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Japanese Grand Prix: Five Things To Look Out For In Formula 1 This Weekend

  • Apr 4, 2024
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Japanese Grand Prix: Five Things To Look Out For In Formula 1 This Weekend

With the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix just days away, anticipation is building for Formula 1 fans anticipating the fallout from an eventful race last time out in Melbourne.

There’s no doubt the teams will bring necessary changes to the cars and strategies, with defending champion Max Verstappen dropping crucial points in Australia to open the door for Ferrari.

For Verstappen and Red Bull, the Japanese Grand Prix represents a golden opportunity to regroup and reignite their championship campaign; for others, a chance to kick-start the season before it flatlines after just four rounds.

Here are the top five things to look out for at the Japanese Grand Prix:

Max Verstappen’s 10th anniversary in Formula 1

10 years ago, a young Dutch prodigy named Max Verstappen clocked his first-ever Formula 1 times during the first free practice at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

Just three days after his 17th birthday, Verstappen was still competing in F3 with Van Amersfoort Racing but was brought into the Toro Rosso setup after impressing Red Bull boss Helmut Marko in the lower series. He was later confirmed as a Formula 1 driver with a full-time seat in the 2015 season.

“We very deliberately held that first practice on Suzuka as a kind of ultimate test for Max,” Marko told Autosport. “That is one of the toughest circuits on the entire calendar for young drivers and gave us a good chance to see how Max would perform in difficult conditions.”

Fast forward a decade later, and Max Verstappen returns to Suzuka as a three-time Formula 1 World Champion and has developed into one of the best drivers in the history of the sport. A win this weekend in Japan puts the Red Bull driver on the 4th all-time list behind Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher… not bad company then.

Oscar Piastri aiming for a podium finish

In his first full season in Formula 1, the grid’s youngest driver Oscar Piastri didn’t wait to be invited by the big boys for his first podium finish in the sport. After 16 races, the Australian rookie seized the opportunity during the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix, rounding out a team 1-2 after Lando Norris took P2 in Suzuka and announcing himself to the rest of the grid.

“The Japanese Grand Prix holds good memories for me from my first-ever Grand Prix podium and a double podium for the team. After a P4 finish in Australia where we were in the fight, we’re even more determined to continue improving to hopefully achieve another good result.”

Oscar Piastri

Piastri returns to Suzuka after finishing P4 in back-to-back races in Jeddah and Melbourne and will no doubt be looking to replicate his strong return from Japan last season. McLaren sit in third in the Constructors’ behind Ferrari and Red Bull; and while the two heavyweights will continue their pursuit for P1, the Japanese Grand Prix could be another chance for Piastri to continue his impressive start to the season.

Toto Wolff and Max Verstappen

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has made no bones about his intention to sign three-time World Champion Max Verstappen from under his rival’s nose, with fresh comments made this week suggesting that he was ready to offer the flying Dutchman a bumper new deal and an advertising ambassador contract to join the German outfit.

Of course, this could all just be a bluff; it’s no secret that Lewis Hamilton will join Ferrari at the end of the season, opting to leave the sinking ship to reclaim a lost 8th WDC title. Wolff will no doubt want to keep his options open in search of his replacement driver and he could be ready to capitalise on the uncertainty within the Red Bull camp and destabilise their new era of supremacy.

But with Mercedes scrambling for points during the first three Grand Prix races this season, Wolff’s bargaining position has certainly weakened, but Suzuka presents another opportunity for Wolff to make his case.

Mercedes have to compete in Suzuka

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was originally scheduled to skip the Japanese Grand Prix this season, as part of a predetermined schedule set before the first race in Bahrain. But after a disastrous start to life in 2024, in which the German team has scored just 26 points from three races, Wolff has confirmed he’ll be present in the fourth round.

“After a difficult weekend in Australia, it’s good to get back racing in Japan this weekend,” Wolff said ahead of Japan. “Since Melbourne, we have been focused on improving the consistency of the W15. The car has shown signs of strong performance on occasion, but we’ve struggled to deliver this at the critical moments across the first three races.”

Suzuka is a remarkably unique circuit, with insanely rapid corners and countless opportunities for wheel-to-wheel action throughout. As Toto Wolff continues to address the cars’ loss of pace in the corners, this iconic Japanese track might prove to be better suited to other teams around the grid… but the pressure is on Mercedes to compete.

Ferrari could leapfrog Red Bull into 1st

If anyone could break the perennial Max Verstappen’s perfect start to the season, it was Ferrari and the outgoing Carlos Sainz Jr., who, rather poignantly, was the last driver on the grid to beat the Red Bull driver back in Singapore, ending a consecutive run that lasted nine races.

“The team deserves this one-two, we did a fantastic job all weekend,” said Sainz. “We executed a perfect race, nailed the strategy and the mechanics were incredible, delivering precise and quick pit stops every single time.”

Even if Verstappen’s Australian Grand Prix hadn’t ended early after just a couple of laps, the race day performance of the two Ferrari drivers was enough to suggest they would’ve taken all the points in Melbourne and will be looking to continue their good form to leapfrog their rivals into 1st in Suzuka.

However, Red Bull is determined to rectify their missteps from the previous race, announcing significant upgrades to the RB20 in response to their disappointing outcome in Melbourne. With one of Verstappen’s preferred tracks in Japan on the horizon, Red Bull will not doubt be eager to cement their position at the top of the Constructors’ at the first time of asking.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by menshealthfits.
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