The 2008 European season is over. Now the F1 World moves towards miler and, perhaps wetter weathers. The F1's sight is focused on the Far East. There, there are two objectives in the form of two grand prix. The first one is the Japanese grand prix which will be held on the modernized Fuji track; while, for the second one, teams, equipment, drivers will have to onto air transports and travel to the People's Republic of China, more precisely to Shanghai in order to held the Chinese F1 G.P.
Japan has deeper roots in F1 than China. The country of the Rising Sun became involved with the F1 World in a now far 1964. That year, the Honda Company decided to start participating in the F1 championship. The first car was trusted to Ronnie Bucknum, an American driver. Ronnie was an average driver, but not the one the Japanese make needed. So they decided to hire BRM's second driver, Richie Ginther. Richie achieved the first victory not only for Honda but also for a non-European make in F1 (exc. Indianapolis). This adventure ended by the end of 1968.
Japan's second effort happened in the period of two years 1976-77. The country of the Rising Sun decided to hold some F1 races; the chosen circuit was the Fuji original layout. The first race saw how a scarred Lauda bravely made the hardest decision a driver could make, he voluntarily retired from the soaked race. His greatest rival, James Hunt, was able to overcome so horrendous weather conditions and some problems of his car and, by arriving third, he won the 1976 F1 championship.
Japan's third effort appeared in the 80's. As an engine supplier, Honda returned to the F1 Championship powering several teams such as Spirit, Williams, McLaren and Lotus. In that condition, Honda powered the most successful teams between 1986 and 1991. Nonetheless, the Japanese Automobile Sport authorities went beyond the effort stated above returning the Japanese Grand Prix to the F1 calendar in 1987. The race shifted from Fuji to Suzuka, Honda's practice circuit. And, in several occasions, this became the race where the championships were obtained. Perhaps the most famous definitions happened in 1989 & 1990. Two crashes between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna decided who the champion was going to be.
By the late 80's and through the 90's, Mugen Honda, Yamaha and Subaru tried to follow Honda's steps, but except by Mugen which obtained four victories, they failed in becoming successful. Subaru's participation was definitely forgettable.
In the year 2000, first Honda as an engine supplier and then as a full team and Toyota (a full team first and later engine supplier too) have been participating in the championship. Up to now, it has been the Briton Jenson Button the only active driver who, at the wheel of a Honda, could step on the highest part of the rostrum (2006 Hungarian grand prix).
And about tracks, interests determined that Suzuka should move aside and thirty years after the tragic 1977 Japanese race, F1 engine roars hailed the sacred Mount Fuji again.
When the Japanese race be sun-setting and cheers and brave be fading, the F1 will be traveling to the millennial China. This will be a world of contrasts. An ancient culture that blends with the most modern technology whose sample can be seen in Tilke-designed layout. The first race in this modern-designed track was held in 2004 and its first winner was Rubens Barrichello driving for Ferrari. The other winners have been F. Alonso (2005), M. Schumacher (2006) and K. Raikkonen (2007).
Japan and China, two races within a week. Two races that combine the utmost technology and traditions. Two races that join the roaring and sparks of engines with the sounds of Samurai swords clashing and the fire of dragons.-
By Edgardo Samuel Berg & Estefanía L. G. Ferreira de Berg
Deschenaux, Jacques Grand Prix Guide 1950-1996. 1997 Edition.
Shanghai Story. BAR Booklet. 2004
Information provided by Allianz Formula One Team
Information and map provided by Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
FUJI INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY