Japanese Grand Prix 2018 Preview
Six races ago, Sebastian Vettel was the favourite to claim his 5th world championship. His Ferrari was the quickest car on the grid and that was helping him in taking the fight to Lewis Hamilton.
But ever since he crashed out of the lead at Hockenheim, things haven't gone well for Vettel, and Hamilton wasted no time in turning the course of the season in his favor. With wins in Singapore and Russia, Hamilton has now stretched to 306 points, leaving a gap of 50 points between him and Vettel, who currently stands second with 256 points.
It may appear to be all done and dusted but there are a lot of championship points at stake with five races to go. Vettel and his fans can still stay somewhat optimistic as it takes only one retirement from Hamilton to get back in the championship race.
The Japanese GP is a do-or-die situation for Vettel. He has won here four times and must get the job done for the 5th time. If he doesn't, then we may as well hand Hamilton the title.
The Red Bull duo must be again aiming to finish in the podium places. Daniel Ricciardo has faced a few issues with his car lately which has been constantly put him outside top 5 positions. His teammate Max Verstappen, however, is fighting hard to finish in podium. He has finished twice in the podium places in the last 5 races, with three of them being above his teammate.
Nico Hulkenberg is in desperate need of points. The Renault driver has only managed to score one point since July's German Grand Prix. Before that, he had tallied 26 points from 5 races. He currently sits 8th in the table where points gap between the drivers is very tight.
Kevin Magnussen (53), Hulkenberg (53), Fernando Alonso (50), Sergio Perez (47) and Esteban Ocon (47) are still in contention for 'best of the rest' honours behind the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
Hulkenberg had a strong race at Suzuka Circuit in 2013 and 2015 where he finished P6 on both occasions. He has never finished as high as seventh in the standings over the course of the season and he needs to get his form back in order to achieve it this season.
The Suzuka Circuit is often unpredictable with the weather forecast changing anytime. Frequent rain is a very real possibility. Despite the possibility of rains, the temperature will be between 24-26C throughout race weekend. Suzuka is one of the few circuits to have a "figure 8" layout.
It has a 1.2 km back straight passing over the front section. Hamilton and Vettel have both enjoyed racing at this circuit with both tied at 4 wins. So expect a thrilling race as championship points are at stake for both the drivers and could be important in deciding where the title is headed.