The Formula 1 family is in Japan this weekend and will compete at the respected Suzuka circuit. The Merecedes team will be keen to put the controversy of last weekend’s team orders behind them, a situation that humiliated Valtteri Both as and humbled Lews Hamilton. He was clearly uneasy with the end result and it was notable that, at the post race presser, Hamilton had put his first place trophy in front of Both as to acknowledge, in his way, that Both as should have been the number one finisher.
Red Bull will be keen to run a race hopefully unfettered by both mechanical issues and grid place penalties. Max Verstappen’s startling drive to lead a good portion of the Sochi race from a rear of grid start, along with an almost as impressive run from Daniel Ricciardo, was said by Christian Horner to have been race winning drives if it weren’t for the grid penalties thanks yet again to sideline component exchanges.
But perhaps the major talking point for the Suzuka Round is where potential F1 king, Sebastian Vettel stands in respect to wearing the 2018 crown. The math is simple. Five races are left in the 2018 season. Hamilton is fifty points clear of the Ferrari driver. With twenty five points for a win Vettel needs to win all of the remaining races and see Hamilton finish fourth or lower in them. Given the form of the Silver Arrows so far, that seems unlikely for a despondent Vettel.
As Vettel himself grimly noted: ”I think it’s very simple. It depends on what Lewsis does. Obviously we are behind by quite some points and we need to score points. Ideally he doesn’t score as much as us. It’s that simple. Isn’t it?”
History shows that Mercedes have had the edge at Suzuka, having won every race there since 2014 and a win there will have them as the third most successful team to compete there, after Ferrari and McLaren. Vettel and Hamilton are at four apiece for the Japanese track, with a win for either moving them into second behind Michael Schumacher on seven.
Rubber this weekend will be medium, soft, and support, a choice that takes into account the high wear factor and corner loading.
Practice starts at 14;00 local time on Friday, with qualifying commencing at 15:00 Saturday. Race start is 14:10 local on Sunday.