Friday’s two practice sessions took place in steady drizzle conditions, although Saturday’s qualifying is expected to be dry on the classic figure-eight track in central Japan.
“I think the reality is that Max is going to be the champion, if not this weekend it will be very very soon,” said Leclerc, who beat Verstappen by 104 points by five races – including Suzuka. Red Bull’s teammate, Sergio Perez, is 106 men behind.
If Verstappen wins on Sunday and also gets bonus points for fastest lap, that would give him 26 points (25 for win, 1 for fastest lap) and he’s the champion.
He can also win season title with lower resultsdepending on how the other person ends up.
If not, it will certainly be resolved in two weeks at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
“It would be nice if it happened here, but if it doesn’t happen here – I’ll be even more in favor of the next race,” said Verstappen, seemingly unmoved by the speculation.
“Honestly, I don’t really think about it too much.”
Verstappen dominated the whole season with 11 wins in 17 races. The Singapore GP a week ago was the exception, when Verstappen finished seventh. He called it a “very messy weekend” on the street.
“We all know it was a bad weekend, but we also showed that this year we had a lot of very good weekends. So we know how to do it.”
Winning at Suzuka will be very special. The track is operated by the car manufacturer Honda’s motobike. Red Bull and its sister team AlphaTaura run on engines designed by Honda, and the race if officially called the “Honda Japanese Grand Prix”.
Honda officially retired F1 after last season, but still support the two teams. In addition, Honda’s name will appear on the Red Bull livery later this week. It could indicate a return to F1 though nothing official.
“It’s great to see the full name back on the car,” Verstappen said. “And about the future. It’s too early to talk about that right now, but I think in general – the name Honda for F1 is great and it would be nice to see them come back.”
Around 190,000 fans are expected over the weekend, with 90,000 on Sunday. Although Japanese fans are among the sport’s most enthusiastic, the capacity limit makes the crowds smaller than many races that draw more than 300,000 people over a single weekend.
“It (Suzuka) is really an icon,” Mercedes driver George Russell said. “And sure, you know, a top five circuit for all of us.”
Added two-time champion Fernando Alonso: “I think everyone loves Suzuka. The combination again of high-speed corners, a little bit of cornering makes it feel really special. The fans here are crazy. heat. So the whole weekend is a wonderful thing.”
Schumacher crash in reality
Mick Schumacher ran out at the end of the first practice session on Friday and damaged the front end of his Haas car. Shunt was bad enough for the medical vehicle to be deployed, even though Schumacher walked away.
Schumacher, son of seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumachermay be on his way out of Haas.
Schumacher is in his second season with Haas, where he was promoted from the Ferrari Driving Academy. He has been with Ferrari since 2019 after winning the European F3 championship.
Schumacher’s contract with the academy is set to expire at the end of the year and Haas, which has an engine partnership with Ferrari, will have no obligation to keep the 23-year-old German if Schumacher is no longer in the program.
Schumacher has repeatedly refused to answer questions about his future.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was the fastest in the first training session, with 1 minute 42.248 seconds.
The leaders’ time in the second session, also held in a steady drizzle, was faster with Mercedes’ George Russell and teammates Lewis Hamilton go 1-2. Russell is timed in 1:41,935. Hamilton turned 1:42,170 and Verstappen was third with 1:42,786.
Hamilton with cost limit
Formula One’s governing body FIA is the rule on Monday if any team has breached the cost cap rule. It took a day after Verstappen was able to win the title.
“I think it’s not good for the sport to not take action if there’s a violation,” seven-time champion Hamilton told the media. “But I don’t know if there is, so I’ll wait as you wish.”
Verstappen declined when asked about it on Thursday. Red Bull is one of the teams involved in underresourced reports.
“I’m not really busy with these things,” Verstappen said. “I mean, it depends on the teams and the FIA, and I just need to focus on driving. So there’s not much to say about that. I guess we’ll find out on Monday. “