The Japanese Grand Prix will remain on the F1 schedule until at least 2018 following an extension to its current contract.
The Mobilityland Corporation that runs the Suzuka Circuit concluded the new deal with Bernie Ecclestone as F1 resumed its 2013 campaign in Belgium, ensuring the venue – a firm favourite with drivers – on the calendar for the next five seasons.
“It is with great pleasure we have signed a formal contract after having had negotiations since we reached a basic agreement in March this year,” president Hiroshi Soda commented, “I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Mr Ecclestone for showing us a great deal of understanding in the process, [and] we will continue to work hard to ensure that Suzuka remains a venue loved by fans the world over.”
After two world championship races at Fuji in 1976-77, the Japanese Grand Prix was absent from the F1 calendar until 1987, when it re-appeared at Honda-owned Suzuka. It remained a staple of the schedule for the next 20 years, often playing a part in the title battle, before an overhaul at Fuji – which is owned by Toyota – saw that venue reinstated as host for 2007-08. Plans to then alternate between the two circuits – and even host a race at each – were quickly scuppered by Toyota's 2009 announcement that it would not seek to stage the race at Fuji in 2010 and beyond due to a downturn in the global economy. As a result, Japan's round of the world championship returned to Suzuka full-time that season, and is now poised to continue towards another decade on the schedule, coinciding with Honda's return to the fold as an engine supplier with McLaren.
“It has been agreed that the F1 Grand Prix will be hosted at Suzuka Circuit until 2018,” Ecclestone confirmed, “and it is also great to see Honda back in F1 in 2015.
I am sure that the Japanese Grand Prix will attract greater attention than ever.”