Formula One is back on our screens this weekend and we have back to back racing for the next 2 weekends, starting in Japan and following up with Korea.

F1: Japanese Grand Prix Preview

F1: Japanese Grand Prix Preview

I seem to say this for every preview but Suzuka is another driver favourite, it has produced some classic Grand Prix in the past and the crowd are apparently unbelievable. I read a tweet that the Grandstands were full on Thursday and there wouldn’t even be one Formula One car out on track; I’m not sure what exactly they were looking at but that is some dedication!

Suzuka has all the possible corner types covered, two long straights, large amounts of full throttle and is hard on the cars, so don’t be surprised if there is a retirement or two high in the order to shake things up a bit. Add in the driver developments since the last race and everyone is thoroughly excited by this race weekend.

We saw three pit stops for the winners last year and although the medium compound used in 2011 has been replaced with the hard compound this race; we should still expect lots of stops which mean lots of tactical battles going on through the field. The DRS zone has also been shortened to make overtaking a bit more of a challenge and many felt it was too easy last season.

Driver developments

Since the last race in Singapore there has been some action in the driver line ups for 2013. The rumours broken by Eddie Jordan a few weeks ago have come to fruition and Lewis Hamilton has confirmed that he will be leaving McLaren once the season has finished to join Mercedes. Many people may consider this crazy to leave the team which currently have the quickest car and such a great pedigree in Formula One for an under performing team and that it is just about money. It isn’t as simple as that however and if reports are to be believed, McLaren offered Lewis a deal which would equal Mercedes in terms of earnings. If money wasn’t the reason, what are the benefits of a move to Mercedes for Lewis?

One reason is that Lewis has been with McLaren a very long time, since he was 13 and basically feels it is time to “move out from home” and explore new challenges. If Lewis is able to make Mercedes title contenders in the next few seasons it will certainly reflect well on him.

There are considerable rule/engine changes coming into effect for the 2014 season and many experts believe that when this happens, teams which manufacture their own engines will have an advantage. This includes Mercedes and excludes McLaren as they will be buying their engines from Mercedes starting next season. While this point can’t pay immediate dividends for next season, it is looking forward.

Mercedes are a huge global brand and Lewis may have aspirations to become a global brand himself such as David Beckham. With McLaren, Lewis was limited in external promotional work because pretty much every opportunity would conflict with one of McLaren’s existing sponsors which is a no go. With Mercedes, Lewis should be free to promote much more and get his own brand out there on a larger scale.

The top teams in Formula One have one thing in common; funding. Mercedes is such a huge company, and if they want to commit to Formula One, and signing Lewis is a big indicator of that, they can compete with McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull once they have the team/infrastructure in place. This has already started to happen and they now have a great technical team to take the car forward. Generally over the last few seasons, including when they were Brawn GP and Jenson Button won the championship, Mercedes have started the season with a competitive car but fallen behind in the development race. If they start to keep pace with development, having what many consider as the fastest driver in the paddock could propel Mercedes into the championship running.

And finally maybe a little dig at McLaren, they may have the fastest car on the grid and won more single races than anyone else in the last few decades BUT they haven’t won the constructors championship in 12 years and only have one drivers championship to their name, Hamilton in 2008.

So is this a good or a bad move for Lewis? I don’t think anyone knows and only time will tell. I think he will win a championship or more with Mercedes but it won’t be anything which he couldn’t have done with McLaren. It will be interesting to see how he copes next season when Mercedes probably won’t be competing for the podium every race, will Lewis get frustrated being asked every race weekend whether he made a mistake joining Mercedes?

One other good question is how will this move affect his already slim chances of claiming the title this season? From various media reports and interviews I gather that Jenson had pretty much decided that if he could help Hamilton during a race to aid his title challenge, he would. Will that have changed now he will no longer be his teammate next season? I expect that Jenson will now be out for himself and won’t be offering any help to Lewis.

With a vacant race seat at McLaren, Sergio Perez has been given the chance to maximise his potential. Despite McLaren saying in Singapore that they have no “plan b” if Hamilton leaves, Perez has confirmed that he was approached a few months ago by the Woking based team. This is a great chance for Sergio, a Ferrari product, to show what he can do in a very competitive car. Will consistency be a problem and will the added pressure of being at a top team impact Perez? Driving for Sauber and getting on the podium is exceptional mainly because people aren’t expecting it, next season Sergio will be expected to challenge for podiums and he will need to watch and learn from his fantastic team mate Jenson Button. I am sceptical on Perez’s chances of making his time at McLaren a success but he is highly regarded in the paddock and that has to count for something.

As Lewis has moved to Mercedes, you may be wondering what has happened to Michael Schumacher, the great man has retired from Formula One for a second time and I don’t think there are many people around who are surprised by this decision and most think it is for the best. Michael hasn’t made the impact he had hoped to and we wish him well for this future endeavours.
Anyway, on to Predictionsfor this weekend!

  • 1st Lewis Hamilton
  • 2nd Sebastian Vettel
  • 3rd Kimi Raikkonen
  • 4th Fernando Alonso
  • 5th Jenson Button
  • Fastest lap Jenson Button

I am not sure whether I actually think Lewis will win this weekend of whether I just really want him to win and make the title run in all the more interesting. One thing is for sure; McLaren will have a quick package around Suzuka and Jenson Button is only down in 5th place because he required a gear box change and will suffer a five place grid penalty. Vettel always goes well around here and I am sure he will feature on the podium. Providing he has the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso behind him come the chequered flag I don’t think he will mind too much where he finishes.

The chance of Lotus getting that first race win seem to be diminishing but I hope they regain some of their form and be real challengers this weekend. The more drivers able to take points away from Fernando Alonso the more exiting the finish to the season will be.

This should be a fantastic race weekend with not only the racing but further driver developments possible and after all that they will be doing again the following weekend in Korea.

Check back next week for my review of Japan and preview of Korea.

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