Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka International Racing Course, including predictions, a track guide and qualifying results.
After a thrilling and unpredictable Singapore Grand Prix, Formula 1 heads to Japan and the Suzuka Circuit this weekend.
Max Verstappen again looking to wrap up the Drivers’ Championship, and on a track that should suit Red Bull better than last week, he could be the man to beat on Sunday.
Much noise this week has surrounded Red Bull’s alleged spending cap breach and Aston Martinalthough the FIA will not publish its findings until next week.
In terms of pure track talk, Max Verstappen is getting closer to the Drivers’ Championship; only Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrariit is Charles Leclerc can prevent Verstappen from winning his second world title.
The path is much clearer than last week as victory at Suzuka will see Verstappen crowned champion if Leclerc finishes below second place. If Verstappen also claims the fastest lap with a race victory, he will win the drivers’ championship, regardless of anything Leclerc or Perez does.
There are a whole host of other permutations around the race should Verstappen finish lower, but he basically needs to beat Leclerc by eight points and Perez by six points.
As for the rest of the pack, McLaren will be carried by their superb P4 and P5 finish in Singapore and they enter this race ahead of their rivals Alpine; the lack of hard braking zones should help McLaren here.
mercedes are currently on an unbeaten run at Suzuka since 2014, and the nature of this track will be considered favorable for Lewis Hamilton and george russell – the latter wanting to bounce back from his worst run of the season last time out in Singapore.
Aston Martin secured a double last week, with Spear Stroll and Sebastian Vettel bringing in 12 points, and their high downforce wing could help them again here to score an impressive total.
The likes of Alpine, Williams, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo will be looking to improve from Singapore, with Alpine looking most likely due to their car being more capable of the higher downforce required.
Haas were the ‘almost’ team last week, but you can expect them to be in contention for points here as they are generally more comfortable in midfield on a higher strength track. support and high speed.
Pirelli has also announced that C1, C2 and C3 compounds will be the tires available this weekend, but with intermittent rain expected, intermediate and wet tires will also be on hold.
The C1, C2 and C3 compounds are the hardest tires in the range and that’s understandable because Suzuka is a circuit that consumes a lot of energy and tire wear. Teams can expect a two-stage race here, potentially three depending on their strategy.
Finally, the weather promises to be somewhat unpredictable for this weekend, with rainy Friday practice, a dry and cloudy qualifying session followed by a race day where sunshine and showers are forecast.
Suzuka Circuit is one of Formula 1’s most popular circuits, where drivers can expect to go full throttle for 66% of a lap.
Unlike last weekend’s race in Singapore, there will be more overtaking opportunities here and more tire degradation due to the nature of the corners.
With 18 corners of varying speed and difficulty, Suzuka is considered one of the most taxing on a driver’s skills.
Suzuka is a high-speed track, where teams will need to run higher downforce to get the optimum performance from their cars. The finer end percentages depend on the skill of the drivers and who has the most confidence to push their cars to the limits in the higher speed corners.
Drivers are quick to turn around when confronted with S-curves; a series of three corners where tire grip is crucial. If the tires are not warmed to an optimal temperature, this trio of fast corners can surprise a driver at the start of the Grand Prix.
The track also features the infamous Casio Chicance coming out of turn 16, where many incidents have taken place over the years.
Where Suzuka really shines is in its balance, as long straights, slow corners and fast chicanes make for an exciting race that will benefit each team at different points in a lap.
However, this is a track where pole position matters so much, as in 26 of the 31 races held here the winner has come from the front row.
Of the current generation of Formula 1 drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have five and four wins at this track respectively, and on a track with high tire degradation, their experience could count for a lot here.
Ranking of drivers
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 341
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 237
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 235
4. George Russell (Mercedes) – 203
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 202
6. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 170
seven. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 100
8. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – 66
9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) – 59
ten. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) – 46
11. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) – 29
12. Sebastien Vettel (Aston Martin) – 24
13. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) – 23
14. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) – 22
15. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – 13
16. Mick Schumacher (Haas) – 12
17. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) – 11
18. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) – 6
19. Alexander Albon (Williams) – 4
20. Nyck De Vries (Williams) – 2
21. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) – 0
22. Nico Hulkenberg (Aston Martin) – 0
1. Red Bull-576
5. Alpine – 125
6. Alfa Romeo – 52
seven. Aston Martin-37
8. Haas – 34
9. Alpha Tauri – 34
ten. Williams – 6
We say: Max Verstappen will win
The higher cornering and straight-line speeds will no doubt favor Red Bull here, and after Perez’s recent performances he could be used as a winger to take Charles Leclerc away from Verstappen.
Showers around the race could put a damper on work, and while you can’t rule out Mercedes, all signs point to the Dutchman taking the checkered flag on Sunday.