F1: Looking ahead to the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix
It was a dream weekend for Mercedes as everything went according to plan as the Team secured a 1-2 podium lockout. In the ensuing process, Championship leader Lewis Hamilton extended his lead over Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers' Championship to 50 points and Team Mercedes have established a commanding 53 point lead over Scuderia Ferrari with only 5 races remaining.
It was not quite a perfect race for Championship leader Lewis Hamilton as he lost a place to nearest rival Sebastian Vettel in the pit stops. However, this proved to be a minor blip as Hamilton recovered and steered ahead of Vettel's Ferrari.
Hamilton's team-mate, Finn Valtteri Bottas, who won his maiden Grand Prix victory at Sochi last year, was given a bitter pill to swallow as his team issued orders to let Hamilton through to take the lead. Bottas described Mercedes' decision as one that boded well for the team but something that personally disappointed him.
The affable Finn was praised by Hamilton who described him as 'a true gentleman'.
Sensing that the next race at Suzuka is a potential make-or-break race for them, Ferrari has chosen to adopt an aggressive strategy by opting for 10 sets of supersoft tyres for their drivers - more than any other team.
Mercedes, on the other hand, has chosen to pick only 7 sets of supersoft tyres for its drivers. Vettel has a penchant for winning races at the Suzuka circuit and this might well play to the advantage of the Ferraris next weekend. Vettel has won 4 races with Red Bull there in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013, and clinched his second World title for Red Bull in 2011 with a third-place finish.
Mercedes has won the last four races at Suzuka in a row. The reigning World Champion and current championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, took victory at the historic Japanese track in 2014, 2015 and last year. Former champion Nico Rosberg won in 2016 ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who also finished second last year in Japan.
Hamilton and Vettel have won the same amount of races in Japan, with four. However, Vettel's four wins were in Suzuka, while Hamilton won three at Suzuka and one at the Fuji Speedway back in 2007 for McLaren.
With the Silver Arrows firmly in control in their pursuit of their 5th straight Constructors' Championship and with Hamilton in driver's seat to take his 5th Drivers' Championship, can Ferrari come up with the goods to turn this battle around?