Suzuka extends contract to host Formula One

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Suzuka Circuit in Japan has extended its contract to host the Japanese Grand Prix that will see Formula One remain at the track until 2018.

Officials from the circuit met with Bernie Ecclestone at Spa-Francorchamps yesterday ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix and put pen to paper on a deal that ensures Suzuka will host the Japanese GP for the next five years.

Suzuka’s history in Formula One is extensive despite only hosting its first grand prix in 1987. In its third year, the track witnessed the first of many incidents between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost when the McLaren drivers crashed into each other when fighting for the lead. One year later, the same incident occurred. As a result, the circuit has become iconic in the rivalry between the two drivers. Other notable events include Kimi Raikkonen’s last lap overtake in 2005, Michael Schumacher’s engine failure in 2006 and Sebastian Vettel clinching his second title in 2011.

The circuit did lose the rights to host Formula One in 2007 to the Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway, but the circuit hosted the Japanese Grand Prix for just two years before an agreement was reached that would see it share the hosting rights with Suzuka. Eventually though, Fuji pulled out of the deal, meaning that Formula One would remain at Suzuka until 2014, with this agreement extending that deal.

This contract extension also coincides with the confirmation that Honda (owners of Suzuka) will be returning to Formula One as an engine supplier in 2015, teaming up with McLaren in an attempt to re-kindle the glory days of McLaren-Honda in the late 1980s.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.