The grand prix circus is already racking up its air miles this season as following the Australian Grand Prix, F1 arrives at the Shanghai Circuit in China for the second round of the championship.
Introduced in 2004, it started out as a race to conclude the season before moving to an earlier slot on the calendar in 2009.
It’s not the first Far East venue to play a role in both ends of a Formula One season though as with a picture special Sporstmail looks back at Japan’s Aida Circuit that hosted two world championship races under the banner of the Pacific Grand Prix in the mid-1990s before the track disappeared off the calendar.
Having spun out the opening race of the 1994 season at his home race in Brazil, Ayrton Senna sits inside his Williams during practice for the Pacific GP for the second race of the campaign alongside the team’s engineering director Patrick Head
Motorhomes have come a long way since the mid-1990s as McLaren boss Ron Dennis shares a conversation with one of his drivers Mika Hakkinen. The Finn would retire after 19 laps on race day through a mechanical failure
Although the weekend would end in disaster for Senna, the three-time world champion did enjoy a fine Saturday in qualifying for the 1994 race after sticking his FW16 on pole position. All three of the Brazilian’s starts for Williams came from pole
Roland Ratzenberger drives out the pitlane in his Simtek during a practice session at Aida. The Austrian would finish the race in 11th – albeit five laps down and last of the classified runners. Sadly this was the 33-year-old’s last grand prix before crashing fatally in qualifying at Imola in the next race on one of the darkest weekends in the sport’s history
Keeping tabs on what was at the time his biggest threat for the 1994 world championship, Michael Schumacher watches Senna tour the Aida circuit from the comfort of his Benetton cockpit in the pit-lane during practice
Despite qualifying on pole, Senna lost the lead to Schumacher at the start and never made it round the first corner of the 1994 Pacific Grand Prix after being taken out by Hakkinen’s McLaren (top left). The Williams was then tagged by Nicola Larini’s Ferrari with the damage from the collision ensuring both were out of the race
Marshalls try to clear the Williams and the Ferrari as Senna and Larini climb out their respective cockpits. To the left of the photo Mark Blundell is pushed off the track by marshalls, with his Tyrrell having spun to a stop at the first corner
A dejected looking Senna looks on from a trackside wall having retired at Aida. Like Ratzenberger the Brazilian would also tragically lose his life at the next grand prix in San Marino two weeks later after crashing into a wall during the race
Ferrari spent the first half the 1990s in the doldrums but they were best of the rest behind Schumacher at Aida in 1994, with Gerhard Berger’s 412T1 the only car not lapped by the Benetton driver – albeit still 75 seconds down the road at the finish line
Senna’s retirement ensured Schumacher strolled to victory at the inaugural Pacific Grand Prix. The German had already dispatched of the Williams driver having overtaken him from second on the grid at the start of the race
Williams’ miserable day got worse when Senna’s team-mate Damon Hill retired following a transmission failure on lap 50. With Hill going on to lose the world championship by just one point later in the season it proved a costly retirement for the team
Schumacher led every lap of the first Pacific Grand Prix and takes the chequred flag on his way to a second victory of the season. The Benetton driver won six of the first seven grand prix of 1994 before going on to claim his maiden championship
Schumacher (left) celebrates with second place Berger (right) as well as future Ferrari team-mate and Jordan’s third place driver Rubens Barrichello on the podium after the race. It was Jordan and the Brazilian’s first ever top three finishes
For 1995, the Pacific Grand Prix moved six months down the calendar to October and was the 15th round of 17. Schumacher looks on from the Benetton pitwall during practice at the circuit he had dominated a year earlier
Schumacher (right) was once again beaten in qualifying by Williams, this time by pole sitter David Coulthard and his team-mate Damon Hill. Unlike in 1994 he didn’t get a good start and by the end of the first lap was down to fifth after the Ferrari duo of Jean Alesi, who became known for his fast starts and jumped to second, and Berger also got by the Benetton driver
Berger tours the Aida Circuit in Japan which would only hold two grand prix under the banner of the Pacific Grand Prix. The track was opened in 1990 as a venue for wealthy amateur racers, and despite being held in the middle of nowhere attracted over 100,000 people across it’s two Formula One races. Its name altered to the Okayama International Circuit in 2005
Schumacher was forced to battle back from fifth as he leads Berger around a corner on his way to a sensational victory
Benetton mechanics applaud Schumacher in the pit-lane after the German’s triumph ensured he won the 1995 championship
In his penultimate Benetton victory, Schumacher can hardly believe his own impressive feat after retaining the world title
Hill (right), who finished third, braves a smile having seen his world championship dream denied by Schumacher for the second year in a row. Coulthard claimed second for Williams while Benetton team boss Flavio Braitore stands soaked in champagne after celebrating Schumacher’s victory
Benetton may have been an Italian brand, but the team was British at its core and it’s the Union Flag being waved by Briatore for the team who would also go on to collect the constructors’ championship trophy that season. Note a certain Ross Brawn (second right) in the photo who would go on to enjoy further championship success with Schumacher at Ferrari