It may be stating the obvious, but classic racetracks beget classic races. Since its maiden grand prix in 1987, the Suzuka International Racing Course in Japan's Mie Prefecture has become firmly established as one of the world's great racing circuits, delivering a formidable collection of great grands prix to boot.

With its classic sweeping left-right left-right first sector, culminating in the long single apex uphill at Dunlop, its unique-in-Formula-One-terms figure-of-eight configuration, the tricky double-apex of Spoon at the top of the hill and the now diluted but still daunting flash through 130R into the established passing spot at the chicane, the former Honda test-track contains more than its fair share of F1 iconography across its 17 gambolling turns.

Ahead of the 25th Japanese Grand Prix around Suzuka's iconic curves, reflects on six of the very best races from one of Formula One's most timeless circuits.

Winner: Ayrton Senna

With its traditional late season billing frequently placing Suzuka at the heart of the title fight, many of its great races have been accentuated by the tension of a championship showdown or decider. Indeed, the first five Japanese Grands Prix each saw the world champion crowned, with Suzuka also the setting for the championship coronation in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2011.

If the culmination of the 1987 championship was a damp squib, settled off the track by Nigel Mansell's season-ending practice shunt, 1988 delivered a classic head-to-head between McLaren team-mates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

The inter-team scrap across 1988 was one of Formula One's most brutal, the battle lines drawn for a bitterly intense rivalry between the pragmatic smoothness of Prost and the brooding emotional intensity of Senna. The utterly dominant MP4/4 rendered this bloodthirsty championship battle an exclusively two-horse race, and Suzuka would bear witness to its decisive final act.

Senna, knowing that a win would seal his first title, sensationally stalled from pole position, dropping to 14th at the first corner - with Prost leading. So began one of Formula One's greatest comeback drives, with the Brazilian scything and slicing his way through the pack.

Abetted by periodic drizzle, which gifted Senna the opportunity to demonstrate his trademark car control with slick tyres on a damp track, the Brazilian displayed uncanny skills in dispensing with his rivals, singularly determined on the pursuit of Prost and victory.

By lap 27, Senna was right behind his team-mate, and waltzed past when Prost was baulked while lapping Andrea de Cesaris. Senna promptly broke the lap record and cruised home, finally backing off as the rain intensified and Prost's challenge faded with a faulty gearbox. It was a peerless performance from Senna under profound pressure, and, in concluding with a fair fight on-track, was also the most satisfactory act of Senna and Prost's era-defining Suzuka trilogy.

Winner: Alessandro Nannini

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost's titanic rivalry is inextricably interwoven into the fabric of Suzuka, and 1989 duly delivered a second successive title decider between the McLaren teammates.

Senna, needing to finish ahead of Prost to stay in the title hunt, took pole by a scarcely believable 1.7 seconds, but Prost, who had painstakingly set up his car to optimise straight-line speed, beat the Brazilan into the first corner. Driving magnificently, Prost eked out an advantage over the first stint. For every fastest lap Senna recorded, Prost would go quicker, and the Frenchman held an eight second lead after the first pit-stops.

Knowing that he had to pass Prost to retain his championship, Senna started to charge with unprecedented attacking frenzy. Assaulting the circuit on the absolute limit of performance, Senna closed the gap, catching his team-mate on lap 40.

The McLarens streaked around the course separated by a second, each driver tactically plotting how and where to best use their disparate set-ups. It was classic racing between two of the sport's all-time greats in a high stakes showdown, and inevitably something had to give.

Ahead of the race, Prost, riled by Senna's increasingly malevolent on-track manner, had prophetically declared that he was not going to give way to any form of intimidation. On lap 47, six tours from home, Senna tested this resolve with a desperately late lunge up the inside into the chicane. As promised, Prost refused to yield, and the McLarens came together, interlocking wheels and slewing to a halt in unicen; a red and white three-legged race producing one of Formula One's most iconic images.

Prost was eliminated on the spot. Senna resumed, pitted for a new nose, and, driving like a man possessed, easily passed Alessandro Nannini to take the chequered flag. Only in Senna's subsequent disqualification for re-joining the circuit via an escape road did the true significance of the collision became clear. It was the moment that decided the championship, and one that Senna would spectacularly avenge during the Prost/Senna Suzuka triolgy's final act 12 months later.

Winner: Damon Hill

Suzuka's inclement climate has interfered with proceedings on multiple occasions, notably in 2004 when a typhoon postponed qualifying to Sunday morning, but the sole lights-to-flag wet race at Suzuka took place in the heat of the bitter 1994 championship battle between Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher - and saw the Englishman take his finest victory.

Hill had whittled away Schumacher's huge championship lead as the Benetton driver suffered disqualifications, bans and failures through the second half of Formula One's most controversial season, and Suzuka was the setting for the second race in a title deciding three-part mini-series.

Schumacher held a five-point championship advantage, and the wet weather on raceday seemed set to favour the German's burgeoning regenmaster prowess.

The torrential rain rendered the circuit a lottery though and, after several aquaplaning accidents in the atrocious conditions, and a broken leg for a track marshal attending Gianni Morbidelli's wrecked Footwork, the race was mercifully stopped on lap 13 with Schumacher heading Hill by seven seconds.

A first-ever rolling safety car start saw the race re-started an hour later, to be decided on aggregate over 37 laps. The equation was simple. Hill, on a one-stop strategy, had to win the second part of the race by more than seven seconds to take the aggregate victory. Schumacher's two-stopper would give the Englishman track position, but the lighter Benetton would theoretically be quicker over the abridged race distance.

In a climax of nail-biting tension, Schumacher needed to make up 15 seconds in ten laps after his second stop. Hill brilliantly, resolutely and skillfully defended his ever-shrinking lead on the still wet track, and crossed the line with three seconds in hand over his charging rival - taking the title fight to its dramatic and fittingly contentious conclusion in Adelaide.

Winner: Michael Schumacher

The penultimate race of a tense season-long battle between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 edition of the Japanese GP was doubly notable for its remarkable demonstration of teamwork from Ferrari - deploying the Suzuka specialism of number two driver Eddie Irvine to strategic perfection.

The drama began on Saturday, when Villeneuve committed his fourth offence of the season for failing to slow down for yellow flags. Racing under appeal, but almost certain to have his result rescinded, Villeneuve, championship leader with a nine-point advantage over Schumacher, went into the race with an unusual strategic plan.

Starting from pole with Schumacher alongside him, Villeneuve aggressively edged out the Ferrari into turn one. The Canadian immediately began to back up the field, attempting to encourage other cars to attack Schumacher - who was unwilling to challenge for the lead knowing that Villeneuve had nothing to lose.

At this point, Irvine came into play, sensationally double-passing Mika H?kkinen and Schumacher for second before dispensing of Villeneuve on lap 3. Leading a race for the first time, Irvine built a substantial advantage as the Williams continued to baulk Schumacher.

With his ploy clearly failing, Villeneuve finally hit full racing speed on lap seven, but the strategic initiative had been sacrificed. Schumacher duly leap-frogged Villeneuve at his first fuel stop, bringing the next phase of the plan to fruition.

Irvine slowed dramatically to allow Schumacher to take the lead, but crucially kept Villeneuve at bay. With the Ferrari #5 disappearing over the horizon, Irvine reversed the blocking tactic on Villeneuve, backing the Williams into the chasing pack.

Ferrari's execution was almost too perfect; Villeneuve fell out of contention after his second pit-stop, but Irvine's race had been compromised, and the Ulsterman could only finish third. Nevertheless, the flawless strategic interplay set a new benchmark for race management that Ferrari would replicate time and again over the subsequent seasons.

Winner: Michael Schumacher

A seminal race that saw the balance of power at the forefront of Formula One transfer back to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, with the German sealing his third world title and Ferrari's first drivers' championship for 21 years at the expense of Mika H?kkinen and McLaren after a brutally muscular showdown.

As in 1994, Schumacher had frittered away a huge championship lead to an archrival, and H?kkinen's classic pass at Spa had seemingly struck a decisive blow to set the Finn on course for a title hat-trick. Successive wins at Monza and Indianapolis swung the pendulum back towards Schumacher and Ferrari, and Suzuka suddenly offered the opportunity for Schumacher to reclaim the world championship.

The weekend would see an intensely dominant duopoly, as Schumacher and H?kkinen found a transcendental level of performance that left the rest of the field trailing. Schumacher took pole by 0.009s, but H?kkinen took the first corner, the pair streaking away at breakneck speed, never separated by more than a couple of seconds on the road.

Neither faltered nor broke the reverie of their private duel, but light drizzle at mid-distance turned the race in Schumacher's favour. H?kkinen's final stop from the lead on lap 37 coincided with an increase in the rain's intensity, leaving Schumacher to produce banzai in-laps of frenzied speed, maximising the advantage of a light car in his favourite mixed conditions and capitalising on lightning Ferrari pitwork to retain the lead when he rejoined the track.

H?kkinen stayed with Schumacher, but for the first time in a title showdown (after errors in 1994, 1997 and 1998), the German was unflappable under pressure, crossing the line 1.8 seconds ahead of his rival to break the Ferrari hoodoo and send Maranello into raptures. Against his greatest adversary, it was Schumacher's greatest title - cleanly won on the track through sheer force of performance.

Winner: Kimi R?ikk?nen

The odd man out in this selection, the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix had nothing at stake but pride, but, with the leading contenders freed from the tactical shackles of a championship fight, served up a race for the ages.

Fernando Alonso had sealed his maiden title at the previous round in Brazil, finally putting down the season-long challenge of Kimi R?ikkonen's McLaren. Wet qualifying at Suzuka mixed up the grid for Alonso's first race as champion, with Ralf Schumacher on pole for Toyota, and Alonso and R?ikkonen 16th and 17th respectively.

With race-day dry, both Alonso and R?ikkonen carved through the pack in mirrored scintillating drives, maximising Suzuka's status as an old-fashioned racing circuit where the driver can make the difference.

Michael Schumacher was also recovering from a lowly grid slot, and proved a midfield check to the Alonso and R?ikkonen charge. In an all-time classic move, Alonso outrageously passed Schumacher around the outside of 130R, encapsulating the 'changing of the guard' mood of the season.

R?ikkonen jumped Alonso in the first pit-stops, staying out longer than the Spaniard and maximising the advantage as Alonso hit traffic. Up ahead, Giancarlo Fisichella in the sister Renault had streaked into a 19-second lead, and R?ikkonen's relentless pursuit would define the race's outcome.

Emerging from his final stop five seconds down on the Italian with eight laps to go, R?ikkonen reeled in Fisichella, capitalising on the Renault's overly-defensive line into the final chicane to blast down the outside on the straight into turn one on the last lap - sealing a classic comeback drive with a sensational win.

It wasn't just the frequency of the overtaking that marked the race, it was its potency and quality. R?ikkonen passing Schumacher around the outside of turn one, Alonso's wheels on the grass swoop past Mark Webber, and finally Kimi's wheel-to-wheel victory pass; a series of seminal Suzuka moments that highlighted the attacking racecraft that would come to define the post-Schumacher generation.

Will Saunders@formulawill