Formula One

Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Preview

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Momentum?  For a while, it looked like Ferrari had it made in the shade. After the summer recess, it looked like Mercedes did, and we don’t see it being likely that anyone except Mercedes will take the Constructor’s crown. And while it is evident that both the Red Bull boys and Sebastian Vettel can give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money, it is likely that Hamilton will capture his fourth driving championship.

Needs A Good Run: For the handful of drivers without a decent ride in 2018, a good run is a matter of survival as professional F1 drivers.

Sentimental Favorite? The F1 fans of Japan are some of the most dedicated and passionate in the entire series. But the 2017 Grand Prix will be the last for now for a Japanese manufacturer as Honda will not be supplying engines in 2018. So the sentimental fave will be McLaren, even though their chances of winning are slim to nil.


“It’s an old-school circuit, highly unique especially the first sector which is fast and flowing with quick changes of direction. The middle sector is cool with the two Degners, which are quick and crucial to get right. 130R is mega and the chicane features a good overtaking spot. It’s three challenging, but enjoyable, sectors and I went fairly well there last year, so looking forward to it. The fans embrace Formula 1 like no other country and Suzuka is always packed out when F1 is in town. The fans are so passionate which makes it a special weekend. There’s crazy merchandise and crazy hats there and everyone really shows their support. That’s what we love to see! The history of Formula 1 and Japan is well-known. As for other aspects, I’m quite partial to sushi and teriyaki so I’ll be eating well when I’m there.” Jolyon Palmer, Renault driver

“In sport, it’s in the tough times that you really see the strength of a team. Our championships in the past three years have come because we have never taken success for granted and, even in the good times, we were able to put our finger in the wound and work on our weaknesses. After Malaysia, we have found ourselves doing the same: analysing our problems, beginning to understand their causes and working on solutions.  However, this is not the work of a moment. While we work to improve in those areas, we must not forget the many strengths we have shown this season. Our car has taken more pole positions and race wins than any other and we lead both championships – thanks both to the strength of our own performances and, in part, the misfortune of our rivals. But every point counts, no matter how they come to us. Lewis has made the most of every opportunity in recent weeks; he has been in fantastic form, particularly since the summer break, and is driving with a perfect balance of aggression right now. It has been a more challenging picture for Valtteri and it is a priority for us to give him the car he needs to perform – and to help him extract everything from it. It is not an easy time right now but this is the time for his strength of character, work ethic and natural talent to shine through. The next challenge comes in the form of Suzuka, a circuit which will ask very different questions of our car than Sepang. In the last years, we have performed very strongly there. But recent weeks have reminded us that historic form counts for little with these 2017 cars and tyres. It is a circuit which rewards Grand Prix cars and drivers performing at their very best – and we expect a very close fight between ourselves, Ferrari and Red Bull.  As a team, our targets for the final quarter of the season are very clear. It is entirely in our hands to make sure we achieve them.” Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“[From Malaysia] we move on to Suzuka with a quick stop in Tokyo. Tokyo is so unique and I love all the local food, I actually have a table booked at a sushi restaurant that I have wanted to visit since last year. I have always loved Suzuka circuit, it’s tough for a driver and a proper racer’s track. The whole first sector is great fun and there is so much time to be gained there with the right set-up. Saying that, I think the last chicane is the most difficult corner on the track because you have to brake from such high speeds and really attack the car on the kerbs. I can’t talk about Japan without mentioning the fans, we always get awesome gifts and you can see them in the grandstands dressed up in fully branded race suits and helmets which is pretty special to see.” Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing driver

“Suzuka is definitely one of the best tracks in the world and one where I really love racing. I think the car we have this year will be amazing there with the high downforce and the high-speed corners, so I am really looking forward to going there. Another great thing about being in Japan is the fans, who are some of the best we come across during the year.” Felipe Massa, Williams driver

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.

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