Looking back at F1 drivers who have ruled in Japan

by Laura Sexton

This week F1 is heading to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, so we’re looking back at two current F1 drivers who have lifted the coveted trophy.

Michael Schumacher may hold the record for the most wins in Suzuka, having won six times in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004, but two current drivers are quickly catching up. In fact, if Lewis Hamilton takes the win this weekend, he will equal Schumacher's record. The other driver in question, Sebastian Vettel, could equal Hamilton's number of five, should he win.

These two racing rivals, who off the circuit appear to hold a great deal of respect for the other’s achievements in the sport, will both be heading into the race weekend with their eyes on the prize. And with Ferrari revealing their pace in the past few races, not to mention the threat from Red Bull remaining, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport who currently lead the championship, will have to pull out all the stops.

Lewis Hamilton - 2007, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018

Lewis Hamilton has won the Japanese Grand Prix five times so far in his career, picking up his first back in 2007 driving for McLaren. This win took place in Fuji, two years before the race moved back to Suzuka where it has been based ever since.

His drive that day was particularly notable; as a rookie F1 driver Hamilton pulled out moves likened to a far more experienced driver, and successfully raced through the soaking wet, a safety car start, and a collision with Robert Kubica, to put himself on the top step of the podium.

Since then Hamilton has taken four victories with his current team Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. The 2014 race was won by the British driver under difficult circumstances following the tragic incident involving Jules Bianchi, who crashed his car at the circuit and was rushed to hospital. Bianchi passed away as a result of the injuries caused by this incident in July 2015.
In 2015, Hamilton overtook his teammate on the first lap to take home his eighth win of the season and in 2017 he edged ever closer to winning the Drivers title as his rival Vettel suffered an early retirement from the race.

Last year's race saw Hamilton claim his fourth back-to-back win of the season and put him 67 points clear of his closest rival, Sebastian Vettel. After Vettel crashed, leaving him to trail behind in sixth, Lewis was free to dominate and took home the win with ease. This meant that he only needed eight more points in order to claim his fifth World title, an achievement he would go on to do at the next race in Mexico.

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Sebastian Vettel - 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013

Vettel won his first Japanese Grand Prix in 2009 driving for Red Bull Racing. He would then make it back-to-back wins in 2010 where the top five drivers finished where they started, despite pitstops shaking things up throughout.

The 2012 race was approached with the excitement that the title fight was a three-way battle between Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Vettel's performance at Suzuka was dominant however and the fact Alonso's chances were blown after a crash on the first corner, and Hamilton was left in a battle of his own, certainly aided Vettel’s win.

His final win to date came in 2013 meaning the German driver won the race four times in five seasons. During the start of this race a touch between Hamilton and Vettel left Hamilton, who started third and had what he described afterwards as one of his best starts all year, limping back to the pits. After the damage to his floor was too bad to continue, losing seconds per lap, the team chose to retire the Brit.

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