Will Verstappen be Big in Japan on Sunday?

japanese grand prix preview

A frustrated Max Verstappen failed to clinch his second successive Formula 1 title at the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend but the Red Bull driver has a much stronger chance of getting the job done at Suzuka on Sunday.

Japan is home territory for power unit partner Honda and Verstappen, who made his F1 weekend debut at the circuit in 2014 when he drove in Friday practice, will be champion again if he wins with fastest lap.

The Dutch 25-year-old has a 104-point advantage on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished second in Singapore behind Red Bull’s race winner Sergio Perez. The Mexican is two points behind Leclerc.

“We have another chance to win the drivers championship, we have to have a perfect weekend but it could be possible, we’ll give it our all,” said Verstappen.

Leclerc and Perez are now his only mathematical title rivals with five races remaining.

Verstappen needs only a 112-point advantage over his closest challenger to be champion at Suzuka, which hasn’t crowned a drivers’ champion since 2011 when Sebastian Vettel won his second of four titles with Red Bull.

“It’d be a phenomenal thing,” said team boss Christian Horner in Singapore. “We take nothing for granted. We go to Japan, attack the weekend and see what result comes out at the end of it.”

Suzuka is Honda’s home race and they’re hopeful Verstappen will title wrap up on Sunday

japanese grand prix max verstappen preview

Honda, who officially pulled out of the sport last season but continues to assemble Red Bull’s power units in Japan, will have an enhanced presence from Suzuka with their branding on Verstappen and Perez’s cars as well as sister team AlphaTauri.

Verstappen’s 2021 F1 title was the Japanese manufacturer’s first since 1991, when late Brazilian great Ayrton Senna clinched his third and final one with their engines in his McLaren.

Honda has not had a home race since 2019, however, with the Japanese Grand Prix left off the calendar for the last two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company owns the Suzuka circuit and is the title sponsor for this year’s event.

Red Bull last won there in 2013, the final year of Vettel’s era of dominance while Ferrari’s last success in Suzuka was with Michael Schumacher in 2004.

Mercedes, still chasing a first win of the year, have enjoyed an unbeaten run of success at Suzuka going back to 2014, with the reigning champions even wrapping up their sixth constructors’ title at the track in 2019.

With Red Bull winning 13 of this year’s 17 races, and Ferrari the others, that could all change this weekend.

“It will be hard to repeat the qualifying performance we saw in Singapore,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, with the German marque’s challenger having been more effective around tight twisting layouts.

“But I hope that will be balanced out with a stronger Sunday afternoon.” (Reporting by Abhishek Takle)

Japanese Grand Prix Facts & Stats by Reuters

Suzuka aerial

  • Japanese Grand Prix, Round 18 of the 22-race 2022 F1 world championship
  • Suzuka Circuit
  • Lap distance: 5.807km. Total distance: 307.471km (53 laps)
  • No race since 2019
  • Race lap record: Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes, 2019: One minute 30.983 seconds.
  • Start time: 0500GMT (1400 local)
  • Sunday’s race will be the 36th Japanese Grand Prix in world championship history.
  • Hamilton has won five times in Japan, Sebastian Vettel four and Fernando Alonso twice.
  • Mercedes have won the last six Japanese Grands Prix.
  • Ferrari have not won at Suzuka since Michael Schumacher in 2004. The German won the Japanese Grand Prix a record six times.
  • Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas won with Mercedes in 2019.
  • In 31 races at Suzuka, the winner has come from the front row on 26 occasions and been on pole in 15. Kimi Raikkonen won from 17th on the grid in 2005 with McLaren.
  • Eight of the last 15 winners have started on pole.
  • The drivers’ championship has been settled 12 times in Japan.
  • Suzuka is a Honda-owned circuit, with the Japanese manufacturer leaving Formula One last season but still providing Red Bull with power units under a support agreement.

2022 F1 World Championship

  • Verstappen will secure his second title if he beats Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by eight points — the difference between a victory with fastest lap and second place — and scores six more than Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez.

2022 f1 world championship points after Singapore GP

Grand Prix Victories

  • Red Bull have won 13 of 17 races and Ferrari the rest.
  • Verstappen has won 11 and can set a record for most victories in a season.
  • Leclerc has won three times, Perez twice and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz once.
  • Verstappen is chasing the 32nd win of his career, which would move him alongside Fernando Alonso as sixth-equal in the all-time winning list.
  • Hamilton has a record 103 wins and 188 podiums from 304 starts. The seven-times world champion last won a race in Saudi Arabia in December and is now on the longest streak of his career without a win.
  • Ferrari have won 242 races since 1950. McLaren have 183 wins, Mercedes 124, Williams 115 and Red Bull 88.

Pole Position & Fastest Lap

  • Leclerc has had nine poles this year, Verstappen four, Sainz two, Perez and Russell one each. Hamilton has a record 103, most recently in Saudi Arabia last year.
  • Seven drivers have taken fastest laps this season: 5 – Verstappen (Imola, Miami, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands); 3 – Leclerc (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Australia) and Perez (Spain, Azerbaijan and Italy); 2 – Sainz (Canada, France) and Hamilton (Britain, Hungary); 1 – Norris (Monaco) and Russell (Singapore)