2018 Japanese GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The inaugural edition of the Thailand Grand Prix was an epic to say the least, with three different leaders and tight racing throughout the field, with the top 15 finishers being separated by just 23.628 seconds over the course of a 26-lap race, with the top 10 separated by 11.077 seconds, the top six by 3.023 seconds, and the top three separated by just 0.270 seconds!

However, when it was all said and done, one man took control of the Thailand Grand Prix, and now has the opportunity to take his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and become the youngest rider in history to win five premier class world championships when the 2018 MotoGP World Championship resumes with Round 16 of the championship at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

Marc Márquez (271 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 77 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (194 points), the man who Márquez defeated to take victory in Thailand, while Valentino Rossi (172 points), who was in the battle for the majority of the race before slipping to fourth, is still in mathematical contention for the championship, but is 99 points behind the Spaniard for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP.

Behind the top three in the championship, Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (146 points) leads the pack who cannot win the world championship in 2018, ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), whose year has taken a nose-dive with three crashes, one in the race in Misano, one in the race at Aragon, which damaged his toe, and a massive highside in practice in Thailand, which forced him out of the rest of the weekend, ended all of his slim championship hopes, and will be racing to regain some pride in his final four races with Ducati before linking up with Honda in 2019.

Cal Crutchlow (128 points) is sixth in the championship for LCR Honda, ahead of Danilo Petrucci (126 points) for Alma Pramac Racing, and Johann Zarco (123 points) for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, while the two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders in Andrea Iannone (113 points) and Álex Rins (102 points) complete the top 10, with Rins in particular showing some great improvements, with (excluding the cancelled British Grand Prix) four-straight top 10 finishes in the last four races showing that on the right bike, Rins can be a force in the premier class in the coming years.

Looking at the permutations for this weekend, Marc Márquez can claim the 2018 MotoGP World Championship by:

  1. If Márquez finishes ahead of Dovizioso and Rossi.
  2. If Dovizioso finishes in 4th, Márquez must finish in 5th.
  3. If Dovizioso finishes in 5th, Márquez must finish in 7th or higher.
  4. If Dovizioso finishes in 6th, Márquez must finish in 8th or higher.
  5. If Dovizioso finishes in 7th, Márquez must finish in 9th or higher.
  6. If Dovizioso finishes in 8th, Márquez must finish in 10th or higher.
  7. If Dovizioso finishes in 9th, Márquez must finish in 11th or higher.
  8. If Dovizioso finishes in 10th, Márquez must finish in 12th or higher.
  9. If Dovizioso finishes in 11th, Márquez must finish in 13th or higher.
  10. If Dovizioso finishes in 12th, Márquez must finish in 14th or higher.
  11. If Dovizioso finishes in 13th, Márquez must finish in 15th or higher.
  12. If Dovizioso finishes in 14th or lower, Márquez is the WORLD CHAMPION.

So, who will win the Japanese Grand Prix?

Looking at the circuit demands, with long straights and plenty of hard braking zones, this should suit Ducati to a tee, and all of Ducati’s efforts will be geared to trying to get Andrea Dovizioso the victory to keep the championship alive, but even if that happens, you sense if Marc Márquez finishes on the podium, like he has in 12 of the 14 completed races in 2018, the championship will be a fait accompli at the Australian Grand Prix the following weekend.

 

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2018 Japanese Grand Prix – Preview

After Lewis Hamilton took his eighth race victory of the season, and his fifth in six races, albeit in somewhat controversial circumstances in regards to team orders, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship heads straight from Sochi to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, Round 17 of the championship, a championship that is heading towards the grasp of Hamilton for the fifth time.

Hamilton (306 points) leads the world championship for Mercedes by 50 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (256 points), with Hamilton having achieved the same amount of points in 16 rounds that he did after 16 rounds in 2017, with Vettel having nine points than he did at the same point last year after finishing third in the Russian Grand Prix, and unless Vettel responds soon with some victories, his chances of winning the 2018 championship will have floated out the window, much to the disappointment of the Vettel and Ferrari supporters.

Behind the top two in the championship, Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (189 points) has overtaken Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (186 points) into third in the world championship after finishing second in Russia, which was after being ordered by his team to change positions with his teammate, while Räikkönen wasn’t really in contention for the win, or perhaps even the podium in finishing in a lonely fourth.

Besides Hamilton and Vettel, only Bottas and Räikkönen still remain in mathematical contention to win this year’s world championship.

Max Verstappen (158 points) is now out of mathematical contention for the championship in 2018 despite a storming drive from 19th on the grid to lead the race after Lap 19, and led the most laps in the race (24) on-route to finishing in a highly commendable fifth, just 31.016 seconds behind Hamilton, while his Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer teammate Daniel Ricciardo (134 points) finished in a low-key sixth from 18th on the grid after some early minor front wing damage affected his pace before his only pit-stop of the race.

Behind the top six in the championship, we have a strong five-way battle for seventh in the championship with Kevin Magnussen (53 points), Nico Hülkenberg (53 points), Fernando Alonso (50 points), Sergio Pérez (47 points), and Esteban Ocon (47 points) all separated by just six points.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (495 points) have extended their lead over Ferrari (442 points) to 53 points, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (292 points) in a strong third, and will be hoping to get another victory or two before the end of 2018.

Beyond the top three, Renault (91 points) are still in fourth, but have had their margin over Haas-Ferrari (80 points) narrowed to just 11 points, with McLaren-Renault (58 points) in a clear sixth. Behind them is a tight fight for seventh between Force India-Mercedes (35 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (30 points), and Sauber-Ferrari (27 points), with Williams-Mercedes (seven points) looking very secure in 10th and last position in the Constructors’ Championship.

So, who will win at Suzuka?

Right now, you wouldn’t bet against Lewis Hamilton from winning the Japanese Grand Prix for a fifth time, and winning at Suzuka for the fourth time, but has only taken one pole position at Suzuka, which was last year on-route to his fourth Japanese Grand Prix victory, with his only other two pole positions in Japan coming at the Fuji Speedway in his first two years in Formula One back in 2007 and 2008.

However, it is most certainly a must win race for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari if they want to challenge Hamilton and Mercedes for the championship, but right now, it appears to be an uphill challenge for Vettel and Ferrari.

Hamilton to take the win, and a very strong stranglehold on a fifth world championship.

 

2017 MotoGP Japan GP – Preview

The 15th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, which is about 150 kilometres north-north-east of Tokyo, and is the first of three-straight flyaway weekends (Japan, Australia, and Malaysia) that could well determine who becomes the 2017 MotoGP World Champion, and with four-races to go, the battle looks set to go down to the wire.

Marc Márquez (224 points) on his factory Honda, leads the world championship by 16 points over factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (208 points) after winning the last two races, including last time out in Aragón in Spain three weeks ago. He has now equalled his win tally from last year to become the first rider since Valentino Rossi to achieve five race victories (or more) in a MotoGP season for five-successive years.

And despite a couple of scrappy qualifying sessions by his own high standards, has the bike, the speed, and the momentum in his quest to win his fourth MotoGP World Championship, and his sixth world championship overall.

Dovizioso, meanwhile had a much more difficult time in Aragón, struggling for pace during the race, coming home in seventh place, and leaving his hopes of winning his first MotoGP World Championship in a difficult position, but is having the best season of his MotoGP career, there is no doubt about that!

Maverick Viñales (196 points) is third in the world championship on his factory Yamaha, 28 points behind Márquez despite having not won a race since the French Grand Prix back in May, and the factory Yamaha team have struggled to find that extra speed and confidence, particularly in hotter conditions to challenge Honda and Ducati in the world championship battle, but you feel Viñales is riding well at the moment, with six-successive top six race finishes.

Fourth in the 2017 MotoGP World Championship is Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa (170 points) after a second-place finish in Aragón, and remains in mathematical contention for the title, along with Yamaha teammate of Viñales, Valentino Rossi (168 points), who made a miraculous comeback from a broken leg in Aragón, qualifying on the front row, and then managing to finish fifth in one of the most remarkable performances that we have seen, given the circumstances, in recent years.

Johann Zarco (117 points) is sixth in the world championship, but out of contention to win it in his rookie season in MotoGP, and is ahead of factory Ducati rider Jorge Lorenzo (106 points). Lorenzo scored just his second podium of in 2017 at Aragón, and is showing some promising signs that he might be getting back towards race-winning form in his first season on the factory Ducati, although time is running out to secure a race victory, and avoid having a winless season for the first time since joining the premier class in 2008.

Completing the top 10 in the 2017 MotoGP World Championship are Danilo Petrucci (95 points), Cal Crutchlow (92 points), and Jonas Folger (84 points), riders who are all capable of achieving another podium or two before the season comes to an end.

Looking at who can challenge for a race victory at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, it is pretty hard to go against Marc Márquez, who won the race last year in securing his third MotoGP World Championship, but he has got some heavy competition for the victory at the Honda-owned circuit in 2017.

In the Bridgestone era (2009-2015) at the Japanese Grand Prix, Yamaha had won three times (all for Jorge Lorenzo), Honda had also won three times (all for Dani Pedrosa), and Ducati only won once during that time with Casey Stoner back in a difficult 2010 for the Italian manufacturer, the year which started their downward spiral, which they have recovered from.

You also sense that this circuit should suit both the Yamaha and the Ducati, perhaps even more so than the Honda, and both Viñales and Dovizioso desperately need a victory to keep their championship hopes alive, and to not allow Márquez to get a total stranglehold on proceedings.

While I would tip Márquez given his current form to win for the second year in a row at the Twin Ring Motegi, if I wasn’t going to tip him to win the race, I think Jorge Lorenzo will break his duck and claim his first race victory for Ducati, while I think Maverick Viñales will get his first podium since the British Grand Prix.

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (11:55am, and 4:05pm AEDT). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (11:55am AEDT), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (3:30pm AEDT), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (4:10pm and 4:35pm AEDT). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (11:40am AEDT), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (4:00pm AEDT).

 

2017 Japanese Grand Prix – Preview

This weekend, the 16th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place from the Suzuka International Racing Course, also known as the Suzuka Circuit, in Japan, which is about 70 kilometres south-west of the Japanese city of Nagoya.

And with Lewis Hamilton taking some more points off Sebastian Vettel, this world championship battle is set to heat up at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton (281 points) leads the world drivers’ championship for Mercedes by 34 points over Vettel (247 points) after finishing second behind Red Bull driver Max Verstappen last weekend at the Malaysia Grand Prix in what was considered to be a disappointing result for Mercedes after struggling to find their normal pace during practice, and while Hamilton did secure his 70th pole position in his Formula One career, he did not have the speed to hold of Verstappen in the race.

However, he did gain six more points over Vettel in the championship after his Ferrari had major technical issues on Saturday relating to the power-unit in his car, meaning that he couldn’t set a time in qualifying, which meant he started from last on the grid, although the major benefit from that disappointment was that he was able to take on extra power-unit components without effectively serving a penalty.

However, despite a storming drive in his Ferrari from 20th on the grid to finish fourth, more pain was to follow for Vettel on the cool-down lap, colliding with Williams driver Lance Stroll, damaging his Ferrari significantly, meaning that he might have to take a grid penalty for a gearbox change should his team find damage to his gearbox, which could mean further pain in his quest to win a fifth world championship.

Third in the championship is Valtteri Bottas (222 points), 59 points behind teammate Hamilton in the standings after finishing a disappointing fifth in Malaysia, and has really been out of sorts since the summer break, generally struggling for speed in comparison to his teammate, and not producing the performances that he expects from himself. Bottas will need to lift his performances in support of Hamilton if he wants Hamilton to win his fourth world championship.

Daniel Ricciardo (177 points) is fourth in the world championship, 104 points behind Hamilton, and the last driver (other than Hamilton, Vettel, and Bottas) in mathematical contention for the drivers’ championship, although Ricciardo has accepted for sometime that he wasn’t going to have the machinery to contend for the championship, after finishing third in Malaysia.

Kimi Räikkönen (138 points) is fifth in the championship for Ferrari after power-unit/battery issues caused him to be wheeled from the grid, and he was unable to start in the Malaysia Grand Prix, which was a huge shame considering that he was starting from the front row of the grid, and certainly he had the pace to win in his Ferrari. Räikkönen could have also helped his teammate remain closer to Hamilton in the championship if he was able to participate, and finish ahead of Hamilton (either first or second), which would have meant Hamilton would have only gained five points over Vettel instead of the six points that he did gain over Vettel.

Sixth in the championship is Verstappen (93 points), who finally had some luck go his way, winning the Malaysia Grand Prix after overtaking Hamilton on Lap Four at Turn One, and then leading 51 of the remaining 53 laps to take a comfortable 12.770 second victory over Hamilton, which was only the second race win of Verstappen’s young career, which happened the day after his 20th Birthday!

In terms of the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (503 points) lead by 118 points over Ferrari (385 points) in the two-way battle for the constructors’ championship with Red Bull (270 points) in third, followed by Force India (133 points) in fourth, then Williams (65 points) in fifth, who have broken away slightly from Toro Rosso (52 points) in the battle for fifth in the championship, followed by Renault (42 points), Haas (37 points), and then McLaren (23 points), and Sauber (five points), who seem destined to finish 10th in the constructors’ championship.

Looking at trying to predict a result for the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix, I think that although it has been a couple of difficult weekends for Mercedes in terms of their speed, I would expect them to be back on top form at Suzuka, and although I think Ferrari and Red Bull will still be good in Japan, I believe Lewis Hamilton on a circuit tailor-made for him and his Mercedes, due to the long, fast corners, and the premium placed on having a strong power-unit, will dominate all of his rivals to claim victory ahead of a five-way battle for second and third between Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo, and Max Verstappen.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (12pm and 4pm AEDT).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 12pm and 3pm local time (2pm and 5pm AEDT).

The 53 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (4pm AEDT).