Off the back of a strange Russian Grand Prix, the Formula One season heads to Japan for a weekend at the famous Suzuka.
Despite a clear pace advantage for the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton claimed victory in Sochi to extend his Drivers’ Championship lead to 73 points.
The duel between Leclerc and Vettel heated up further before the latter had to retire from the race two weekends ago. While Mercedes
boast a stellar record in Japan, Ferrari will be confident they can dominate again.
Let’s take a look at a bit of history about the Japanese Grand Prix…
Japanese Grand Prix: Brief History
The first two Japanese Grands Prix took place in 1976 and 1977 at the Fuji Speedway. The venue of a title showdown between Niki Lauda and James Hunt in ’76 (when Lauda refused to race in monsoon conditions), the track, like many at the time, was dangerous.
Gilles Villeneuve crashed and killed two spectators in 1977, and the race disappeared from the Formula One calendar until 1987.
When Formula One went back to Japan, Suzuka was the home of the race exclusively for the next two decades. In 1994 and 1995, however, a ‘Pacific Grand Prix’ was held in Mimasaka at the TI Circuit.
With two years of racing following at Fuji Speedway in 2007 and 2008, the Japanese Grand Prix moved back to Suzuka in 2009 with a plan to alternate between the two venues. This was part of the rivalry between Toyota and Honda.
The economic crash in 2010 saw Toyota pull out from the agreement, however, resulting in Suzuka holding every Japanese Grand Prix since.
With the race always late on the Formula One schedule, the Japanese Grand Prix has seen many a world title clinched. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s rivalry saw some of its most famous episodes in Japan in front of enormous crowds.
Michael Schumacher, the most successful driver in Japanese Grand Prix history, secured his third and sixth world titles in Japan.
Japenese Grand Prix: Suzuka
The 3.6-mile circuit combines winding corners with lengthy straights. Cars need to be well-balanced if they are to be truly competitive on Sunday at Suzuka, with the straight between turn 14 and 15 a particularly good opportunity to overtake.
The first sector of the lap, featuring the famous ‘S Curves’, was praised this week by Sebastian Vettel and is one of the most popular parts of track in the Formula One season.
Originally intended as a test circuit for Honda in the 1960s, Suzuka has a ‘figure 8’ layout, similar to a Scalextric track. Few tracks in the world have an overpass like Suzuka’s, making it a unique place to race.
Changes to the track layout have been relatively limited compared to some Formula One venues, though a lot has been done to improve run-off areas and driver safety through the addition of crash barriers.
The most notable change was the addition of a chicane into the last corner to limit speed as cars head onto the pit straight. Over the years, the chicane has been tweaked various times.
Japanese Grand Prix: Recent Winners
2018 – Lewis Hamilton
2017 – Lewis Hamilton
2016 – Nico Rosberg
2015 – Lewis Hamilton
2014 – Lewis Hamilton
Japanese Grand Prix: Most Wins
6 – Michael Schumacher
5 – Lewis Hamilton
4 – Sebastian Vettel
2 – Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen, Fernando Alonso
Japanese Grand Prix: F1 Betting Tips
Toto Wolff says Mercedes are bringing minor upgrades to Japan, which they need after spending a lot of time chasing Ferraris in the second half of the season.
The Silver Arrows have been dominant in Japan in the hybrid era, but that’s not enough for the F1 betting odds to be in their favour. Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton are both 7/4 to win the race.
Formula One news and tips will revolve around the Ferraris, and it’s not hard to see why. After a turbulent first half of the campaign, Leclerc has been dominant, and Vettel has regained race-winning form since a triumphant drive in Singapore.
The challenge of managing the pair, as they continue to clash, could put Mattia Binotto in a difficult position again this weekend. Hamilton will be right there to benefit from any error, strategic or otherwise.
Still a way off a truly competitive car, the situation at Red Bull remains interesting. Alex Albon drove superbly to work his way up the field in Sochi. Hopefully, Suzuka will finally let us see both Verstappen and Albon start higher up on the grid and race one another.
It would be foolish to ever write off Verstappen, but his 4/5 price to make the podium is on the short side considering the Red Bull’s performance.
With typhoon Hagibis set to arrive, the race – should it go ahead – will likely be held in wet and windy conditions, which could make for a dramatic race.
If it’s raining on Sunday, keep an eye out for Verstappen, who could quickly become a bargain at 5/1 to win.