Last Time Out:
Results in the Russian Grand Prix followed course form.
Mercedes went into the weekend with a hundred per cent record in Russia and a healthy lead in both the Drivers and Constructors Championships. By the end of the weekend their hundred per cent record was intact and both championships look all but secured.
Lewis Hamilton was gifted the race win by teammate Valtteri Bottas to extend his championship lead to a fairly ominous 50 points. At this stage Sebastian Vettel needs a couple of miracles to get back in the title race.
Ferrari appear to have gone backwards in their development war with Mercedes. The Italian marque had an advantage over their rivals just a few short weeks ago, this seems to have disappeared along with their title challenge.
The Suzuka Circuit is a classic F1 track. Its fast, flowing corners, elevation changes, and high-speed back straight challenges drivers and engineers equally.
Owing to its place on the calendar, nearly always towards the end of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix has witnessed its fair share of championship deciding action. On two consecutive seasons Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost crashed in to each other to decide the 1989 and 1990 seasons.
Last year saw the ultimate demise of Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel’s title challenge. A faulty spark plug removed any chance of Vettel making crucial inroads in to Hamilton’s lead in the standings.
Despite Vettel’s bad luck last year, this really is a Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton track.
As with Russia, Mercedes have won here the last four years. The Suzuka Circuit is tailor-made for the Silver Arrows. Lewis Hamilton loves racing in Japan and had the measure of everyone on the grid last year.
The track is notoriously difficult to pass at, if Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel are to have any chance of winning the race they will need to either secure pole position or secure the race lead before turn one.
Expect fireworks in the initial stages and then the race to settle in to a pattern until the pitstops. They’ll be key if Vettel and Ferrari have the lead but not the outright pace.
Red Bull traditionally went well in Japan. Their aero-focused car has always enjoyed the sweeping Suzuka corners but of late their engine has proved to be inferior in the extreme and it would be a shock to see them qualify anywhere higher than fifth and sixth.
If you’re looking for a bigger price then Ferrari and Vettel at 11/5 is the longest you’re likely to get them at before a race.
The reality though is only one man and one team can win this race.
After being outpaced by his teammate in Russia but being handed the race win, it’s clear Mercedes have thrown their eggs in the Hamilton basket until the championships are secured.
He has the best car and a rear gunner who also has the best car. Hamilton to win at 4/5.