Formula 1 heads to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix as the series nears the end of the 2019 season.
Champion in waiting
Lewis Hamilton heads to Japan with a seventy three point advantage over his nearest rival, Valtteri Bottas. This after extending his lead further thanks to winning the previous round in Russia.
Whatever happens, Hamilton can’t clinch the 2019 drivers’ title in Japan but having finished ahead of Bottas in the last three races and the sizeable points gap means that it is only a matter of time before Hamilton clinches his sixth drivers’ title.
Bottas has effectively been shadowing Hamilton in the races since the sport returned from its summer break managing to only finish ahead of him at the Italian Grand Prix.
The fight for third is more interesting with three drivers in contention. Charles Leclerc currently occupies third, three points ahead of Max Verstappen with Leclerc having finished on the podium in the last four races which include his wins in Belgium and Italy.Embed from Getty Images
The final contender for third is Sebastian Vettel whose chances of claiming the spot was dented after being forced to retire from the Russian Grand Prix. It means he enters the race weekend twenty one points behind his teammate, Leclerc.
The battle over sixth in the championship is also worth tracking in the remaining races of the season with Pierre Gasly still occupying sixth, but he finds himself only three points ahead of seventh placed Carlos Sainz who finished an impressive sixth in Russia, after having finished outside of the points in the three races prior.Embed from Getty Images
Seventeen points behind Gasly is Alexander Albon who has closed considerably thanks to being in the senior Red Bull team. Albon has finished inside the top six in all four races since joining Red Bull, a repeat result in Japan, especially if he finishes ahead of Sainz again will be another step towards sixth for the Thai driver.
There is a seventeen point gap between Albon in eighth and Lando Norris in ninth going into the weekend. But Norris is the start of a group of six drivers covered by just four points.
After a disappointing Belgian Grand Prix, Norris heads to Japan having finished inside the top ten in the last three races. It has also meant that he heads into the race weekend one point ahead of the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg.Embed from Getty Images
Hulkenberg is perhaps the more in form Renault having finished inside the points in the last four races while his teammate has only finished in the points once over the same period.
One point behind the Renault drivers and two behind Norris are Daniil Kvyat and Sergio Perez. Kvyat has finished inside the top ten once in the last four races while Perez has had a resurgence since returning from the summer break as he has finished inside the points in three of the last four races.Embed from Getty Images
The last member of this group of six drivers is Kimi Raikkonen who is two points behind Kvyat and Perez and four points behind Norris despite having not finished inside the top ten since the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Haas go to Japan off the back of scoring their first points since the German Grand Prix back in July, thanks to Kevin Magnussen finishing in ninth at the Russian Grand Prix.
However the team still in fourth in the standings is McLaren who go into the weekend with a thirty three point advantage over fifth placed Renault after the Woking based team got both cars in the points in Russia, the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in early August.Embed from Getty Images
Renault have scored consistently from Belgium onwards, mostly thanks to Nico Hulkenberg’s current four race point scoring run, which has helped the French team consolidate fifth place in the standings a little as thirteen points behind them are Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Toro Rosso may not be in sixth for long, unless they have a big points haul during the race weekend, as they are only three points ahead of Racing Point who thanks to Sergio Perez have scored twenty points compared to Toro Rosso’s twelve since the return from the summer break.Embed from Getty Images
Seventeen points behind Racing Point are Alfa Romeo who have only managed to score three points in the four races prior to this weekend, all thanks to Antonio Giovinazzi. They are now only seven points ahead of Haas after, as mentioned previously, Mangussen finished inside the top ten in Russia.
Williams are last and have endured two difficult races in the lead up to this weekend, suffering their first retirement of the season at Singapore before both cars retired in the race prior to this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.