Mercedes rebounded in Russia, a place which they have always won at, with Lewis Hamilton winning in Sochi for the fourth time, claiming his ninth race victory of the season in a Mercedes one-two finish.
However, with Ferrari once again showing great speed in Sochi, and Red Bull Racing-Honda wanting to perform well in Honda’s own backyard, the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Round 17 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, is going to be interesting!
Hamilton (322 points) leads the championship by 73 points over teammate Valtteri Bottas (249 points) after taking advantage of the mechanical issues for Sebastian Vettel, and getting lucky with the virtual safety car (which turned into a full safety car) to overtake Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc to take his 82nd career victory, with Bottas also finishing ahead of Leclerc.
Bottas needs to win the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend you feel to keep his slim championship hopes alive.
Leclerc (215 points) for Ferrari, and Max Verstappen (212 points) for Red Bull Racing-Honda are still in mathematical contention for the world championship, but are likely to be knocked out of contention this weekend, but Leclerc will be looking to continue Ferrari’s general upturn in form, while Verstappen will be looking to show off the brand new Honda power-unit, and take victory at the home circuit of Honda, which would be the first win for a Honda-powered car in Japan since Gerhard Berger for McLaren-Honda in 1991.
Meanwhile, Vettel (194 points) is out of contention for the 2019 championship, but will be looking to rebound after losing power with his power-unit in Russia, and challenge Leclerc and Verstappen for third in the standings.
Behind the Top Five, Pierre Gasly (69 points) is sixth in the championship for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda after starting the first 12 races of 2019 with Red Bull Racing-Honda, three points ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (66 points), with Alexander Albon (52 points) closing quickly in eighth since joining Red Bull Racing-Honda from Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, ahead of Lando Norris (35 points), the teammate of Sainz, while Daniel Ricciardo (34 points) remains inside the Top 10, just ahead of his Renault teammate Nico Hülkenberg (34 points) based on finishing fourth ahead of Hülkenberg at the Italian Grand Prix.
Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (571 points) lead by 162 points over Ferrari (409 points), and have a chance of clinching their sixth-straight Constructors’ Championship this weekend, which would equal Ferrari’s record for most consecutive Constructors’ Championships from 1999 to 2004 by out-scoring Ferrari by 14 points or more.
Red Bull Racing-Honda (311 points) have secured at worst third in the Constructors’ Championship, but are still a chance of claiming second, with McLaren-Renault (101 points) in a clear and comfortable fourth behind them.
Renault (68 points) are leading the battle for fifth ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (55 points) and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (52 points), with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points) and Haas-Ferrari (28 points) battling for eighth, with Williams-Mercedes (one point) still in 10th and last.
So, who will win the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix?
The weekend looks set to be affected by adverse weather conditions, and while Suzuka not in the direct path of Typhoon Hagibis at the moment, Saturday in particular looks set to be wet, and there could be a chance that qualifying might have to be postponed until Sunday morning, but regardless of whether that happens or not, Sunday looks set to be fine and sunny at Suzuka.
So, in terms of my prediction, I think Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will be the ones to beat as he searches for his sixth victory in Japan to equal Michael Schumacher’s record at the Japanese Grand Prix, and his fifth at Suzuka, but it is set to be a tight fight between the Top Three teams on the grid.