With a 50-point lead over Sebastian Vettel and just five races to go this has now become Lewis Hamilton’s Championship to lose. Round 17 comes from Suzuka in Japan, a circuit that has seen to top of the podium occupied by Mercedes over the last four years (Hamilton winning three) while Ferrari have not tasted success there since Michael Schumacher in 2004. On this evidence alone it appears Hamilton will cruise to a ninth win of the season and a sixth in the last seven races, even if Bottas has the edge! Check out our preview and predictions for the Japanese Grand Prix.
What happened in Russia
Lewis Hamilton tightened his grip on the Formula One World Championship when took the checkered flag for his third win in Russia. While much can be said of his incredible wins in Belgium, Monza and Singapore, this was by his own admission one of the least satisfying.
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas drove superbly all weekend, firstly in securing pole then going on to control the race from the front before team orders asked the Finn to step aside and let Hamilton pass. Tough call on Bottas who was on his way to a fourth career win, although worth pointing out that Mercedes have both a driver and constructors title to win.
I am convinced that had Bottas been more competitive this season in terms of challenging Hamilton, Toto Wolff would have let his drivers race.
2018 Russian Grand Prix F1 Debrief
The race may have been overshadowed by the Mercedes incident, however Hamilton’s perfect overtaking move should be acknowledged as a championship defining moment. With Vettel pitting first, Hamilton came out immediately behind his rival and proceeded to launch an intense attack. Vettel held Hamilton at bay on his first attempt before the Brit made it count with his superior speed. At first it appeared Vettel had made an illegal double manoeuvre, although this was later ruled out by the stewards.
So it was Mercedes that delivered the team a 1-2, with Vettel coming home third to sit 50-points behind his rival. One has to think that only unreliability can prevent Hamilton from marching to a fifth World Championship.
About Sazuka Circuit
Home of Honda, this unique figure of eight circuit is 5.087 Km long and one of the quickest out there after Monza, Silverstone, Spa and Melbourne. Despite the 18-corners, the circuit is deceptively quick and one that is a thrill to race on according to most of the top drivers.
A downhill straight leads into a first corner which is taken at full speed. The “S” curve is up next with track position shifting over to the right in order to attack the left-right-left-right combinations where rhythm and momentum mean everything.
After that adrenaline filled sequence it is up and over the hill to the sweeping Dunlop Curve, which is followed by two more right handers at turn 8 and 9.
Suzuka F1 Circuit Guide with Valtteri Bottas & PETRONAS
Approaching turn 11 hairpin there is a sniff of a chance to overtake, although timing is of the essence due to the narrow nature at this section of the circuit.
Another uphill lays in wait which then feeds into a right, followed by the Spoon Curve. Holding track position here is crucial otherwise drivers will be vulnerable to attack down the back straight.
Turn 15 gets taken at full throttle before the brakes kick in at Casino Triangle. Turn 16 and 17 is a tight right-left, with an easy turn back to the right, splitting the cars back out onto the pit lane straight.
What to expect at the Japanese Grand Prix
With four consecutive race wins for Mercedes at Suzuka, (three of those by Hamilton) their current run of five wins from the last six races and the fact that Mercedes have locked out the front of the grid in Japan over the last four years, it is tough to see anything else than another dominant weekend for the Silver Arrows.
Red Bull did showcase some additional speed in Russia with their new Renault B-Spec engine despite serving grid penalties and can I see their package giving the frontrunners a run for their money around Suzuka.
As for Ferrari, well this surely is do-or-die for Vettel. Nothing short of a win will give them any hope of overturning the deficit. This does seem a bit unrealistic when you take into account Ferrari last tasted success in Japan back in 2004.
Weather could play a part this weekend with showers forecast for Friday, Saturday and possibly Sunday, with temperatures around the 27-degree mark. I can’t held thinking that the rain is possibly the only chance of any other team challenging the Silver Arrows.
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) October 4, 2018
Japanese Grand Prix Predictions
With five wins from the last six races, Mercedes dominance looks set to continue this weekend at a circuit they have cleaned up at over the last four years.
In qualifying they have locked out the front of the grid at Suzuka the last four years, with Hamilton at 5/6 to start from pole. However, I do like the 9/1 on offer for Bottas to go quickest in Q3, especially after his performance last weekend in Russia.
For the race, Hamilton starts as 5/6 favourite for a ninth win of the season and fifth at Suzuka, with team-mate Bottas at 8/1. After last weekend’s team orders which cost Bottas victory, I can’t see the same happening this weekend if the Finn is in front. Hamilton has a 50-point lead now and as long as Vettel is behind the defending champion, I expect Mercedes will let the race unfold.
The only way I can see a Vettel win at 2/1 is if there are mechanical problems for both the Mercedes, something that rarely happens.
Going to stick my neck on the line here and pick Bottas for a fourth F1 win at 8/1.