Our Suzuka Memories

Published on
28 Mar 2024
Est. reading time
4 Min

Join us as we look back at some memorable visits to Suzuka in years gone by

There are few circuits where the Formula 1 paddock visits to have such a high level of love shared between drivers and fans as Suzuka.
Having first joined the calendar in 1987, F1's sole figure-of-eight track will host its 34th grand prix when the 10 teams turn up for the 2024 round.
With so many races and Williams Racing having participated in every one, there are a lot of great memories from yesteryear.
As we continue making history, here are some of our favourite times from our trips to Suzuka.

A Lump in Our Throats

Damon Hill took his sole World Drivers' Championship title in 1996 when the title fight went down to the wire against teammate Jacques Villeneuve.
The pair took their FW18s to the front row in qualifying, with Jacques slightly edging Damon by 0.461s for his third pole (and our 12th) of the season.
It was the ideal starting position for Jacques, who needed to win and have Damon out of the points to take the crown, but he fell back at lights out before retiring with a wheel bearing issue.
Without a second Williams Racing car in the race, Damon was the champion, but that didn't stop him from crossing the line in P1 to secure his crown in style.
Overcome with emotion, legendary British commentator Murray Walker was lost for words watching Damon taking the chequered flag, famously saying, 'And I've got to stop because I've got a lump in my throat' to conclude the '96 season.
Former Williams Racing driver Riccardo Patrese in the FW14B at Suzuka, 1992
Riccardo in the FW14B at Suzuka

Riccardo's Last Hurrah

Italian racer Riccardo Patrese had a challenging year in 1992 as he watched Nigel Mansell sail to the title with relative ease.
Riccardo, by contrast, often had to settle for a lower step on the podium, finishing half of the season's 16 races in P2 or P3, while Nigel took nine victories.
That wasn't the case in the year's penultimate round at Suzuka, though, where Riccardo took his last win for Williams Racing and the last of his F1 career.
As had often been the case that year, Nigel led from pole position and enjoyed a lead over the sister FW14B.
Unfortunately for the Briton, reliability issues hit his car, and he retired in the final laps, letting Riccardo through as he slowed.
However, Nigel's bad luck was to Riccardo's advantage, and the Italian lapped every car aside from the podium finishers to take our then-highest win tally in a single season with 10 top-step triumphs.
Former Williams Racing driver Nicholas Latifi at the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix
Nicky surveys the situation ahead of the restart in 2022

Nicky's Storming Strategy

Nicholas Latifi advanced an incredible 10 positions during the 2022 Japanese GP to take home two points after a calm drive and plucky strategy worked wonders for team and driver.
Woeful wet weather was the story of that weekend in Mie Prefecture, with Pirelli even cancelling a planned dry-weather tyre test on Friday.
We didn't know it then, but that rain helped Nicky understand how the intermediate and wet weather tyres handled a slippery Suzuka surface, which proved pivotal on Sunday.
There were only two racing laps of action before the red flag waved in the race, and the Canadian returned to the garage to analyse the data.
Upon the restart nearly two hours later, an immediate switch to intermediate tyres as the Safety Car period ended advanced Nicky up to P8 thanks to an incredibly powerful undercut, and he eventually finished P9 during the shortened race.
That teamwork between pit wall and driver ensured Nicky wouldn't leave the sport without scoring points in his final season, and those two points scored ended up being the last in his F1 career.

Brotherly Love

Japan is a springtime affair in 2024, but that's a marked change from previous years, where it sat close to the season's end, leading to so many 'last time' moments.
Like Riccardo's last win and Nicky's final points, Ralf Schumacher enjoyed a 'last' time memory alongside his brother Michael Schumacher in 2004.
The brothers had previously shared a 'Schumacher 1-2' finish four times over their time racing in F1 together in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
Despite Michael's dominance in 2004, the siblings hadn't managed to even share the podium that year, partly due to Ralf's injury during the US Grand Prix weekend.
Ralf hadn't lost any speed during his time away and was the only driver close to Michael's speed in Suzuka in just his second race back in the cockpit.
The Schumacher brothers took their fifth and final '1-2' in F1, with Ralf's P2 finish also being his last podium in Williams Racing overalls before he moved to Toyota for 2005.
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