OCTOBER 11, 2006
The question of Fuji versus Suzuka
There is no question that Formula 1 people like to visit the Suzuka Circuit. They have been visiting for 20 years. They know the place. They like the non-intrusive nature of the Japanese fans and the, despite Ron Dennis complaining about having a smelly hotel room, most people are happy to be there. They accept the dangers of the track - which has been out of line with current F1 thinking for some years - and even the drivers do not make a fuss, an odd thing to do given the noise they have made about Monza of late. When all is said and done, however, F1 is dictated these days by money. Fuji is paying more so Fuji gets the Japanese Grand Prix in 2007. The Fuji circuit is interesting enough but it is not Suzuka. It is closer to Tokyo, but it is not Suzuka.
It is true that Suzuka has been dragging its heels in terms of improvements in recent years but F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone says that there is no reason that Suzuka cannot return to the World Championship when some work has been done.
"It is like an old house," Ecclestone said. "It needs a bit of a face lift."
The big question for all concerned is how long it will be before that happens. Fuji owner Toyota say that it has an exclusive deal for the Japanese Grand Prix, but that is not the same as an exclusive deal for Japan and so, unless there is a clause in the Toyota contract which blocks all F1 racing in Japan, there is nothing to stop Suzuka applying for a Pacific Grand Prix or an Asian Grand Prix date.
It is now clear that nothing is going to happen for 2007 but we would expect to hear that interested parties will help to pay for Suzuka to be overhauled so that it can return to the World Championship in the future. In order to do that major work will have to be done as it is impossible to increase run-off areas in some sections of the circuit. That means that the track will have to be re-profiled. Whether the result of all this work will leave Suzuka as loved as it is today remains to be seen.
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