The first Japanese Grand Prix was held in 1976 at the Fuji Speedway, 40 miles west of Yokohama. The race featured the title decider between James Hunt and Niki Lauda run in monsoon conditions. Lauda, who had not long returned after his near fatal accident at the German Grand Prix earlier in the year, withdrew from the race saying his life was more important than the championship. Hunt finished third to take the championship by one point.
Hunt won the race the following year, but the event was marked by tragedy. Gilles Villeneuve and Ronnie Peterson collided, sending Villeneuve's Ferrari somersaulting into a restricted area, killing two spectators. Following this the race was absent from the calendar for a decade.
F1 returned to Japan in 1987 at a new venue, the Suzuka circuit south west of Nagoya. Formerly used as a test track by Honda, Suzuka is the only figure-of-eight circuit on the calendar. The new venue saw yet another title decider, but Nigel Mansell was injured after crashing his Williams in practice, therefore ruling himself out of the race, allowing his team mate Nelson Piquet to win the title.
In 1989 Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were battling for the championship; Senna tried to pass only to have Prost shut the door on him. The resulting crash saw Senna continue with help from the marshals, but Prost was beached. He was not upset though, believing he had clinched the championship anyway. Later, however, a stewards ruling disqualified him from the race for gaining an unfair advantage at the chicane. The following year the two clashed again on the first lap, sending them both spinning off and handing Senna his second championship.
Since its return to the calendar the Japanese Grand Prix has proved hugely popular with fans. A ballot was held for tickets for the 1990 race; three million spectators applied for the 120,000 available tickets.
In late 2006 it was announced that the event would return to the newly redesigned Fuji Speedway the following year - Fuji held the event in 2007 and 2008 but then it was decided that the race should alternate between the two tracks. However, in 2009 Fuji's owners Toyota decided they could no longer afford to host another grand prix due to the global economic crisis. The race enjoyed a much-celebrated return to Suzuka, a circuit that has always been popular with drivers, teams and spectators alike.