With this weekend's Japanese GP coming up we thought we would take a look back at some of Riccardo's appearances in Japan.
The first came at Fuji in 1977 where, racing for Shadow, Riccardo scored the first point of his F1 career with 6th place behind winner James Hunt, who won his final GP. The race was marred by the death of a marshal and photographer who were hit by debris from an early race accident between Gilles Villeneuve and Ronnie Peterson.
Just two weeks later Riccardo was back in Japan, this time at Suzuka, for the F2 JAF GP. Despite numerous podiums during the 1977 European Formula 2 Championship he hadn't managed a win in the F2 Trivellato Chevron but this was to change. Riccardo shared the second row of the grid with Keke Rosberg, both having set an identical time. Heavy rain delayed the start but when the lights went green Riccardo made a great start to lead, but was overtaken by Didier Pironi. The future Tyrrell, Ligier and Ferrari driver looked set to win until a blown engine let Riccardo back into the lead which he held to the end of the race. Japanese drivers, battling for the Japanese Drivers Championship, filled the rest of the top ten with the exception of Stephen South who finished seventh.
Formula One did not return to Japan for ten years but the following races saw great results for Riccardo. Although he failed to finish for Brabham in 1987, joining Williams the following year saw a run of points and podium finishes, including 2nd behind Alessandro Nannini's Benetton in 1989, culminating in victory at Suzuka in 1992.
Nigel Mansell dominated the 1992 event, but slowed to let Riccardo through into the lead. Mansell said he had spoken to his engineer about the points situation between his team mate and Ayrton Senna prior to the race but Riccardo wasn't aware of this:
We hadn’t discussed this before the race, and it wasn’t really clear to me what was happening – especially as he pushed very hard after letting me through! I didn’t know what he wanted to do. If he really was prepared to let me win the race, I think he could have gone a bit slower…’
Mansell's gesture ultimately proved unnecessary as his Renault engine failed with eight laps to go and Riccardo was left to take the chequered flag ahead of Gerhard Berger (McLaren) and Martin Brundle (Benetton). It was his penultimate race, and final finish, for Williams after a five year spell with the team.