Clip The Apex
And so we enter the final phase of the 2017 season and we are now at the point where the points leading driver can win the title should his rival finish lower than a certain position (in this case, 4th I believe). It just so happens that we arrive at a track where the Mercedes team have always ran well having won the last 3 races held there. Also, of the 5 races held to date, Hamilton has won 4 of them and his title rival Sebastian Vettel the other.
Quite why Ferrari have managed to implode in the second half of the season remains to be seen. Kimi hasn't really been in the races all year and Seb seems to be losing the plot at every opportunity. The increasing speed, reliability and confidence from the Red Bull camp has not helped matters but any hope of this season being a close two way battle between Vettel and Hamilton disappeared a long time ago. Only a monumental disaster could stop Hamilton from winning the title now.
As for the track, its always been a popular one with drivers, teams and fans and to be honest definitely rates as one of the least worst 'Tilkedromes'. Turn one has given us some exciting moments in previous races and Nico Rosberg credits Hamilton's wide elbows in 2015 for giving him the drive to take the 2016 title as he vowed not to let a driver do that to him again. The remainder of the track contains a few nods to various circuits around the world.
The thorn in Mercedes side at the last few races has been Red Bull and they will be waiting to pounce should they get the chance of a run at the Mercedes cars.
You know that F1 is in something of a state when outside of the top 6 the odds of another car winning a race have been quoted by some book makers as 1000/1. There are many squabbles throughout the midfield with those all important points bringing home an extra few million dollars. With the departure of Jolyon Palmer from Renault all eyes will be on Carlos Sainz to see if he can get closer to Hulkenberg. Meanwhile back at Sainz's old team, Daniel Kyvat is set to make his latest comeback to racing.
Can Hamilton win the title here then?
Without a doubt Suzuka is my favorite circuit to drive around (on my PS4) and one of my favorites to watch. It is a proper old school track with lots of tricky technical corners and as we have seen this year the old school tracks are giving this generation of F1 cars the best chance at doing some actual racing.
This track suits Mercedes and Redbull if past form is anything to go by. Mercedes & McLaren Mercedes along with Redbull have shared the spoils since 2004 which is the last time a Ferrari won in Suzuka.
Lewis has 3 wins around here 2 of which came in 2014 and 2015, however Hammy will hope for a better start than last year as he had a shocker dropping to 8th off the line leaving Nico to take the win. I don’t think it will be a walk in the park for Lewis as Ferrari have gained ground.
Seb (3 wheels on my wagon) Vettel has 4 wins in Suzuka all with Red Bull and will be looking to break Ferraris form book in Japan with a win. I certainly wouldn’t count him out despite that 2004 Ferrari stat. He clearly likes the circuit. It does feel like a ‘must win’ for Seb as he is starting to get a little too far behind in the championship battle after Malaysia. However you could easily argue that the Ferrari has had the clear race pace over the Mercedes in the last 2 races. So who knows maybe Seb has the best car in the closing races all he needs is for his luck to change. There is a question over needing a new gear box at this stage after the bizarre crash with Stroll and the strange call to take his steering wheel with him. His behaviour is becoming rather erratic to say the least. But with just 5 races left including Japan we are into the final quarter of the season and Sebs time is running out for the championship challenge. He needs a result here.
Driver silly season is all but over, the big question of the 2nd Williams seat still remains open as does who will be in Carlos seat at Toro Rosso. Hope seems to be fading for Palmer to stay in F1. But I’m sure he will do well across the pond. Personally I’m hoping for a shock announcement of Kubica getting a seat.
So on with the race, another early one I’m afraid. Coffee on standby.