Japanese Grand Prix Preview: It’s Hammer Time6 min read
This week we head to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix and it is a massive weekend for Hamilton and championship rival Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton goes into the race as the hot favourite, having won three of the last four Japanese Grand Prix. Victory here would see the Hamilton take an almost unsurmountable lead into the final four races of the season. Vettel, meanwhile, has only notched up a single race win since Silverstone in early July and seems to have lost the edge, or the car beneath him. He must feel that his only realistic chance now will be if he can score maximum points and Hamilton to record a DNF.
So, who will boost their chances of claiming their fifth World Championship crown?
Mercedes’ Hamilton has truly found his form of late, proving (not that he needed to) why he is thought of as the best driver in the world currently. His title rival, Vettel, has faltered due to mistakes and a lack of speed from the Ferrari. It feels like the Maranello marque has fallen behind in the development race, so I have to go with Hamilton to land back-to-back Japanese Grand Prix victories. It’s difficult to see anything other than Hamilton taking another big step towards his fifth world championship on Sunday.
Team orders again?
Valtteri Bottas can be justified in feeling aggrieved for being asked to move over and let Hamilton win the Russian Grand Prix. The truth of the matter was that it was always going to happen if this circumstance arose, and it will happen again if necessary. Bottas will get the favour returned later in the season if possible, but this won’t be happening until the title race has been sewn up by Hamilton.
Bottas is unlikely to win the race if Hamilton is close by and can further his points lead over Vettel, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t want to race hard. Last year he recorded the fastest lap, so I do expect him to show good pace during this season’s race. I do expect Bottas to be on the podium, I just hope it’s in happier circumstances than it was last week.
Twenty-one and going strong.
Max Verstappen could only finish fifth in Russia, but he did start from the back row of the grid. His first few laps were nothing short of spectacular and this momentum should see him have a great Japanese Grand Prix also. Max has finished second in the last two races at Suzuka, so we know the Red Bull will perform well at this circuit, despite its power deficiency. I’m backing the Dutchman to have another fine race and rack up his third top-three finish in the last five races.
Honda’s home race
Honda have had a turbulent return to Formula 1, but things seem to be moving in the right direction since their switch from McLaren to Toro Rosso. Despite a double DNF in Russia, I’m hopeful for a reasonable showing from Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley at the Japanese Grand Prix. Gasly managed to race his, then Renault powered Toro Rosso into thirteenth place last season. Now with ‘home advantage’ I’m hopeful that he’ll crack the top ten now he’s got an ever-improving Honda engine pushing him along.
What to back at the Japanese Grand Prix?
Lewis Hamilton to win at looks tasty enough on its own, so I’m not shying away from a shade odds-on.
The “Combination Podium Finish” market also gives us some interesting markets to back. Hamilton and Bottas can be backed at and Hamilton and Verstappen can be backed at – both look fair prices in my opinion.
Pierre Gasly continues to show why he’s been given the chance to go head-to-head with Max Verstappen next year, I suspect that he will make his way into the points at the Japanese Grand Prix and the available looks like a ‘come get me’ price.