Formula One Preview : Japanese Grand Prix 2017
What to expect from Suzuka.
The fight for the Driver's Championship has heavily swung towards Lewis Hamilton ever since he took the lead in Belgium. After the race start mayhem in Singapore, things didn't get any better for Ferrari as Sebastian Vettel failed to set a lap time due to power unit issues and Kimi Raikkonen failed to start the race owing to similar problems. Max Verstappen on the other hand took a well deserved victory in Malaysia after his first lap collision with the Ferrari in Singapore.
Mercedes has so far capitalised even after not being as dominant as they are used to being on what one can be said about Ferrari's terrible luck ever since the action has moved out of Europe. Lewis Hamilton looks faster than ever and he is outpacing Valterri Bottas by a very healthy margin. The Finn though has admitted he is having issues and in his own words is going through the toughest phase of his F1 career and is very determined to get them resolved so that he can get back to fetching strong results.
Red Bull has made very good in-season development and are looking at par with the pace of Ferraris and Mercedes in the race trim as was seen in the previous round in Sepang. Traditionally, they have done very well here in Suzuka and Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will again fancy their chances on Japanese soil and hope to keep Ferrari and Mercedes on their toes.
Force India looks set to continue being the 'best of the rest' but McLaren-Honda which has recently provided good performances will hope to spoil their party. Renault will hope to be in the contention for top-10 along with both of the aforementioned teams and Hass, Toro Rosso and Williams will hope to stay in touch after not being as impressive as the other teams lately.
Toro Rosso will in all likelihood retain Pierre Gasly for the Japanese Grand Prix after his impressive debut in Malaysia. Jolyon Palmer looks all set to continue his quest of proving that he is worthy of a F1 seat after having mixed results which consisted of a well measured drive in Singapore to finish 6th but also having spun the car twice in the space of three corners in Malaysia.
Weather is almost always a key factor in Japan at this time of the year as rain is quite frequent which often leads to mixed grid formation/results. The big teams will be wary of this and the midfield teams will be hoping that they can maximise the weather to their advantage and fight amongst the big boys. The drivers also have their work cut out as even one mistake from them can potentially harm their chances of securing a good result.
Lewis Hamilton goes into this round with a 34-point advantage over Championship Rival Sebastian Vettel but the raw pace of Mercedes was not very inspiring in Malaysia and any DNF from Hamilton can even up the scales between the two talented drivers.
Elsewhere, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen go in this weekend with a strong car and nothing to lose and that makes them very dangerous for the two big teams. It will be interesting to see who suffers more because of Red Bull's resurgence, Ferrari or Mercedes?
What happened at the Japanese Grand Prix last year?
Nico Rosberg took a well deserved victory which turned out to be the last of his F1 career after he ended up hanging up his helmet after winning the World Championship. Max Verstappen came home in 2nd followed by Lewis Hamilton.
The Ferraris had grid penalties in qualifying(Vettel 3-place, Raikkonen 5-place) and ended up in 4th and 5th position, Vettel being the leading red car. D
aniel Ricciardo followed them in 6th and the Force Indias of Perez and Hulkenberg came home in 7th and 8th respectively followed by Massa and Bottas.