lost control of his car around the Dunlop curve, colliding with a parked tractor crane. The high-speed impact resulted in severe head injuries for the talented Frenchman, ultimately becoming the cause of his tragic demise.
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5. Sebastian Vettel’s crash with Max Verstappen in 2018
While the 2018 season showcased Lewis Hamilton’s dominance, Sebastian Vettel was also in contention for the title. However, coming to the Japanese GP, Vettel faced some challenges in qualifying, which led him to start from 9th place. During the race, a Kimi Räikkönen-Max Verstappen incident under a safety car period allowed Vettel to challenge Verstappen. However, as the safety car period ended, Vettel attempted to overtake Verstappen but collided with him, causing damage to both cars.
4. Michael Schumacher’s Title Loss to Fernando Alonso in 2006
In 2006, the era of Michael Schumacher’s dominance came to an end as young talent Fernando Alonso secured the driver’s championship. Suzuka played a pivotal role in this historic moment, with Schumacher leading until an engine failure with just 17 laps remaining handed the advantage to Alonso, who won the race and sealed the title for the very first time.
3. Nigel Mansell’s crash in 1991
The 1991 season witnessed a fierce championship battle between Williams’ Nigel Mansell and McLaren’s Ayrton Senna, with Suzuka as the title decider. Starting from third place, Mansell relentlessly pursued Senna but made a critical mistake on Lap 10, spinning off and conceding the title to Senna for the third time at Suzuka.
2. Kamui Kobayashi’s Maiden F1 Podium in 2012
Although Kobayashi never won a race, the home hero delivered a stellar performance at the 2012 Japanese GP. Despite starting fourth on the grid and facing challenges with his strategy, he held his ground and finished third, claiming his first and only F1 podium.
1. Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna’s crash in 1989
The 1989 Japanese GP remains one of the most unforgettable races in Formula 1 history, as it witnessed a fierce title battle between McLaren teammates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, separated by a few crucial points. Senna desperately needed victory at Suzuka to keep his championship hopes alive, but disaster struck on lap 46 when Prost turned into Senna, resulting in a controversial collision. Prost was forced to retire, and although Senna crossed the finish line first, he was later disqualified after cutting a chicane.