Japanese Grand Prix | Sunday 13 October | Suzuka Circuit | 08:00
From one of the least popular races to a firm fan and driver favourite, Formula One heads to the Suzuka circuit in Japan, full of passionate fans, fast corners and another twenty-five points waiting to be claimed. It seems that Japan might be similar to the previous two Asian races, in the fact that Vettel is particularly dominant. In 2012 he obliterated the competition by taking pole, leading the race from start to finish and also claiming the fastest lap. This was not the first victory in Japan for the German champion, he has a total of three wins at the historic track and with only a couple of first place finishes standing between him and his fourth World Championship, expect him to attempt a repeat of last year.
Korea ended up being a rather exciting race regardless of near total domination by Sebastian Vettel. He continued his rampage and added another win to his collection, but the real race was behind the World Champion, where stunning talent emerged in the form of younger drivers in less dominant cars. The predicted typhoon avoided the race track and Korea surprisingly provided three days of dry racing. Nico Hulkenberg was undoubtedly the star of Korea, with a superb drive and some stellar overtakes, proving he deserves a seat in a Formula One car next year. He managed to finish fourth in a Sauber, showing just how far he and the team have come in 2013. Lotus are back with a vengeance after a lull in their title fight; they had both drivers on the podium with a good haul of points for the team. Webber’s bad luck continued as his car was engulfed in flames yet again, sending a rogue fire truck onto the race track, much to the frustration of race director Charlie Whiting. Massa nearly took out his Ferrari teammate at the start, but both managed to escape unscathed, with Massa finishing ninth while Championship contender Alonso came in a disappointing sixth. Hamilton and Rosberg managed to score points for Mercedes, despite the latter’s front wing coming loose and nearly taking him out the race. Button continued his run of mediocre performances with an eight place finish and his McLaren teammate, Perez, finished tenth after suffering a front tyre failure.
Suzuka is one of the oldest and the only figure-eight track on the Formula One calendar. It is very popular among the drivers, with many of them gushing that the iconic Japanese circuit is one of their favourites, as well as one of the best race tracks in the world. The track certainly lives up to the praise, it delivers both a challenge for the drivers as well as the promise of an exciting race for the fans, which explains why Japanese motor-racing fanatics, along with Formula One fans from around the world, swarm to the popular track. Home to the famous “spoon” curve and the treacherous 130R, Suzuka is fast, flowing and full of high-speed corners and is demanding on both the car and the driver. The race spans 53 laps of the 5.807km track and requires a lot of downforce from the car if the driver is going to better the unforgiving circuit. Tyre management is important as always and Pirelli have chosen their hard and medium tyres for this weekend’s Grand Prix. Weather is unpredictable and the safety car is common, but qualifying and the race are expected to be dry. McLaren are the most historically dominant team in Japan, but the chances of them cementing that reputation this weekend are virtually zero. Red Bull are the current favourites for obvious reasons, with three wins and four pole-positions since 2009.
To Win Outright
Sebastian Vettel 5/10
Lewis Hamilton 7/1
Fernando Alonso 10/1
Kimi Raikonnen 10/1
Mark Webber 11/1
Nico Rosberg 16/1
Romain Grosjean 18/1
Felipe Massa 100/1
Jenson Button 150/1
Sergio Perez 250/1
Nico Hulkenberg 300/1
Nico Hulkenberg (300/1 a win, 90/1 a place)
Hulkenberg seems to be getting better and better as his racing career goes on. The rookie driver has impressed fans with a pole position and fastest lap, which is quite an achievement for a driver in a lesser car that has only been racing in a Formula One for a few years. I’d fathom that a win from him this season is as likely as Miley Cyrus putting away her rampant tongue, but anything can happen in F1 and at 300/1, it would be a very profitable miracle should he do so in Japan. I would definitely keep and eye on him for the future if he manages to secure a seat in 2014, even though he is considered one of the “larger” drivers in an extremely weight-conscious sport (weighing in at a simply monstrous 74kg.) He’s listed at 90/1 for a place on Sunday and with a fourth position finish in Korea, a bet on a podium for the young German isn’t a bad idea.
Fernando Alonso (10/1 a win, 3/1 a place)
Alonso seems to be content watching Vettel drive away with the World Championship. Ferrari’s number one and the only driver left with a chance, albeit a tiny one, of snatching the championship from Vettel’s iron grip, is now a whopping 77-points behind the German with only five races left. A sixth place finish in Korea left Alonso trailing further behind and any hope of him seizing another World Championship is slim. However, he has won in Suzuka twice before, so perhaps he’ll be able to pull out a spectacular performance on Sunday. At 3/1 for a place though, I’d back him for a podium finish.
Lewis Hamilton (7/1 a win, 21/10 a place)
Mercedes are expected to be quick at Suzuka, so we might see Hamilton unseat Vettel as King of Qualifying on Saturday. At 5/2 he is a more profitable alternative to the German for pole position, but keep in mind Vettel’s impeccable qualifying record at Suzuka. The Mercedes should challenge the Red Bulls if they perform as expected and Hamilton has also won here, although only in 2007. A fifth place finish last year doesn’t inspire much confidence but if the car is quick he could be on his way to a podium finish. A bet on a win for Hamilton might pay out, I’d consider him and Raikkonen as the biggest threats to Vettel at Suzuka.
POLE POSITION: Sebastian Vettel 11/20
Vettel has started on pole for the past four Japanese Grand Prix, so it seems pretty likely that he’ll be adding a fifth pole at Suzuka to his collection. The World Champion seems to be unstoppable and a win in Japan could see him crowned World Champion if Alonso finishes lower than ninth. Vettel could very well take the win, recent form suggests he will more than likely be victorious. However, with him being priced up as short as 5/10, it’s worth taking a risk by betting on someone else to take the checkered flag. A bet for him to start on pole should be a nice addition to any weekend multiple.
TO WIN: Kimi Raikkonen 10/1
Any long-time Formula One fan will remember Raikkonen’s spectacular win at Suzuka in 2005. The Finn started in 17th after a disastrous qualifying and passed Fisichella for first place on the last lap. He’s finished on the podium for the last two races this season and although he only finished sixth in Japan last year, Raikkonen is long overdue another victory. A win from somebody other than Vettel, in order to keep the Championship fight alive, is desperately needed as it’s starting to become rather dull seeing the German on the top of the podium race after race. Here’s hoping Raikkonen manages to crack Vettel’s grip on Japan and at 10/1, there’s decent money to be made if he does.
Think we’ve got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this one is going to play out.