As Formula 1 ventures to the land of the rising sun, night is slowly beginning to fall on the 2014 season with just five rounds remaining.
However, in the final quarter of the year, there is a great deal to be settled. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg continue to duel at Mercedes, and in a rivalry that is being compared to that of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, where better than Suzuka to settle the score?
The momentum undoubtedly lies with Hamilton following back-to-back wins that have put him back in control of the championship. He leads Rosberg by three points after the German driver was sidelined in Singapore by an electrical problem, leaving him reeling. Given that he has not won a race since the German Grand Prix in the middle of July, the pressure is on Nico to find his form once again and to stop Lewis from running away.
Although many will be looking for a repeat of the Senna/Prost clashes at turn one, such an event is unlikely following the clash at Spa and the immediate consequences. Instead, we should relish the prospect of an all-out straight fight at the front that we have been robbed of in the past few races.
Further back, there is still a great deal to be decided both on and off track. Ferrari and Williams continue to scrap over third place in the constructors’ championship, but Fernando Alonso’s future may be the more immediate concern for the Italian marque. Speculators thought an announcement from Honda confirming the Spaniard at McLaren for 2015 could come at its home race, but instead we will have to keep guessing.
Suzuka is one of F1’s most infamous circuits, and the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix will look to provide its own memorable moments that will be looked back on in years to come.
2014 Japanese Grand Prix – Talking Points
Three-peat for Lewis?
Does luck come into a championship fight? Of course it does. Lewis Hamilton has been terribly unlucky this year, but teammate Nico Rosberg got a taste of the same medicine in Singapore when an electrical issued sidelined him. Although the German will be hoping to hit back at Suzuka, Hamilton will know that a third win in a row could be crippling in the psychological battle. It would also give him victory at a circuit all the greats have won at. Much like Monaco, Silverstone and Spa, Suzuka is a track that everyone wants to win at.
The return of Seb and Kimi
The race in Singapore was an important one for both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, as both appeared to show signs of a revival in a season that has led many to question their ability. Vettel ran well to P2, and although his hopes of a fifth win at Suzuka are slim, he’ll be gunning for another podium finish behind the Silver Arrows. Raikkonen may have faded by the end of the race at Marina Bay, but he too appears to be in better shape than he was a few weeks ago. The Finn will want to make the most of it at the site of his finest hour in 2005.
The Power of Dreams
This weekend is an important one for Honda, given that it is the brand’s home race and the final Japanese Grand Prix before its return to Formula 1 in 2015. We were given a teaser shot of its 2015 power unit earlier this week, and more details are due across the course of the race weekend. Perhaps we’ll have a better idea of what direction McLaren is heading in come Monday?
Is the end nigh at Caterham?
Yesterday, we heard the sad news that Caterham had a number of goods seized by bailiffs from its factory in England due to unpaid debts, including the upgrades that were meant to be used in Japan. Essentially, it means this weekend isn’t going to be a very fruitful one, and merely racing is an achievement. The team has insisted that all is well and problems aren’t afoot, but it is difficult to see what the future holds. The team’s entry in F1 is safe, but the means to actually race are far from it.
Thursday was a wet affair at Suzuka (not that the fans cared), and it looks to get far, far worse later this weekend as Typhoon Phanfone threatens to quite literally rain on F1’s parade. The category 3-4 typhoon is currently in the Pacific, but is set to come up towards Japan later this weekend, hitting Suzuka on Sunday and Monday. Already questions have been asked about possibly running the race on Saturday to avoid any cancellation, but for the time being, everything is set to run as normal. If anyone is selling Kamui Kobayashi-branded umbrellas at Suzuka, you’ll make a killing.
Japan – Facts and Figures
Track: Suzuka Circuit
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:31.540 (2005)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2013 Pole Position: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:30.914
2013 Fastest Lap: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:34.587
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T18 to T1)