Back after two years, Formula 1 finally returns to Japan this weekend for the 18th race of 2022, continuing the historic trend of featuring this bout in the final stages of the racing season.
With the distinction of being a perennial late calendar race, many world champions have been crowned in Japan, and 2022 could be another such affair with Max Verstappen positioned to clinch the title for the second year in a row.
If he is successful, Verstappen would become the 13th world champion crowned in the 36 grand prix races held in Japan throughout its history.
After a brief two-year stint at Fuji Speedway in the mid-70s, Japan was taken off the Formula 1 calendar for a decade before returning to Suzuka Circuit in 1987, where the race quickly became known as one of the most challenging.
While Verstappen had a weekend to forget in Singapore, his prospects of winning the world championship in Japan are promising due to the mathematical realities of the remainder of the season.
In fact, except for Verstappen, every other driver except for two has been eliminated from title contention. Only his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc remain in the hunt.
Currently, Verstappen leads second-place Leclerc by 104 points. For his part, Perez trails Leclerc by two points.
With only five races remaining, including Japan, there are only 138 first-place points up for grabs, making the window of opportunity for both of Verstappen’s challengers extremely small.
But unlike in Singapore, where Verstappen needed to win (he did not) and have other things go his way to clinch the title, in Japan, Verstappen completely controls his destiny.
If he wins and earns the extra championship point for logging the fastest lap time, he will win the championship regardless of what Leclerc and Perez do.
Pirelli has selected the three hardest compound tires for this race, citing the track’s layout and the high-sustained energy loads the tires are forced to carry.
“An innovation for this year is the fact that we will be testing some 2023 prototype tyres during an extended free practice session on Friday afternoon, as we finalise the specification for next year with the end of this season approaching,” announced Mario Isola, motorsport director at Pirelli.
The second free practice session Friday has been extended to 90 minutes to test the new slick tires, which is the first of two such extended practices to “fine-tune the compounds for 2023.” The second such test will be held at the United States Grand Prix in Austin.
Although the oddsmakers were wrong last weekend in Singapore, they are once again favoring Verstappen (-200) to take first place, followed by championship threats Leclerc (+300), and Perez (+1,000).
Citing Suzuka’s high speeds, Covers.com bookmakers argue “it appears set to be a Red Bull-dominated weekend.”
- With his sensational win in Singapore, Sergio Perez became the first Mexican driver in F1 history to win multiple races in a single season.
- The cost cap — $145 million per season — was instituted in 2021 to introduce more parity among teams.
- The F1 paddock has been abuzz this week with rumors of possible abuse of the sport’s “cost cap” by Red Bull, with speculation largely being stoked by top rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.
- After the initial frenzy, which featured reports of Red Bull breaking the cap by as much as $10 million, it now appears that the team may be found to not have breached the cap at all after an investigation, but the FIA has delayed the release of the report.