For many years, Formula 1 racing in Japan has been synonymous with the iconic Suzuka Circuit. However, ambitious plans from the city of Osaka could see the Grand Prix relocated to a new street track.

By Nida Anis

Formula 1 has raced at the iconic Suzuka Circuit almost every year since 1987, with the 2007 and 2008 editions of the Japanese Grand Prix being held at Fuji Speedway. However, an ambitious proposal spearheaded by key figures and organisations in the Osaka region could see Suzuka’s contract end in 2024.

A bold initiative for the Osaka region

Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura, alongside the Osaka Convention and Visitors Bureau, is actively exploring the feasibility of hosting the Japanese Grand Prix in conjunction with the Osaka-Kansai Expo, scheduled for 2025. By merging sports with tourism, Governor Yoshimura is seeking to boost the local economy and elevate the region’s global profile.

The Sankei Shimbun, a leading Japanese news outlet, reports that while this initiative is set to be privately managed, it will enjoy the full backing of Bureau President Mizohata and Governor Yoshimura. The plan involves the creation of a street circuit that involve repurposing public roads to create the track.

However, this ambitious plan is not yet set in stone. With the complexities of organising a Grand Prix, and Formula 1 unlikely to expand beyond 24 races annually, Osaka would face stiff competition in securing its spot on the F1 calendar.

Formula 1’s shift towards street tracks

The economic prospects of hosting a Grand Prix on a street circuit are undeniably enticing. The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix boasted an estimated economic impact of $1.2 billion. With races like the Spanish Grand Prix moving to a street circuit in Madrid from 2026 onwards, it’s clear to see that Formula 1 is increasingly embracing urban environments for race events.

This shift reflects a broader strategy to bring the excitement of motorsport directly into city landscapes, enhancing accessibility and visibility for the sport. Bringing races into major cities enables Formula 1 to engage with a broader demographic, including those who might not have considered attending a race at a traditional circuit.

The evolution in race locations also aligns with Formula 1’s wider goals of innovation and sustainability. City locations are often more accessible by public transport, reducing the carbon footprint associated with travel to more remove racetracks.

Sayonara to Suzuka?

The Suzuka Circuit is a beloved track among drivers and fans alike. Known for its challenging layout, it has played host to many dramatic moments in motorsport history, from the 1989 and 1990 collisions between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost to Kimi Räikkönen’s stunning victory in 2005.

While street circuits offer accessibility and new commercial opportunities, they lack the rich heritage and technical complexity that traditional tracks like Suzuka provide. The shift to street circuits might be innovative and exciting in its own right, but it won’t offer the same unique experiences as a permanent facility would.

Header photo credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool


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