Verstappen’s title charge and Suzuka’s return – 5 storylines we’re excited about ahead of the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix

Fresh from a dramatic race in Singapore, another exciting venue returns as Formula 1 travels to Japan for the first time since 2019. Here are some of the topics we expect to make the rounds when the paddock reconvenes at Suzuka…

1. Title permutations for Verstappen

Don’t refresh your page, this isn’t the same feature as a week ago, but this section is much more relevant now as Max Verstappen gets his second chance to complete the Drivers’ Championship.

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You could argue it’s his first chance as there were things beyond his control that had to happen for him to win in Singapore, but this weekend the equation is a bit simpler for the Dutchman.

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Verstappen currently has a 104-point lead over Charles Leclerc and 106 points over Sergio Perez, and there are 138 points left in the standings with five races left (with 25 points for a win, five fastest lap points available and a sprint offer). up to eight points).

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That means Verstappen needs to leave Japan by at least 112 points to clinch the title.


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Verstappen has another opportunity to wrap up the title this weekend

Winning with the fastest lap would guarantee him the championship as he would score at least eight points more than Leclerc regardless of where the Ferrari driver finishes. Otherwise Leclerc by at least eight points and Perez by at least six and the title is Verstappens.

However, Singapore has not been a smooth weekend for the championship leader and if he achieves a repeat result – and fails to finish in the top six – the title celebrations will not be put on hold until Austin at the earliest.

POINTS PERMUTATIONS: What Verstappen needs to do to win his second driver’s crown in Japan

2. The budget ceiling

There was a fairly robust exchange of views in the Singapore paddock as certain teams were said to have exceeded budget caps in 2021, prompting strong defenses from some quarters.

The issue has come to the fore because this week the FIA ​​was due to issue certificates of compliance with 2021 financial regulations, which will show which teams have managed to comply with the new expense rules and who may not have .


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The fans in Japan are always enthusiastic and knowledgeable

But the FIA ​​said on Wednesday the trial had been postponed until next week. Without getting into the specifics of a paddock rumor last weekend, there are two main scenarios that are likely to play out once the certifications are issued: either teams will face some sort of sanctions if they exceed the limits in the first year of the regulations , or apologies might be required as a result of the finger pointing that took place prior to publication by the FIA.

Now that we won’t know the outcome until Monday, you can almost guarantee there will be plenty more chatter on the subject throughout the weekend in Japan.

3. Midfield fights

While Singapore delivered a result that kept the championship fight alive for at least a week, if you look at the fights for positions other than first place, it also created plenty of drama.

Alpine has been extremely impressive this season, consistently scoring points with both cars, but a run of seven double-scoring eight races has been followed by consecutive scoreless events with both cars finishing at Marina Bay. That opened the door for McLaren, who, with Lando Norris in fourth and Daniel Ricciardo in fifth, took full advantage to overtake their rivals in the Constructors’ Championship.


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Alpine and McLaren have been locked in a close battle all season

Perhaps even more unexpected was Aston Martin’s significant advance in the rankings, as Lance Stroll finished sixth ahead of Sebastian Vettel in eighth. Those 12 points scored took the team from ninth to seventh in the constructors’ standings – ahead of Haas and AlphaTauri – and continued the trend of getting strong in races and earning points regularly.

Depending on where a team finishes in the championship, there’s a lot of prize money at stake, so with just five rounds left, the battle is heating up.

TECH TUESDAY: Has McLaren signaled a new design direction for F1 cars with its Singapore GP update?

4. Driver market movement

The riders market continues to grab the headlines, but Singapore saw little in the way of the ultimate move.

Perhaps that was because Nyck de Vries was somewhat out of the spotlight following Alex Albon’s return to the Williams seat over the weekend, and another Williams driver – Logan Sargeant – was notable for his presence in a development role.


BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 19: Nyck de Vries of the Netherlands, Mercedes test and reserve driver, looks on prior to the final practice session ahead of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on March 19, 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain , from the paddock to.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Where does the future of de Vries lie?

The smart money still seems to be on de Vries, who joins AlphaTauri to replace Pierre Gasly, with the Frenchman in turn joining Alpine, but for now it’s a waiting game.

The same goes for any news about Ricciardo’s future or the second Haas seat. So it remains to be seen if any deals will be finalized and announced in Japan as we move into the final two months of the season.

DRIVER MARKET: Who will get the nod for partner Magnussen at Haas next season?

5. Stunning Suzuka

Just like Singapore last weekend, Suzuka has not featured on the Formula 1 calendar for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the last visit coming in 2019.

And it has been sorely missed, as the iconic track is a firm favorite for fans and drivers alike. The atmosphere created by the Japanese fans is always special, as even on a Thursday the grandstand is regularly packed just to watch the teams at work in their garages. But for the drivers, it’s one of the biggest driving experiences on the calendar.


F1 Japanese Grand Prix - Qualifying

The fans at Suzuka are always a sight to behold

The rapid changes of direction through the wide esses at the start of the lap represent a real test for a Formula 1 car, with the relatively narrow circuit requiring precision and dedication.

Ditto for the two right-handed Degner corners, while Spoon and 130R are also signature corners at a track packed with them.

To see the new generation of F1 cars pushed to their limits around Suzuka will be something quite spectacular.

WATCH: Relive the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix as the brilliant Bottas wins against Vettel and Hamilton

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