Why has Japan never produced a World Champion driver or team?


Champion Elect
With Japan's history in Motorsport, how come this country has never produced an F1 world champion driver or team?

We've seen the best drivers like Takuma Sato, Aguri Suzuki and Kamui Kobayashi come to the sport and never completely shine, Kobayashi could do in the future.

But we've also seen so terrible drivers. Anyone remember Yuji Ide, he had a nightmare in 2006 at the San Marino GP and lost his superlicense for a while. Plus who can forget about Sakon Yamamoto, this man hangs around like a bad smell.

We've seen Japanese Manufacters Honda and Toyota join the sport and neither team won the WCC in their time in the sport. Alright Honda won a few world titles as an engine supplier but them like Toyota spent loads of money to become successful in the sport as a team rather than supplier.

The only really successful thing thats come from Japan in regards to F1 is Bridgestone tyres they won many titles back in the 00's with Ferrari.

But why has Japan failed to be a success in F1?
Well, they haven't because not many of them go into the driving part of motorsport, see Bridgestone and Toyota, I believe most of them are local workers, not many go for driving
Firstly, bear in mind that Japanese teams and drivers have been successful in virtually every form of motorsport other than F1.

Back in the '80s it was popular to say that Japanese drivers lacked the physicality required to perform at the top level in F1. Such as Aguri Suzuki and Satoru Nakajima could tend to fade away in races, it's true, but there could be any number of reasons for that, none to do with nationality. So whether there was any truth in it then I doubt; I am sure it isn't a valid explanation now.

I think there are two main factors, both of which actually apply to a greater or lesser extent to American drivers. First, becoming an F1 driver requires relocating to Europe at a reasonably young age, to get on the single-seater ladder. In terms of language and culture that is a very big step to take, even if you have got the financial backing to do it. Many parents I'm sure would prefer their offspring to pursue their career without having to undergo such a dramatic change (and take such a big risk) so early - not necessarily a Japanese trait, I don't think, but a parental one.

More pertinently, they don't have to move to race at a competitive level, because Japan (like the US) has it's own strong and well-supported racing ladder, with Toyota, Honda and Nissan amongst others running professional satellite teams in Formula 3, Formula Nippon and the parallel GT series.

A Japanese driver can achieve a degree of fame and financial security without ever leaving the country's borders (Satoshi Motoyama is probably one of the best drivers most motor racing fans have never heard of). Could Motoyama and others have won races in F1? I believe so; a number of F1 drivers have raced in Japan in their early careers - Eddie Irvine, Ralf Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve - and the top domestic stars were competitive with them. But even if there was the opportunity, there wasn't the burning necessity to move.

Finally, I think Sato and Kobayashi, European-trained drivers, given the right car would win Grands Prix. Maybe Japan hasn't produced a world champion in the past five decades...but nor has Italy.
Once again, I have to agree with Galahad. Formula 1 is primarily a European series, albeit one with near-universal exposure. For a Japanese or American youth to relocate to Europe to start to climb the F1 ladder series requires an immense sacrifice career-wise from the parents, with the rewards being far from certain. By staying at home and concentrating on the domestic series, a driver (and their parents) can reap virtually all of the benefits to be found in F1( apart from the international fame, which may or may not be considered a benefit) without incurring so many risks.
I would love to see a Japanese race winner in the future tho, even a Japanese title contender even winner. I would have loved for Sato to win in Suzuki a few seasons back when he was coming on strong and it would be great if Kobayashi could get a podium challenging car.. ooo maybe a Ferrari seat, now that would be exciting!
My ex-brother-in-law (don't ask) had a lot of experience working with the Japanese in motorsport and he found them to be very challenging to work with, in that whenever there was a problem identified they would want to redesign the entire package rather than just fix the problem. Perhaps the Japanese are best when focused on a specific element of the car, such as the engine (?). Reading what I've just written, if you wanted to, you could imply some form of racism, I assure you that's not the case. There are fields where this kind of approach works extremely well such as project management, where the Japanese are considered leaders, although their PM model is extremely design focused with execution and testing far smaller as every detail has already been planned out.
PS Said ex-brother-in-law is now in one of the top jobs in his field on the planet, so I can only presume he had some idea of what he was talking about.
Can I leap to Honda's defence? Op states they won a 'few' world titles.

Fact is they won 5 years in a row and it should have been 6 as how Williams did not win the title in 1986 no one is quite sure. They then withdrew after 1992. Add this to the fact they hadn't returned to F1 until 1983 and you find they got 5 titles in 10 season which really should have been 6! Thats a hell of a record.

I agree it all went wrong when they entered with their own team but again I think the comparrison with Toyota as a money wasting organisation is wrong. Honda had the whole BAR mess to untangle and were in the process of doing so - even scored a GP victory in 06 - would have blown everyone away in 09 but of course they had withdrawn - not for F1 reasons but because of the economic crisis.

Honda will come back to F1 eventually and they will be succesful again. Even their little stint as a team in the 60's can be seen as being pretty succesful.
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