Suzuka chief Kaoru Tanaka has revealed a problem about the issuing of entry visas was behind the decision to cancel the Japanese Grand Prix.
For the second consecutive year, the Suzuka round of the World Championship has been lost as a result of the ongoing health pandemic.
It means Formula 1 now have to fill two blank slots if they want to fulfil their target of a 23-race season – October 10 now being free as well as November 21 with the Australian Grand Prix having previously been called off.
Despite the Olympic Games recently having taken place in Tokyo behind closed doors, and the Paralympics about to get under way, the reason for the cancellation of the grand prix was an administrative one regarding entry into Japan, said Tanaka.
“We were very much looking forward to this year as it was the last run for Honda and the triumphant return for Yuki Tsunoda,” said Tanaka, the president of Mobilityland which operates the Suzuka circuit on behalf of owners Honda, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“It was such a special year and we are disappointed we cannot hold the race for the second consecutive year.
“The main problem is that the entry of the people involved cannot be confirmed. Japan basically doesn’t allow foreigners to enter the country at the moment, whether it’s Formula 1 or any other sport.
“If a foreigner wants to come here, they have to get an entry visa. The fact we couldn’t get this fixed was a problem.”
While we’re not racing in Japan this year…
We can’t wait to put on a show for the Japanese fans in 2022!
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 18, 2021
Tanaka was unable to be specific about why thousands of athletes and support staff could enter Japan for the Olympics and Paralympics but not a smaller number for the grand prix.
“I know each sport has its own characteristics and conditions but in general, and for me personally, it is a shame the F1 Japanese Grand Prix cannot be held,” said Tanaka.
“I think the Japan Sports Agency understood this. Apart from the Olympics, I think around 1,500 is the highest number of foreigners entering the country under the current circumstances. So I think they understood, but they had to be cautious.
“In terms of the public interest and the culture of motorsport, it is not as mature as in Europe.”
The positive for Suzuka is that they have a contract to host the Japanese Grand Prix until 2024, with next year marking the circuit’s 60th anniversary.
“From this moment on, we will be preparing for next year,” confirmed Tanaka.