F1 Preview: The Japanese GP

It’s that time of the year when title permutations are being calculated around the paddock as the season hones in on the climax. Suzuka is the site for round 15, a circuit drenched in history and classic Formula One moments thanks to the sweeping corners, limited run off areas and enthusiastic fans.

With a lead of 77 points, Sebastian Vettel will be crowned with his 4th World Championship if he wins his fifth race in a row and Fernando Alonso finishes 9th or lower. Vettel is the man on form heading into the Grand Prix and has been on pole four times and won three of the last four races in Japan.

Only the Mercedes seems to be in a position to prevent another Red Bull victory. Hamilton missed out on pole by two tenths of a second but hopes their package will allow them to excel in the high speed corners of Suzuka, despite struggling to overtake the Sauber in Korea. Rosberg has failed to stand out in recent races and will need to step up if they are to claim 2nd in the Constructors’.

Lotus pulled off an impressive double podium last weekend and will carry that confidence heading into Japan. Raikkonen migrated through the pack once again after starting 10th but will need to improve his qualifying performance if he is to succeed at Ferrari next year. Romain Grosjean will be disappointed not to finish 2nd and will look for another podium to show he can lead Lotus next year.

His title hopes are fading but Fernando Alonso will keep pushing if there is a mathematical possibility of clinching the Drivers’ Championship. The team need a good haul of points and will target to finish ahead of Mercedes in the race to keep them behind in the Constructors’ table.

Weight limit regulations may be limiting Nico Hulkenburg’s chances of a race seat next season but more performances similar those in Korea will help sway a team to sign him. The German’s 4th place has put Sauber level on points with Toro Rosso and a similar result is possible in Japan.

McLaren had another double points finish and their targets are highlighting how poor the car is this season. Keeping up with the front runners will be key to more points, especially with the rise in performance from Sauber. Toro Rosso and Williams are slipping further back and look unlikely to add to their point’s tallies.

Rain on Friday and Saturday will jumble the practice times and may affect qualifying, especially as the cars will be set up for a dry race. There has been a Safety Car in five of the last six races at Suzuka, one in each of the last four years and only 50% of pole sitters go on to win the Japanese GP.

Best of luck for all your SuperBru picks!

By Declan Shepherd

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