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Formula 1, Round 4: The 2024 Japanese Grand Prix

Publish Date: 04/04/2024
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Scuderia Ferrari during 2023 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix

Yes, you read that correctly. It’s the Japanese Grand Prix, not in September but in April and this is no late April Fools joke either. The move comes as part of F1’s efforts to create a more efficient race calendar, and ultimately reduce the distances the freight and team members have to travel as part of the company’s journey to become carbon neutral. In turn, this will shake things up slightly, whilst the teams are very well familiar with the legendary Suzuka circuit, they might not necessarily fully understand the track conditions, with these new tyre compounds, at this time of the year, so expect a lot of running in FP1, 2 & 3.

Here Are Some Track Stats:

  • The only figure-of-8 track on the F1 calendar
  • Michael Schumacher has the most wins, 6
  • McLaren having the most constructor wins, 9
  • Circuit length of 3.6 miles, Race distance of 191 miles, over 53 laps
  • 18 corners in total, some of the best on the calendar

Ferrari’s Threat

Before writing the last article covering the Aus GP, I wrote how Ferrari are in a position to close the gap to Red Bull. So, what went down was a surprise Ferrari domination, with them snatching first and second place. Amazing. But it goes to show how they’re stepping up their game, ready to pounce on any chance they get on the right track. Their race pace was on fire, making you think they could’ve won even if Max Verstappen hadn’t dropped out.

However, let’s not forget Red Bull’s still the team to beat overall, especially on other circuits, as we gear up for Suzuka, anyone from Ferrari or Red Bull could grab that championship lead. It’s gonna be tight! And Ferrari’s so close to taking over the constructors’ standings too.

Watch out for Red Bull to come back strong this weekend, especially at a track where they usually excel. But Ferrari is itching to prove they’re not one-trick ponies and can challenge the Red Bulls head-on.

But hold up, don’t forget about McLaren. They were solid at Suzuka last year, and they’ve started this season looking sharper than before. Lando Norris is still hungry for that ever elusive win. So yeah, Red Bull better watch their backs, ’cause there’s competition brewing from all sides.

Williams and Their Troubles

Melbourne was a rough weekend to forget for Williams. They ended up with zero points and only one car racing after Alex Albon crashed during FP1 and wrecked one of the two chassis they’ve got for the season. And guess what? They don’t have a spare yet! So, James Vowles, the team principal, had to make a tough call. He pulled Logan Sargeant out for the rest of the weekend to let Albon race.

Close call though. Albon finished just shy of scoring points in 11th place. But now, the Williams crew is hustling to fix that chassis before the next race in Japan. Talk about a tight situation!

With the stricken car needing to be shipped all the way back to Williams’ HQ in Grove, UK and then hustled off to Suzuka in time, they had just a week to get everything sorted.

Vowles gave an update saying the repairs are on time, and they should be good to roll with both cars in Japan. But guess what? Still no spare available! So, the pressure’s on the drivers to keep it clean all weekend.

Keep an eye on Sargeant too. Coming back after being pulled out last minute can’t be easy. Plus, he’s got to shake off the disappointment from last season when he crashed in Q1 at Suzuka. Back then, they had a spare chassis, but not this time and the situation within the garage is sure to be tense!

Tsunoda, the Home Hero

Sargeant’s definitely crossing his fingers for a smoother run in Japan this time around, especially after his tough luck last year and a couple of weeks back. But, speaking of Japan, keep your eyes on Yuki Tsunoda. He’s aiming for a double whammy of success as last time he hit Suzuka, he made it to Q3 in front of his home crowd, which was huge. Unfortunately, he missed out on points ’cause the AlphaTauri at the time, wasn’t quite there yet in terms of performance.

This season, RB Racing has been consistently competing for points, with Yuki Tsunoda notably securing eighth place on the grid in Australia. He managed to convert this starting position into a solid seventh place finish in the race, benefitting from Alonso’s controversial time penalty.

Tsunoda’s performance is crucial if he aims to position himself for a potential promotion to Red Bull Racing next year. With consecutive appearances in Q3, he’s demonstrating a growing ability to extract the maximum performance from his car. If he can maintain this momentum, he’s likely to leave a significant portion of the crowd satisfied at the upcoming race weekend.

The Current Driver Market

Tsunoda remains somewhat of a wildcard for a Red Bull seat if there’s a shake-up in their lineup. Recent remarks suggest that Carlos Sainz could be in contention for a return to Red Bull Racing. Christian Horner highlighted Sainz’s availability for the 2025 season following his victory in Melbourne.

Notably, Sainz is the only non-Red Bull driver to have won a race since the conclusion of the 2022 season. His impressive comeback after undergoing an appendectomy has only bolstered his standing as the driver market heats up.

With the potential for significant movement at the end of this season, some teams may opt for early decisions to secure their top choices, while others may adopt a wait-and-see approach. The driver market is currently in flux, with numerous scenarios playing out across the grid.

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