History of Japan in F1

Published on 5 April 2024 at 16:00

2012 Japanese GP: Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) celebrates podium finish in the race.      

Credit: Wikimedia Commons |  Morio


There have been a total of 21 Japanese drivers to enter Formula One from 1975 to the current season with Yuki Tsunoda at Visa Cash App RB.

Let's take a look back at some of the most prestigious drivers to hit the race track from the captivating country that is Japan.


Hiroshi Fushida


Hiroshi Fushida was the first driver from Japan to ever enter a Formula One Championship Grand Prix and also the first to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Born March 10 1946 in Kyoto, Japan, his driving career began when he was 19 as a factory driver for Honda in 1965.

He took part in the Toyota 2000GT Speed Trial at the Yatabe High Speed Test Track a year later then moving onto win the Suzuka 1000km twice (1968 & 1971.)

Fushida then went on to race in America competing in the Trans-Am series where he suffered injuries at Road America in 1971 therefore moving back to Japan.

His Formula One career wasn't the most successful having only entered two Grand Prix's, the first in The Netherlands at Zandvoort in 1975 where an engine failure stopped him from starting the race.

The second being at the home of the British Grand Prix - Silverstone.

Failing to qualify meant that he was ultimately replaced at Maki by British driver Tony Trimmer for the rest of the season.

He later retired from all motorsport in 2015 and became a consultant for Dome Racing.


Kazuyoshi hoshino


Born July 1 1947, Kazuyoshi Hoshino was known as the "fastest man in Japan" by winning the motocross national championships in the 90cc and 125cc classes for Kawasaki in 1968.

Hoshino entered two Formula One Grand Prix, making his debut at the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix for Heros Racing.

He unfortunately was made to retire due to having used all of his tyre supply in that race,

Returning once more to the Japan GP the following season for the same team competing the race in eleventh place but never scored any points in his F1 career.

The only major world championship was in 1985 at the Fuji 1000 race in the World Sportscar Championship which was boycotted due to a torrential rain storm.

He had won six championships and 39 race wins and stands as a series record.

He retired in 2002 and continues to run his own Super GT team where his son now currently competes driving for GAINER in the GT300 series.


satoru nakajima


Satoru Nakajima was the first full-time Japanese F1 driver from the seasons between 1987-1991 for Lotus.

Nakajima entered 80 F1 Grand Prix making his debut at Brazil in April 1987 at the age of 34 making him one of the oldest debutants of Formula One.

His team-mate was none other than 3 time world-champion Ayrton Senna who outclasses him on multiple occasions.

Joining Tyrrell in the 1990 season alongside Jean Alesi who scored ten more points that season than his team-mate and by 1991, was placed with a new teammate Stefano Modena who was again outscored by eight points .

After leaving Formula One in 1992, he now owns a team called Nakajima Racing who have entered the Japanese Formula 300 whilst his son Kazuki, followed in his fathers footsteps by entering the 2008/2009 F1 seasons at Williams but was later replaced by Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg for 2010 leaving him without a seat.


aguri suzuki


Aguri Suzuki was the first Japanese driver to achieve a podium finish resulting in a third place win at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1990.

He made his Formula One debut on October 30 1988 at his home race in the Larrousse-Lola.

Zakspeed hired Suzuki for the 1989 season but failed to qualify for all 16 races at the time.

The next two seasons he drove again for Larrousse and this was where he made his ultimate podium finish at Suzuka making him the first ever podium for an Asian driver in F1.

Suzuki scored a total of eight points throughout his career and when he retired after his crash at the 1995 Japanese GP which caused a neck injury, he became the second most successful Japanese F1 driver after Satoru Nakajima.




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