10 Japanese stars who left their mark as Formula 1 drivers 

Yuki Tsunoda at the F1 Young Drivers test (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
Yuki Tsunoda at the F1 Young Drivers test (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
Nico Boyce

The Land of the Rising Sun has produced 20 Formula 1 drivers over the years, with a 21st, Yuki Tsunoda, due to make his Grand Prix debut in 2021. Tsunoda will hope to fare better than many of his Japanese countrymen who have so far failed to stand on the top step of the podium in Formula 1.

See also: Yuki Tsunoda is the first 21st century F1 driver

Japan has always had a powerful relationship with the motorcar. Manufacturers such as Honda, Toyota and Mazda have a rich history of competitive motorsport, categories such as Super GT and Super Formula have attracted Formula 1 drivers from around the world, and the country has its own unique take on car culture with competitive drifting and amazing car customization being commonplace.

Japanese manufacturers have seen success with Formula 1 drivers too, particularly the McLaren-Honda entries of the 1980s. Honda and Toyota both had their own F1 teams in the 2000s, with the former seeing a maiden victory for Jenson Button in 2006 and the latter scoring 13 podium finishes between 2002 and 2009.

Japan's Most Memorable Formula 1 drivers

Japan has also hosted some of the all-time classic F1 races, such as the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix which saw an epic battle between Formula 1 drivers Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen around the twists of Suzuka. The 2007 race at Mount Fuji will also long be remembered for a battling drive from then rookie Lewis Hamilton in dreadful conditions. Of course, there's also the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix where James Hunt took his only title triumph, which was immortalized in the blockbuster film Rush.

Here's our pick of ten of the most memorable Formula 1 drivers from Japan. Some saw success, others had a more challenging time in the world of Grand Prix racing. All of them left their mark.

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Edited by Jeff Owens
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