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Oct 5, 2022

F1 Race Preview: Japanese Grand Prix

Japanese Grand Prix 2022: Can Verstappen secure the title at Suzuka?

Japanese Grand Prix betting: Where is the value this weekend?

Japanese Grand Prix 2022: Weekend preview and odds

Formula 1 insight and stats

F1 Race Preview: Japanese Grand Prix

After a race to forget for Max Verstappen and both Mercedes drivers, it was Sergio Perez who took the spoils in Singapore ahead of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. This week, F1 heads to Suzuka for the first Japanese Grand Prix since 2019. Can Verstappen bounce back to win it and secure the title too? Read on to inform your predictions ahead of the next Formula 1 race of the season with expert insight from Jennie Gow.

It seems a long time since F1 last made its way to the land of the rising sun. 2019 was our last race at Suzuka and the return of this much-loved circuit will be greatly anticipated by F1 fans and bettors! There is something about racing in the Far East that is challenging, romantic, and slightly other-worldly – and there’s no doubt that the Suzuka track is a firm favourite with both drivers and fans alike.

F1 betting 2022: What happened in Singapore?

Before we talk about Japan, let’s look back at round 17 and the Singapore GP. It was another win for Red Bull, their 13th of the season, but this time it was Sergio Perez who was the man leading the charge for the Milton Keynes-based team.

His second win of the season was very much helped by the fact that his teammate had to start P8 after a fuelling error in qualifying saw him not set his most competitive time. In qualifying, Perez was just 0.02 seconds off the pace of Charles Leclerc (who secured pole) and his masterful start saw him leapfrog the Monegasque driver to take the lead of the race and, after a great cat and mouse fight, the eventual win.

There was a big points haul for Ferrari, as they finished second and third on a weekend that their rivals for second place in the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes, could only collect two points (with Lewis Hamilton finishing ninth and George Russell finishing out of the points, down in 14th).

McLaren had a great race in Singapore, with Norris and Ricciardo coming home P4 and P5 respectively.

It was also a great race for McLaren, who made some clever strategy choices – including deciding to pit under one of many safety car periods. Drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo came home P4 and P5 respectively. This was an especially significant result on a weekend that their Constructors’ Championship rivals, Alpine, had a double DNF with engine failures for both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.

Verstappen managed to finish P7 after a frustrating race for the soon-to-be Champion, which saw him move up and down the field. All this means that the title fight rolls over to Japan (the home of Honda, the makers of the engine that powers the Red Bull cars) and we could see it decided at Suzuka.

Japanese Grand Prix 2022: A history of the track

Formula One returns to its only ‘figure of eight’ circuit for the 32nd race at Suzuka (as part of the F1 World Championship). The track is one of F1’s most iconic venues and home to some of F1’s most infamous corners, including the 130R. It is one of the season’s most challenging races where anything can – and usually does – happen.

The track is most famous for being the location of major incidents in one of the sport’s most memorable rivalries – Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna collided there twice in 1989 and 1990.

Suzuka has been the venue where the Drivers’ Championship title has been decided on 11 occasions, due to its late date in the calendar. Sebastian Vettel was the last man to secure the title in Japan as he sealed his second Championship in 2011. Two other drivers have won their second title at Suzuka – Senna in 1990 and Mika Häkkinen in 1999.

Since 2009, the race has only been won by a team other than Red Bull and Mercedes once – when Jenson Button won in 2009 for McLaren. Six of the past 11 races have been won from pole. There have been 16 winners at Suzuka with a pole-to-win ratio at around 50% (15 of the 31 races).

A stat worth remembering is that in the last 20 races at Suzuka, only once has someone who started on pole not finished on the podium. That was in 2005, when Ralf Schumacher finished eighth (his brother Michael also failed to convert pole to a win in 1998 but he failed to finished the race). Only four races have been won from further back than third on the grid.

F1 2022 title permutations: How Verstappen can win a second Championship in Japan

Verstappen will be world champion if he leaves Suzuka with a 112-point lead over Leclerc and Perez – meaning he needs just eight points from the weekend as the current gap to Leclerc is 104 points and to Perez it is 106.

If Verstappen were to win and get the fastest lap this weekend then no matter what anyone else does, he would seal the title. If he wins without the fastest lap, then Leclerc must finish second to keep to his Championship challenge alive. If Verstappen was to finish outside the top six then again, the Championship fight would continue. There are some other permutations, but these are the key ones!

Japanese Grand Prix betting: Where is the value this weekend?

Charles Leclerc has managed to put his Ferrari on pole position in the last two races but has failed to convert either to a win – the last time he did that was in Australia at the beginning of the season!

I would expect it to be the same again this week with Leclerc my value prediction for pole, but I don’t expect him to take the win – the car’s performance, team strategy, and his driving just haven’t been consistent enough for me to get behind him for the race win.

If Verstappen starts the race anywhere within the top 10, I would expect him to romp home to a win, barring any technical failures. It would make sense that the title is wrapped up in Japan, but I just have a feeling we could see this one go to the US. When I asked Verstappen where he would rather win it – Japan or the US – he was clear he wants the Championship done as soon as possible!

I would expect it to be the same again this week with Leclerc my value prediction for pole.

In regards to outsiders, then George Russell might be one to back to do well. He failed to finish in the top 10 for the first time this season last time out (apart from Silverstone when he didn’t finish at all) and will be keen to do better this weekend.

A Mercedes driver has won the last six Japanese Grands Prix and even though I believe Red Bull will put an end to that winning streak, Russell might just be a value bet to finish on the podium – it will be tough but with the weather looking cooler than usual and maybe even wet on Sunday (though the forecast is long range and I’m not too confident about it yet), it might be a good day for the team who will be looking to claw back some of the 66-point gap between them and second-placed Ferrari.

Also, watch out for Yuki Tsunoda. He is the first Japanese driver to take to the track in F1 since Kamui Kobayashi in 2013. Kobayashi managed a wonderful third-place finish in 2012 and as you can imagine, Suzuka was an incredible place that afternoon. The support for the home man will be immense this weekend and it could spur him on to do well – and maybe even get a points finish, but it would be a very tall order if he were to repeat the success of his fellow countryman.

Constructors’ Championship betting: The McLaren vs. Alpine battle is heating up

The battle for fourth and fifth in the Constructors’ Championship is a battle for millions of pounds so it’s a big deal. McLaren jumped Alpine in the standings after Alpine’s double DNF in Singapore, going from an 18-point deficit to a four-point lead. However, Alpine looked fast all weekend so the big question now is if they have to bring new power units to Suzuka. If they do, they will pick up grid penalties, which McLaren will need to capitalise on if they are to extend their lead over Alpine.

A return to Formula 1 for Honda?

A Honda-powered car has only won on two occasions at Suzuka – Ayrton Senna in 1988 and Gerhard Berger in 1991. While Red Bull’s engine isn’t badged as a Honda – it is run and maintained by Honda.

I can imagine it will be slightly frustrating for them if Red Bull win this weekend as they won’t be able to celebrate in quite the same way, but there are many who believe that after this weekend we will see Honda deciding to come back to F1 as engine supplier to Red Bull in the longer term. Let’ see…

F1 driver market: Who will take the remaining seats for 2023?

There are still seats up for grabs in F1 for 2023 and the driver market is still buzzing with interest as to who could take them. At the time of writing, Williams have yet to announce their line-up for next year but there is a thought that Logan Sargeant will get the seat. The 21-year-old American is part of Williams’ young driver programme and currently competing in F2 for Carlin.

Elsewhere, Pierre Gasly is expected to be announced any day as the new Alpine driver and Nyck de Vries is seemingly heading to his vacant seat at AlphaTauri. The other seat up for grabs is in the Haas team – will Mick Schumacher hold on and keep his F1 hopes alive, or will they go for someone else?

Rumours are swirling around the paddock, with Nico Hülkenberg being linked to the Haas seat. Daniel Ricciardo is also still to secure his future in the paddock, but he has conceded that a reserve role might be on the cards for 2023. Watch this space…

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