To watch at the Japanese GP
Pressure on Hamilton LEWIS HAMILTON’S championship credentials, not to mention his temperament, will be severely tested this weekend after his Malaysian hopes went up in smoke. The Briton trails Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by 23 points with five races left this season and will be desperate to stop the rot by completing a hattrick of Suzuka victories, which would also mark the 50th win of his Formula One career. Hamilton’s bizarre claim that there was a conspiracy against him will hardly have helped team morale, or his own cause. After his engine exploded in Sepang, Hamilton fumed: “It’s not acceptable – someone doesn’t want me to win this year.” He has only a matter of days to get his head right, before it’s too late.
Force is strong with Rosberg ROSBERG is in the form of his life, having won three straight races before a stirring fightback to finish third in Malaysia last weekend. The German will be looking to press home his 23-point lead in the standings as Hamilton battles his demons following an ill-advised outburst in Sepang. Rosberg won’t be counting his chickens just yet, having thrown away a 43-point advantage earlier this year. But the momentum is unquestionably on his side and Hamilton has it all to do if he is to retain his world title.
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain RED BULL could be forgiven for hoping it is a wet weekend in Suzuka as they look to build on a successful race in Malaysia, where Daniel Ricciardo (pix) led the team’s first one-two in almost three years. Red Bull previously dominated the Japanese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel winning four out of five from 2009 to 2013 before his move to Ferrari. But Ricciardo, who came home ahead of teenage team-mate Max Verstappen in Sepang, said they can pose a threat to the rampant Mercedes, especially with rain forecast for Sunday’s race, telling AFP: “In the rain we could be very strong – if it rains, I believe we can win the race.”
Pot, Vettel, black SPARE a thought for Vettel: a fourtime world champion being called “crazy” and an “idiot” by 19-yearold Verstappen. While there is an element of the pot calling the kettle black in the teenager’s criticism, given his own aggressive driving, Vettel’s recent troubles have been compounded by a three-place penalty for Suzuka after a first-corner crash in Sepang which prematurely ended his race. Languishing in fifth place in the championship standings, Vettel will be hoping for a dramatic reversal of fortune in Japan to help salvage a season to forget for him and Ferrari.
High emotion as Bianchi remembered RICCIARDO dedicated his Malaysia win to Jules Bianchi, the Frenchman who died as a result of injuries suffered at the 2014 Japan race and will be on the minds of all drivers again this weekend. With the issue of Formula One safety again highlighted after Kevin Magnussen’s Renault caught fire during practice in Malaysia, the Australian welcomed the ‘halo’ protection currently being developed to help improve driver safety, despite Magnussen’s concern that it would have made it harder for him to escape his burning car. Ricciardo warned that the “pros have to completely outweight the cons” but also paid tribute to Bianchi, saying: “It is a little bit emotional coming to Suzuka since then.” – AFP