F1 Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka canceled after COVID-19 cases spike in Tokyo

F1 Grand Prix of Japan
Charles Coates/Getty Images
1 Comment

TOKYO — This year’s Japanese Grand Prix was canceled following discussions between the government and race promoters, Formula One organizers said Wednesday.

The race in Suzuka had been scheduled for Oct. 10, between the events in Turkey and the United States.

“The decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic in the country,” F1 said in a statement. “Formula 1 is now working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks.”

The decision creates another dent in F1’s calendar of Asia-based races this season following the cancellation of the Australian and Singapore GPs and the indefinite postponement of the Chinese GP in Shanghai.

The cancellation and postponement of races last year at the start of the pandemic meant the 2020 season didn’t start until July, and was compressed to a 17-race schedule through December.

“Formula 1 has proven this year, and in 2020, that we can adapt and find solutions to the ongoing uncertainties and is excited by the level of interest from locations to host Formula 1 events this year and beyond,” F1 said in the statement.

Most of the series is being staged in Europe and the Middle East this season, with organizers initially planning 23 races. The Oct. 24 race will be at Circuit of the Americas, and the Austin, Texas, track has been reported as a candidate for replacing the Japanese GP with a second race this season.

The 11th race was held last weekend, when French driver Esteban Ocon won a chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The Japanese government pushed ahead with the Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

New infections in Tokyo tripled during the 17 days of the Olympics, which finished on Aug. 8, although medical experts said the surge was not directly linked to the Games.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
0 Comments

ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”