After an emotional farewell to Malaysia following 18 years of wonderful racing, Formula One swiftly moves into the land of the rising sun for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
After last weekend’s events, there are a lot of questions to try and answer this weekend up and down the paddock.
Can Mercedes bounce back?
Mercedes endured a difficult weekend in Sepang, struggling for balance and race pace.
Now they come to Suzuka, which is a power yet technical based track so can they reverse their fortunes here?
Their one lap pace is however strong come qualifying, which will negate how low their race pace drags them down compared to their rivals.
Ultimately given the nature of Suzuka, the Silver Arrows should be strong around here given that they have dominated in recent years at this track.
Trouble for Vettel?
Sebastian Vettel comes here chasing Lewis Hamilton by 34 points in the drivers’ championship, after a recent nightmare run in past two races. Things could however be about to get worse before they get better for the German.
After Sunday’s post race collision with Williams’ Lance Stroll, a five place gearbox penalty could well be dished out here if Ferrari find that the gearbox is beyond repair.
This penalty will surely hinder Vettel unless he can get in the top three. If not, he could find himself mid pack and in greater danger of a collision or tyre puncture.
Add in the fact that this is a power track that favours Mercedes, this could be where Vettel loses the championship.
Ferrari however have been the better team in recent races. Could this form provide some hope of reducing Hamilton’s championship lead, even if a five place demotion occurs?
Red Bull took a surprise victory in Malaysia with Max Verstappen so are they the dark Bulls amongst front runners now?
Other than McLaren, Red Bull has one of the best chassis’ on this year’s grid. After spending most of this season riding their luck on reliability and ironing out issues, both drivers look set to have a decent run in.
Unlike Sepang, Suzuka is just as much as about technicality as it is about power.
Mercedes will carry the advantage coming out of corners because turns 2, 9, 14, 15 and 18 lead onto straights.
Verstappen and Ricciardo however could maximise their car’s technical ability through the ‘S’ Curves (turns 3-7) then at the Spoon Curve (turn 13-14).
Do that then they could easily be fighting Mercedes for victory again.
Honda hoping for home success
Honda will be hoping that McLaren can repeat their form from Malaysia in front of their home fans.
Stoffel Vandoorne will certainly be one to watch after delivering a strong performance throughout the Malaysian GP weekend.
He managed to outqualify teammate, Fernando Alonso then hold position for a P7 result and six valuable points in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
Although there has been marked improvement, this weekend is going to be about driver ability given their lack of power.
They however has the best chassis amongst all teams so should find time in same places as Red Bull will.
That along with driver ability should reduce the power impact so a decent midtable finish would be a good result.
A points finish here for either McLaren driver will be just awesome given how big their power difference is to other teams.
With attention turning towards 2018 for each team, here at Sport Grill we are also going to turn our attention next year and experiment with our race previews a bit.
Here is a video guide to Suzuka circuit from the F1 2009 WII game because the track has barely changed eight years on.
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