Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monza, 2014

Mercedes can clinch team’s title in Japan

2014 Japanese Grand Prix preview

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Start, Suzuka, 2013As the championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg enters its final skirmishes, their Mercedes team are poised to collect their first championship silverware of the year.

With a 174 point advantage over Red Bull, if the Mercedes out-score their rivals by 41 points on Sunday they will leave the Suzuka circuit as world champions. And even if they don’t do it this weekend, the outcome of this year’s constructors championship looks a foregone conclusion.

But there can be few more fitting venues for them to seal such an achievement than at the superb Suzuka circuit – scene of some of the most memorable championship-winning moments in the sport’s 64 year history.

Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have all secured motorsport’s most coveted prize at the famous Japanese circuit. But while neither Hamilton nor Rosberg will be able to secure the drivers’ title this weekend, a no-score would hurt either of them badly at this stage in the championship fight.

As a venue that is so often mentioned when discussing the truly great circuits of the modern era, Suzuka plays host to one of the most anticipated races of the season by both fans and drivers alike.

Suzuka circuit information

Lap length5.807km (3.608 miles)
Distance53 laps (307.5km/191.1 miles)
Lap record*1’31.540 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2005)
Fastest lap1’28.954 (Michael Schumacher, 2006)
TyresHard and Medium

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Suzuka track data in full

Originally built as a Honda test track, Suzuka’s unorthodox yet challenging layout has remained relatively untouched since its debut on the world championship calendar in 1987.

With a mix of high-speed sweepers, long corners and fast straights, Suzuka will quickly reveal any deficiencies in a car’s performance, as well as demanding absolute precision from drivers over its 5.8km length.

The demanding corners mean that tyre wear and fuel consumption are both critical factors. With this in mind, Pirelli have opted for their two hardest compounds – the Medium and Hard – for this weekend.

Not for the first time, the teams arrive at Suzuka with a threat of severe weather disrupting proceedings. It’s unclear at this stage whether Sunday’s race will be affected by Typhoon Phanfone, but it would not be surprising if drivers are forced to tackle some difficult conditions at some point during the event.

Japanese Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Singapore demonstrated that Red Bull will not resort to team orders to maximise Daniel Ricciardo’s slim chances of snatching the drivers’ title from the Mercedes pair as long as Sebastian Vettel remains mathematically in the hunt himself.

Sitting 60 points shy of Hamilton’s lead, Ricciardo is aiming to be within 50 points by Abu Dhabi in order to have a mathematical chance of a world title win in the final race.

Suzuka has been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull in recent seasons and with aerodynamic grip key around this circuit, they may be eyeing another podium appearance this weekend.

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monza, 2014Mercedes could win the constructors’ championship for the first time in their history in Japan this weekend – and do it with four races to spare.

But it’s a bit of a long shot: The only way Mercedes can put a lock on the title this weekend is if their drivers finish in first and second places and Red Bull fail score no more than two points (ninth place).

If they don’t do it in Suzuka they are still very likely to do so well before the final round of the championship. And that could have a bearing on how much leeway they give their drivers to race each other – especially if their other rivals drop out of contention in the drivers’ title battle.

Ferrari

While Ferrari strive to reclaim third place in the constructor’s championship from Williams, rumblings over Fernando Alonso’s future with the team are increasing in volume.

But while Alonso can be relied upon to consistently maximise performance, team mate Kimi Raikkonen may be set for a strong weekend having achieved a breakthrough in car set-up at Singapore.

“Every corner was a guessing game before, but now I can trust what will happen and I can drive my own way,” says Raikkonen.

“When you get things like that it makes things a lot easier and you’re on a lap time straight away.”

Lotus

After yet another frustrating weekend in Singapore, Romain Grosjean will be looking forward to returning to a circuit where he had arguably his best race last year.

McLaren

Jenson Button, McLaren, Monza, 2014Despite his late retirement from Singapore, Jenson Button will likely be in high spirits this weekend as Japan is a race he describes as his second home grand prix.

Team mate Kevin Magnussen is also anticipating his first ever visit to Suzuka. “Suzuka is one of those legendary circuits – I can’t wait to get out there,” he says.

“I’m really looking forward to driving onto the track for the first time and tackling the famous corners you always hear about – the Esses, the Degners, then Spoon and 130R.”

Force India

Singapore was a crucial race for Force India in their quest to beat McLaren this season. An eight-point haul helped the Silverstone-based team to jump ahead of their more illustrious rivals into fifth place in the constructor’s championship, and break the team’s season points scoring record in the process.

If Force India are to beat McLaren, they will need to maximise the points this weekend as Suzuka has not always proven the most fruitful of circuits for the Silverstone team.

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez could not hide his frustration in Singapore when an electrical problem robbed both him and the team of possibly their best chance to finally score points in 2014.

Sauber are running out of races to achieve that elusive points finish, but will be spurred by the fact that Suzuka has been a strong venue for them in recent years.

“In the last few years, the Sauber F1 Team has produced some of its best races at Suzuka,” says the team’s head of track engineering, Giampaolo Dall’Ara. “This is a source of pride, and keeps us motivated in working hard for results that so far this season we haven’t been able to achieve.”

Toro Rosso

Jos Verstappen, Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, Spa-Francorchamps, 2014Formula One history will be made at Suzuka this weekend as 17-year-old Max Verstappen will shatter the record for youngest ever participant in an F1 event when he steps into Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso during Friday practice.

With the son of former Benetton and Arrows racer Jos Verstappen already confirmed for a race seat in 2015, it’s little surprise to see Toro Rosso eager to give their newest rookie some track time in an official session.

Vergne’s sixth place finish in Singapore would not have hurt his quest to find a drive in 2015, but he knows he can’t afford to rest on his laurels and must target another impressive finish in Japan.

Williams

Singapore was always likely to be a more difficult circuit for Williams. Back at a track where they can extract the benefit of their car’s aerodynamic efficiency, the FW36s should be more competitive.

After a race of mixed fortunes in Singapore with Valtteri Bottas dropping out of the points in the final two laps, Williams will aim for a greater haul in Japan with the arrival of a late-season upgrade package.

Having finished fifth in Singapore, Felipe Massa hopes to be running closer to the front in Suzuka. “We have good momentum at the moment and our car will hopefully be better than in Singapore,” he says.

Marussia

Max Chilton, Marussia, Monza, 2014With every passing race, Marussia edge closer to securing a remarkable – and potentially lucrative – ninth place in the constructors’ championship. Although Sauber have plainly been quicker than them all year, Jules Bianchi’s opportunistic result at Monaco has kept Marussia ahead so far.

Whether Marussia can stay there will depend more on whether we have any races with a high number of retirements before the season ends – and whether they or their fellow Ferrari engine customers can capitalise on that chance.

Caterham

For what could well be the final time, Kamui Kobayashi will provide his local fans with a Japanese driver to cheer for during their own grand prix.

Suzuka holds very special memories for the Japanese driver, having secured his one and only podium appearance at his last race here in 2012.

“Unfortunately, this year I have to admit that I won’t be fighting for a podium,” he said, “but I will do my best to reward my fans with a strong performance in order to thank them for their enormous support”.

2014 driver form

DriverG avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel6.144.552711/14Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo5.213.501812/14Form guide
Lewis Hamilton5.071.551311/14Form guide
Nico Rosberg1.861.831412/14Form guide
Fernando Alonso6.435.002913/14Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen9.648.7741213/14Form guide
Romain Grosjean14.5011.758168/14Form guide
Pastor Maldonado17.9313.6712179/14Form guide
Jenson Button9.008.0831713/14Form guide
Kevin Magnussen9.009.3821313/14Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg10.077.4651213/14Form guide
Sergio Perez11.868.2731111/13Form guide
Adrian Sutil15.4313.3811178/14Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez16.5715.7512208/14Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne11.1410.006139/14Form guide
Daniil Kvyat11.1411.1091410/14Form guide
Felipe Massa7.798.2731511/14Form guide
Valtteri Bottas7.295.6221113/14Form guide
Jules Bianchi17.7915.5591811/14Form guide
Max Chilton19.3616.00131912/14Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi18.9215.3813188/13Form guide
Marcus Ericsson20.7116.8911209/14Form guide
Andre Lotterer21.000/1Form guide

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2014 Japanese Grand Prix

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Images © Red Bull/Getty, Daimler/Hoch Zwei, McLaren/LAT, Marussia

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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20 comments on “Mercedes can clinch team’s title in Japan”

  1. that photo of the Renault leading into turn 1, seems so long ago!

    1. The last time a Renault lead into Turn 1 was Hungary 2009 if I’m not mistaken. ;)

      1. yeh but the photo still seems nostalgic – with how they were near the top and now so far back.

    2. was just last year… years go quick sometimes

    3. I was jumping of joy at that moment, I really hoped Grosjean could make a good fight out of it (he did) and break Vettel’s domination. Shame. He was best of the rest during the longest winning streak of another driver and it seems difficult to imagine him winning a well overdue victory now.

      1. The best part was later to see Grosjean describing his sensation when the start went on so well on French TV. Like a kid who just had his first roller coaster ride.

  2. Will Caterham even be racing this weekend? Certain sites are saying that the Leafield factory was shutdown today… :(

  3. I wish Pirelli had gone for the Soft and Hard compounds. Like Martin Brundle says, having a step between the compounds always seem to make the race better. Without, even Suzuka can sometimes be a bit dull.

    1. No it doesn’t, It tends to make races worse because a big step between compounds along with DRS tends to make passing predictable & boring when you have 2 cars on the different compounds.

      I’ve always preferred smaller gaps between compounds as thats when we get proper, competitive racing which is what I want to see!
      I hate it when you have uncompetitive, easy highway passing be it thanks to the dumb racing system, stupid tyre degredation or the gaps between compounds!

      1. Well that’s your opinion. I disagree. I rather see some strategy involved, and people like Ricciardo looking after their tires, or HAM and ALO just throwing the car around on worn tires and still be quick. Drivers making an advantage of their own. Otherwise something races can become a bit dull, and the cars basically just go round in order, quickest team first, then the next. But that is my opinion.

        1. @me4me, as you say that is your OPINION, and I might agree with it IF and only IF there was no compulsion to use both compounds, I want to see drivers racing each other, that, after all is why they all start simultaneously, If I wanted to watch drivers making tactical decisions on how fast to drive I would watch Rallying which is designed not to have drivers interfering with each others game plan, I like both, but F1 has always been and should always remain a competition between drivers and cars racing each other simultaneuosly for track position, not strung out around the track driving to a predetermined schedule.

          1. @HoHum, I want that as well, but I don’t think tires hard as stone is the solution. Like you said, they all start simultaneously. But in the order of the quickest car first. On extremely hard tires, they probably finish that way too, so there lies the problem.

          2. But in 2010 when we had much harder tyres we saw more on-track overtaking (And truly exciting/competitive overtaking at that) than any season since 1989.

            The refueling ban alone had already seen a big jump in on-track overtakes that year & the banning of the double diffusers, F-ducts & small aero changes for 2011 should have seen that trend continue without the need for High-deg tyres & DRS.
            Going further the banning of the blown diffusers & further aero reductions for this year further negate the need for these silly gimmicks.

            Looking just at the tyres, Look at how they have harmed GP2. In the Bridgestone-era you had an entire GP2 race filled with battles, overtaking & good close & competitive racing. Since 2011 in GP2 you have over half the race of tyre management & then you have 6-8 laps of madness as the tyres start to fall off the cliff. And you also sometimes get the big step between compounds which like in F1 produces dull, uncompetitive & easier highway passing
            GP2 was indefinitely better before these horrible Pirelli tyres & its been further ruined next year with DRS.

            The big step between compounds does produce varied strategies, But I don’t give a damn about pit strategies, Never have which is why I always hated refueling. I want to see all the racing done on the racetrack (As it used to be) with drivers really having to work hard to overtake properly without some drivers having big advantages in tyre compounds or silly gimmicks like DRS.

            The racing in F1 since 2011 has for the most part been the worst its ever been, Yes people can go on about 80 passes a race & 3-4 pit stops but if 90% of that passing is far easier than it should be, Uncompetitive & dead boring to watch then i’m sorry but thats not better & all its done for me is kill a huge chunk of my love for F1 thats i’ve had for nearly 40 years now.
            This just is not the sort of Non-racing I find interesting, entertaining or fun to watch!

  4. Looking at the form guide, I just noticed that Hamilton has only ever been on the podium this year and no lower except DNF’s. To be expected I suppose with a superior car.

  5. Danny Ricciardo deserves to have 18 more points for his 2nd at the AGP, it is apparent now that he gained no unfair performance advantage from the fuel-flow limiter that the FIA wanted replaced with one known to be even less accurate, another FIA “own goal”.

    1. @hohum Sorry, how is apparent? The FIA told Red Bull to turn the fuel rate down, they didn’t. Therefore they were running a fuel rate higher than mandated and gained a performance benefit for it. Remember: the fuel rate is prescribed *as measured by the method chosen by the FIA*.

      Everything else is just smoke and mirrors.

    2. Red Bull decided to make a point with Ricciardo and lost. In an epic faceplant sort of way.

      From the FIA hearing it was evident that even Red Bull’s own ridiculously flawed fuel flow “guestimates” came out above the allowed 100kg/h.

  6. I don’t know for sure, but I think next years grid will be the youngest ever on average. And then to think only a few years ago (2012) there were 2 drivers in their 40’s on the grid (Schumacher and de la Rosa)

    1. @jlracing

      If people like Sutil and (sadly) Button aren’t on the grid next year, then this is a distinct possibility :)

  7. Might be a wet race in which case Hard/Medium tyres who cares!

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