From meetings between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, to double delight for Damon Hill, this race has delivered plenty of magic moments
Formula One Japanese Grand Prix 2019, from Friday 11 October, 1.45am, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
The Japanese Grand Prix is never shy about bringing the drama. Historically late in the season, 13 world champions have been crowned at the 34 World Championships it has hosted, and it’s seen some of the most thrilling and infamous moments in Formula one history.
Lewis Hamilton heads into the race with a sixth world title well within his sights – a feat that would put him just one behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven.
Japan is a happy hunting ground for Hamilton, too. He’s won five races there, including the last two and four of the last five. Another victory at Suzuka would surely put him out of reach of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, the only man who could feasibly chase him down in the standings.
History says we might be in for a classic. This race marks the 20th anniversary of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna’s epic first duel on the course – also as teammates – and while Hamilton and Bottas’ relationship is far less frosty than the one the Brit shared with Nico Rosberg, you can never predict the kind of drama the Suzuka circuit will deliver on race day.
Ahead of the action, here are five classic Japanese Grand Prix moments to whet your appetite.
Prost v Senna I (1989)
This was when Prost and Senna’s rivalry was at its peak, right at the end of their time together at Ferrari. Senna needed a win to keep the championship alive, and thought he had it after winning out in a tangle with his nemesis – forcing Prost out of the race – only for him to be disqualified for missing the chicane in deeply controversial circumstances. Prost walked away with the title.
Prost v Senna II (1990)
Senna got his revenge the next year in truly ruthless fashion. He drove Prost, now with Ferrari and no longer a McLaren teammate, off the track as he stormed to an emphatic victory that would tilt the championship in his favour. All the more satisfying considering Prost was bizarrely handed an unfair advantage from the off when Senna’s pole position was moved to the dirty side of the grid.
Damon Hill’s aggregate victory (1994)
This race has the strange honour of being the last to be decided on aggregate time. Michael Schumacher, then of Benetton, led by 6.8 seconds when the red flags waved after a slew of accidents caused by torrential rain. After the restart, Hill crossed the finish line with a 10.1-second lead – enough to give the Brit a turbulent but hard-earned victory.
Hill makes family history (1996)
It’s that man Hill again, who has some of the best memories of his career at Suzuka. In fact, the circuit was the scene of his first ever F1 title after he beat out teammate Jacques Villeneuve to confirm his place at the top of the standings and create a piece of racing history. Damon and his father Graham became the first ever father-son F1 champions – a feat Nico Rosberg matched by replicating his dad Keke’s achievement in 2016.
Kamui Kobayashi does it for Japan (2012)
There hadn’t been a Japanese man on the Suzuka podium for 22 years until Kobayashi shocked everyone in 2012. To the delight of the home crowd, he got himself to third on the grid in his lowly Sauber, and never let the medals out of his sights. Kobayashi finished exactly where he started for what turned out to be his only F1 podium finish.
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