MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Japanese GP

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Suzuka Circuit in Japan has been the site of many a great Formula 1 championship decider over the years. Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher have all clinched titles at the figure-eight circuit.

Although we won’t get a definite champion from this year’s race, it could go a long way to deciding the destination of the 2014 world championship.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg continue to duel at the front of the field, with the latter losing his championship lead following an electrical problem in Singapore two weeks ago. Hamilton took full advantage of Nico’s plight, winning the race under the lights.

The Briton is now chasing a three-peat in Japan, but more importantly for Lewis, it is one of the ‘legendary’ circuits that he is yet to win at. Doing so here would edge him closer to the second world title he so desperately desires.

Ahead of this weekend’s race, the MST writing team has made its picks once again – and it’s pretty clear who we think will win this weekend.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. The word “momentum” has been exhausted when talking about the 2014 F1 championship race, but it’s true – momentum is key. Lewis has bags of it, having won the last two races and out-thinking Nico Rosberg off the track. Look for him to add his name to the list of greats to have won at Suzuka this weekend.

Surprising finish: Kimi Raikkonen. Suzuka was the site of Kimi’s finest hour back in 2005, when he fought back from 17th on the grid to win the race, passing Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap of the race. The Finn has found some form with Ferrari recently, and with the spotlight shining on the future of his teammate, he could flourish. 

Most to prove: Nico Rosberg. Without a win since the middle of July, Nico Rosberg needs to prove that he’s still up for a fight in this championship. His demise in Singapore was unfortunate, but he must rally at Suzuka this weekend. A third straight win for Lewis could be disastrous for his championship hopes.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Everything coming up Lewis at the moment, even despite his record of not having won at Suzuka. That changes this weekend because his ability at this driver’s track, coupled with the pace of his car, should make way for a third straight victory.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. There’s elements of this track that run similar to Spa (some straights, fast, sweeping corners) and or Silverstone (esses after Turn 1), races where Button finished in the top six this season. A podium is likely out of reach but a top-five finish is not, at a track that more or less serves as Button’s second “home Grand Prix.”

Most to prove: Nico Hulkenberg. Odd to say but Sergio Perez has appeared to gain the upper hand within the inter-team Force India battle, having finished ahead of the German the last four races. At a track where Hulkenberg finished sixth last year, albeit driving for Sauber, it’s time for him to produce one of his trademark “Second half, I need to show something to the bigger teams and help my own in the process” performances.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. With confidence brimming after taking the World Championship lead with a win at Singapore, Hamilton appears poised to go from there and earn his first win at Suzuka. Of course, that depends on if his Mercedes crew has solved their damaging reliability issues.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. Suzuka’s always been a strong track for the McLaren man, and his chances for another good run there will definitely go up if a race day forecast of rain comes to pass. Time and again over his career, Button’s risen to the occasion in wet conditions.

Most to prove: Nico Rosberg. With five races remaining in 2014, the German’s lost control of the championship and through no fault of his own, too. Somehow, Rosberg has to put that out of mind and take down a renewed Hamilton at one of the world’s most challenging tracks. What a task.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. It’s time for Hamilton to start pulling away from Nico Rosberg in the F1 championship hunt. After a long battle, Hamilton finally took over the points lead at Singapore. Even though he has just a three-point edge on his Mercedes teammate, Hamilton has momentum that should carry him to the rest of the season.

Surprising finish: Sebastian Vettel. Even though he’s won the last two and four of the last five Japanese Grand Prix’s, Vettel’s reign at Suzuka will end Sunday: he will not take the checkered flag in this one. Frankly, we don’t even envision Vettel winding up with a podium finish.

Most to prove: Valtteri Bottas. The Finn dropped two places in the standings after the last race at Singapore, going from fourth to sixth. He needs to rally to at least finish the season in the top-five. We can see Bottas achieving a podium finish for perhaps third place, but he’ll need luck, as well.