Japan's first street race: Should it happen?

newsonjapan.com -- Oct 07
Over the past few years, there have been increased suggestions that Formula One could host a street race in Japan by 2025. Hirofumi Yoshimura – the current major of Osaka – has stated his desire for Yumeshima Island to host the country’s first-ever street-orientated Grand Prix.

Although the project requires much investment before becoming a possibility, the idea raises an intriguing debate concerning street races. So, should F1 consider adding more non-track races to their calendar in throughout the 2020s?

Any Changes Shouldn’t Impact Suzuka

Crucially, as groundbreaking as it would be for Japan to host its first street race during the next decade, a potential race at Yumeshima Island – which is currently an artificial project – shouldn't come at the expense of much-loved Suzuka.

Regarding track diversity, few circuits offer the same high-speed action as Suzuka. For example, the track possesses one of the calendar’s most-exciting corners in the form of 130R. The left-hand bend towards the end of the lap is taken flat out and runs into a tight chicane. Moreover, Suzuka’s opening sector also sees drivers carry a lot of speed through the bends, maximising the chances of mistakes and overtakes.

In the words of Sebastian Vettel, the four-time Drivers’ World Champion, Suzuka’s popularity among racers revolves around its old-school feel. The German also points to the event’s passionate support being another factor behind the track’s paddock-wide appeal. Having signed a deal with Aston Martin for 2021, Vettel will likely race at Suzuka several more times in the coming years. In the short-term, however, his future teammate, Lance Stroll, is 125/1 to win the Eifel Grand Prix with F1 betting, as of October 1st.

Is There Enough Interest in Adding More Street Races to the Calendar?

For a long period of time, street races have held an adrenaline-fuelled perception in the world of open-wheel motorsports. The tight corners and fast-paced straights should culminate in forming an action-packed event that’s full of unpredictability. However, more often than not, that’s not the case. Upon looking at the current calendar, Monaco perhaps epitomizes the lacklustre nature of existing street races.

The Circuit de Monaco was the first part of the F1 schedule during the 1950s as the sport underwent a transitional period. Since then, it has been a regular on the calendar. Despite the off-track glamour that surrounds the event, it’s developed a reputation for being F1’s most boring circuit. Back in 2018, Fernando Alonso mirrored this sentiment after Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo won from pole despite having a power deficit, as per Motorsport. Interestingly, this pole-to-flag success occurs frequently at Monaco, with just under 50 percent of the track’s races being won by the fastest qualifier.

That said, if the sport’s organisers are open to experimenting with new formats, then a street race in Japan could be a possibility. The six-time World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, believes that adjustments to Grand Prix weekends concerning structure may minimise the prospect of having dull races, such as those often held at Monaco.

Deter from the Traditional Street Format

Ultimately, if F1 does seek to push for a street race in Japan, then they’ll need to alter a number of structural elements to its typical weekend format. As highlighted above, such narrow circuits can hinder the sport’s sought-after excitement, particularly with overtaking being an issue. As a result, the artificial project’s chances of success rests on an acceptance to change.