Will there be a Japanese Grand Prix next year?

July 7, 2009

fujiToyota-owned Fuji’s announcement that they are pulling the plug on hosting the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix leaves a question mark over the country’s future on the championship calendar.

Fuji had been due to host the race next year as part of an agreement to alternate with Honda-owned Suzuka. However since that deal was done, Honda have pulled out of Formula One and may not have too much of an incentive to pick up the slack.

Kazuki Nakajima is the only current Japanese driver on the starting grid and he is a Toyota protege, racing for Toyota-powered Williams.

Honda pulled out for financial reasons, just as Fuji have now done.

Toyota have yet to win a race since their debut in 2002 but have been much more competitive this season than they were last year. What would Honda gain by picking up the tab for a Japanese grand prix without any of their cars present but that could be won by Toyota?

Asked about the situation on Tuesday, a Honda spokesman said Suzuka had made no decision beyond planning to host the race this year and in 2011 and it was now up to Formula One organisers to decide on the fate of next year’s race.

Japan is important to give the championship a truly global feel, particularly now that there are no North American races, and has been on the calendar without fail since 1987.

Commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone will doubtless take it all in his stride, however.

With Korea due to make its debut in 2010, providing they get their circuit built, what are the odds on Japan making way for that country next year in a double-header with China?

PHOTO: In this combination picture, McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (L, in the first picture) goes into a spin in front of Ferrari’ Felipe Massa of Brazil during the Japanese F1 Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway in Oyama, central Japan, October 12, 2008. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

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