During the weekend from 7 to 9 October, Formula 1 returns to Suzuka for the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix, eighteenth round of the season one week after the Singapore Grand Prix. For the eighth time during the season, the first between the Bahrain Grand Prix, the inaugural race of the season, and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the second between the Spanish Grand Prix and the Monaco Grand Prix, the third between the Azerbaijani Grand Prix and the Canadian Grand Prix, the fourth between the British Grand Prix and the Austrian Grand Prix, the fifth between the French Grand Prix and the Hungarian Grand Prix, the sixth between the The Belgian Grand Prix and the Dutch Grand Prix, and the seventh between the Dutch race and the Italian Grand Prix, the world championship sees the dispute of a Grand Prix one week after the other. The Japanese Grand Prix is once again part of the Formula 1 World Championship calendar for the first time since 2019, again in October as in the last edition of 2019. Over the last two seasons, the Grand Prix has been canceled due to the problems dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020 the race saw its cancellation as the Federation was forced to cancel several stages due to the health emergency, without being replaced, not being included in the season calendar for the first time since the 1986 season. During 2021, the Grand Prix was canceled for the second consecutive season, again due to the pandemic, making it one of the few Grand Prix to be canceled for two consecutive seasons, again without being replaced by another Grand Prix, unlike of numerous others. After the dispute of the previous Singapore Grand Prix, the world championship remains in Asia for the second consecutive Grand Prix, an occurrence that occurs for the second and last time this season after what happened between the Bahrain Grand Prix, the inaugural race of the championship, and that of Saudi Arabia, the second race of the world championship held the following week. The category returns to compete on a permanent track. It is the penultimate of five overall events on the calendar to be held on the Asian continent before the last scheduled test, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the World Championship, scheduled for the following 20 November, without considering the Azerbaijan Grand Prix held in June between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
It is the second race to be held in October, the seventh of the second part of the season, and the fifth race after the obligatory three-week summer break, as well as being the fourth and last Grand Prix of the season, the second in a row, to return to the world calendar, after what happened with the Australian Grand Prix raced at the beginning of April, with the Canadian Grand Prix raced in June and with the previous Singapore Grand Prix held seven days earlier. The contract for the Japanese Grand Prix in the Formula 1 world championship calendar, again at the Suzuka circuit, is valid until the end of the 2024 season. Sponsor of the Grand Prix is, as happened in the 2018 edition, Honda, a local multinational company that produces cars and motorcycles, also known for the research carried out in the field of robotics. The brand had been designated as the title sponsor of the race also for the 2021 edition before the latter was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Present in the Formula 1 World Championship calendar since the 1976 season and valid as proof of the category since the same year, the Japanese Grand Prix sees the dispute of its forty-ninth edition, the thirty-sixth valid for the world championship. Until the 1994 season, when the Pacific Grand Prix was introduced in the world championship calendar, the Japanese race was the only one to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix on the Asian continent. The Suzuka circuit, which celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of its construction, the venue of the race since the 1987 edition, is the track to have hosted the largest number of editions of the race, on two main configurations. The first used from the 1987 inaugural edition up to the 2002 edition, while the second in use since the 2003 edition contest, with modifications to turn 15, known as 130R, and to the chicane of turns 16 and 17. It is, of all the circuits used in the Formula 1 World Championship calendar, the only one characterized by a layout with an eight configuration, including an underpass and consequent flyover. The only different venue for the race was the Fuji circuit near Yokohama, protagonist of four editions of the Grand Prix, from 1976 to 1977 and from 2007 to 2008. The latter two editions were raced on a different track configuration, after a thorough renovation of the plant.
In the 2009 season, the two circuits owned by two rival Japanese car manufacturers, Toyota and Honda, announced that they would organize the race in alternate years. Also in the same year, Toyota gave up hosting Formula 1 at the Fuji circuit, opening the doors to the Suzuka circuit as the venue for the race since that season. The Japanese Grand Prix was not held between 1978 and 1986, before returning to the redesigned Suzuka track the following year, and in the last two seasons due to the problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The race was included in the calendar for 1978, but moved to April 16, before being definitively canceled. The Grand Prix, scheduled for April 7 of the 1985 season, was canceled as the rebuilding of some sections of the Suzuka track took too long. In the 1987 edition, the first race on the Suzuka circuit, the free practice session was held, exceptionally, on Thursday. In the 2004 and 2009 editions, due to a typhoon, all sessions on Saturday were canceled. Qualifying took place on Sunday morning. In the 2010 and 2019 editions, the last one held, due to heavy rain, qualifying was postponed to Sunday morning. Given the position of the Japanese Grand Prix in the final part of the World Championship, it has been the subject of various assignments in the past both for the drivers 'title, twelve times, and for the constructors' title. The British James Hunt won the drivers 'title, on the Fuji circuit, in the 1976 edition, followed by the Brazilian Nelson Piquet, who triumphed in the 1987 one, by his compatriot Ayrton Senna, winner of the drivers' world championship in the 1988, 1990 and 1991 editions, from the French Alain Prost, in the 1989 edition, from the British Damon Hill, triumphant in the 1996 race, from the Finnish Mika Häkkinen, winner of the drivers' title in the 1998 and 1999 editions, from the German Michael Schumacher, who won the world championship in the editions in 2000 and 2003, and by compatriot Sebastian Vettel, world champion in the 2011 edition. All the victories were the prerogative of when the Japanese Grand Prix was the last or penultimate race of the season, with the exception of the Vettel's triumph, which came when the Japanese race was the fifteenth round of nineteen of the season.
Chinese Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu, local AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, German Haas driver Mick Schumacher, and Canadian Williams driver Nicholas Latifi compete on the Suzuka circuit for the first time in their Formula 1 career. Zhou, Schumacher and Latifi race on the Japanese circuit for the first time. Tsunoda graduated from the Suzuka circuit racing school and in 2016 made his debut on the Japanese circuit, in the local Formula 4, finishing second. Between 2017 and 2018 he took part in four other races in the same category, achieving three wins and a third place. For the British Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, this is the three hundred and sixth Grand Prix in the category, the same number of races as the German Michael Schumacher and fellow countryman Jenson Button, fourth overall in the history of the world championship. Latifi is also penalized by five positions on the starting grid and two points on the super license for causing a collision with Zhou at Turn 5 during the race at the previous Singapore Grand Prix. On the eve of the Dutch Grand Prix, Pirelli, sole tire supplier, announces that in this race and in the following one in the United States of America scheduled for October 23, 2022, the second free practice session on Friday will be extended by 30 minutes versus the one-hour default schedule, to allow teams to test prototype tires from the sole tire supplier for the following season. The goal is to have data, feedback and opinions from manufacturers to understand which tires will then be presented and used in 2023. Given the dispute of the second free practice session on Friday with adverse weather conditions, the Pirelli test was canceled, being rescheduled in the same session of the Mexico City Grand Prix scheduled for the following 30 October. The session, however, is held for 90 minutes. During the previous Singapore Grand Prix, the Federation, on Friday, issued a note stating that it has completed the evaluation of the financial data of the previous championship presented by all the Formula 1 teams. The alleged violations of the financial regulations, if any, are treated according to the formal process established by the regulation. According to the latest rumors, the Austrian Red Bull Racing team and the British Aston Martin team did not respect the budget cap set at 145 million dollars in 2021.
The infringement by the Milton Keynes team is not serious and therefore would be less than 5% of the budget cap available last season. The possible penalties, therefore, do not go beyond a fine or a curtailment of the funds available for the next season. In the evening, the FIA releases a press release in which it takes note of the unsubstantiated speculations and conjectures that emerged in relation to the issue and reiterates that the evaluation is underway and that due process is being followed without taking into account any external discussion. Before the dispute of this appointment, a detailed report is expected from the world motoring body on any sanctions to be adopted. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff plans to skip the Japanese trip, but may change his mind based on the Federation's verdict on Red Bull Racing's 2021 budget. On Wednesday October 5, 2022, the day previously scheduled as the one in which a detailed report on the expenses of the teams was to be published, the FIA communicates the postponement to the day following the dispute of the Japanese Grand prix the release of the certificates on the 2021 budget of the teams on any sanctions related to the budget cap. The FIA reiterates that for the second time that there is nothing true as it has been leaked so far through the media, with every insinuation regarding the dissemination of confidential information by FIA staff which is equally unfounded. For the FIA it is the third postponement regarding communications on the budget cap. The teams were initially notified for September 30, and then the communication was moved to October 3, after October 5 and again to October 10, 2022. On the Japanese Grand Prix the British McLaren team will competes in a special livery with neon pink details designed with sponsor OKX. This combination of colors will also present on the suits of the two drivers, the British Lando Norris and the Australian Daniel Ricciardo. The livery was also used in the previous Singapore Grand Prix run the week before. Wednesday, October 5, 2022 the Austrian Red Bull Racing team and the Italian AlphaTauri team announce the strengthening of their partnership with the local Honda company. Starting from this Grand Prix, for the first time since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021, the last race of the previous World Championship, the brand is once again present on the cars of the two manufacturers. Regarding this collaboration, the Motorsport Advisor of the Oracle Red Bull Racing team, Helmut Marko declares:
"Oracle Red Bull Racing and Honda Racing Corporation have achieved great success in Formula One together. With these new agreements, we are proud to continue going from strength to strength with the technical support from HRC until the next generation of engines are introduced in 2026. We are confident this relationship with HRC will set us up for more success in the future and thank them for their ongoing support".
Christian Horner, Team Principal and CEO, of Team Oracle Red Bull Racing says a few words about this renewed collaboration:
"Honda has invested significantly in hybrid technology over the course of our partnership. This has ensured the supply of competitive power units to both teams, for which we are very grateful. Our combined goal is to continue to deliver dominant engines and achieve the most success possible in the following three years. To mark this, we look forward to welcoming the Honda logo back on to the car from Suzuka onwards".
Koji Watanabe, Head of Corporate Communications Supervisory Unit, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and President of Honda Racing Corporation, is satisfied with the renewed collaboration between Honda and Red Bull Group and declares:
"The HRC logo on the nose and Honda logo on the side of the race machines of both teams represent the strong ties between Honda and Red Bull Group. Through the technical support provided by HRC, Honda will fully support the challenges those machines take on to become the ‘fastest in the world.’ We are very pleased that these machines will be unveiled at the F1 Japanese Grand Prix, where Honda serves as the title sponsor. Please root for the two Red Bull Group teams which compete with power units loaded with Honda technologies".
Franz Tost, AlphaTauri’s Team Principal, is satisfied with the extraordinary relationship developed over the years with Honda and declares:
"Over the years we have developed an amazing working relationship with Honda and it’s great to be continuing to strengthen this with a variety of activities, including displaying the iconic logo on the car once again, starting from the Japanese Grand Prix. We are very thankful for the hard work from Honda during our time together, allowing us to achieve several podiums as well as Pierre’s race win in Monza, and we hope that this success will continue into the future".
In addition, all four drivers of the two teams, the reigning world champion driver, the Dutch Max Verstappen, the Mexican Sergio Pérez, the French Pierre Gasly and the local Yuki Tsunoda, will attend the traditional HRC Thanks Day, scheduled for the following 27 November. Pérez also takes on the role of ambassador for the Honda Racing School (HRS) driving academy. Honda appeared, in Japanese characters, on the special livery of the Milton Keynes team used during the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, held on the date the Japanese race was originally scheduled to take place, before the latter was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Austrian team also enters into a partnership with Bingo for the Japanese race, a local company specializing in the organization of international auctions of luxury or first-class cars. For this Grand Prix, like the previous one, the FIA appoints the Portuguese Eduardo Freitas as race director. Former Formula 1 driver Mika Salo is appointed assistant commissioner. The Finn has held this function in the past on several occasions, the last at the Italian Grand Prix. It is the German car manufacturer Mercedes, as in the previous race, to supply the safety car and the medical car. For this Grand Prix, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, offers the choice between C1, C2 and C3 compound tires, the harder compounds that characterize the entire range made available by the tire supplier company for the championship, given the characteristics presented by the Japanese circuit. For the second consecutive edition of the Grand Prix, after the last race in the 2019 season, the Italian manufacturer names the same type. For the first time since the Dutch Grand Prix and for the fifth time this season, after what occurred in the Bahrain Grand Prix, the opening race of the world championship, and in the Spanish and British Grand Prix, the compounds selected by Pirelli are the hardest ones. At the same time, the Milanese manufacturer nominates the tires for the subsequent Grand Prix of the United States of America and Mexico City scheduled for later this month. Pirelli Motorsport director Mario Isola gives an overview of the situation:
"Ask the drivers which are their favourite circuits and Suzuka will always be high on the list: it contains demanding corners like nowhere else, such as 130R and Spoon, as well as a truly special atmosphere and history with incredible fans. There’s a roughly equal number of left and right corners in the unique figure of eight layout, which means that the circuit demands are evenly balanced. The sustained energy loads through the tyres are some of the highest we register all year, and the track layout means that we bring the three hardest compounds in our range because of the high levels of tyre duty. With the latest generation of cars being heavier than before and the limits of performance constantly being pushed, that challenge is bigger than ever now. An innovation for this year is the fact that we will be testing some 2023 prototype tyres during an extended free practice session on Friday afternoon, as we finalise the specification for next year with the end of this season approaching".
The Federation establishes the traditional area in which the drivers can activate the Drag Reduction System, that is the one located along the main straight of the pits. The detection point, or the point for determining the gap between the drivers, necessary to allow the use of the device, is anticipated compared to the last edition of the race in the 2019 season, being positioned 40 meters after turn 15. Since the introduction of the mobile device in Formula 1, during the 2011 season, the Suzuka circuit is one of the five tracks to have been used at least once in the calendar of the Formula 1 World Championship, together with that of Monte-Carlo, home of the Grand Monaco Prize, the Mugello Prize hosting the only edition of the Tuscan Grand Prix run in 2020, the Imola Prize hosting the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix and the Lusail Prize venue for the Qatar Grand Prix, to be characterized by only one zone for the use of the mobile device, established, in all five tracks, always on the starting straight. On the eve of the 2018 edition, some drivers pushed for the introduction of a second DRS zone established in the third sector of the track, between Turn 14 and Turn 16, which would have included Turn 15, known as 130R, tackled at high speeds. For security reasons, the Federation reject the idea. Compared to the last edition of 2019, the circuit has been resurfaced at turn 8 for about 180 meters, with the artificial grass replaced with asphalt and the outgoing curbs replaced by a double curb. The gravel on the left side of turn 10 has been extended. The artificial turf at Turn 16 has been replaced with asphalt in line with the Federation's requirements. Part of the pit lane surface has been renewed and painted with anti-slip paint certified by the world motoring body. Due to the additional tires supplied by Pirelli, for Friday the Federation will extends the curfew from a period of three hours up to a maximum of six for the sole task of preparing the tires after the assembly of the supplier. On Thursday, McLaren will uses the third of six curfews granted during the season to carry out operations on their cars.
The British team will does not receive sanctions. Before the start of the first free practice session on Friday, the fourth gearbox and fourth transmission are installed in Lance Stroll's car. The Canadian Aston Martin driver is not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those usable in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. The seventh unit relating to the exhaust system was installed on the car of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda. Both AlphaTauri drivers will not penalize on the starting grid as the new component installed is among those usable in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. Before the race, the designated race director for this Grand Prix, the Portuguese Eduardo Freitas, announces that in the event of a jump start, it is defined when the race leader crosses the finish line, referring to the time-keeping line on the tour, which in this case also crosses the pit lane entrance. British team Aston Martin announces that reserve driver, Brazilian Formula 2 World Champion this season for Dutch MP Motorsport team Felipe Drugovich, will take over from Canadian starting driver Lance Stroll in the first free practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the last round of this season scheduled for the following 20 November. Starting from this championship, according to the sporting regulations, all ten teams enrolled in the championship have the obligation to field, during the free practice sessions, at least two young drivers. The teams have a predetermined number of sessions in which to field young rookies. In conclusion, the World Champion Driver of the Austrian Red Bull Racing team, Max Verstappen, leads the standings reserved for drivers with 104 points ahead of the Monegasque Ferrari driver. Charles Leclerc, and with 106 points ahead of team mate, the Mexican Sergio Pérez. Verstappen, to win the second consecutive drivers' title, the first Dutchman to do so in the history of the category, must score eight points more than Leclerc and six more than Pérez. In Ferrari, the Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc shows himself motivated to return to race at Suzuka and hopes to give an excellent result to the many Japanese Ferrari fans:
"That’s the effect being at this track has on you, driving here is really enjoyable, especially the first sector with the sequence of esses. Actually, in general it’s fantastic, because it is particularly demanding. Putting together a great lap means taking every corner perfectly. The politeness and composure of the Japanese fans contrasts with how passionate they are, wearing very unusual hats and clothes, but they are all very knowledgeable and so it is nice to race in front of them. I hope that Carlos and I can give the guys we have seen already today at the track and in the grandstands with the Prancing Horse flags something to cheer about".
On the same wavelength as his teammate, Carlos Sainz concludes:
"It’s too hard to choose, as they are all really great and very demanding. It’s an ‘old-skool’ track, the type that makes motor racing wonderful. On paper, this new generation of cars look like being really fun to drive at Suzuka. I think we will be competitive, although so too will our main rivals, for whom this is a sort of home race. But I believe our car has great potential and it’s just a matter of improving how we operate on Sundays, to confirm the level we have usually shown on Saturdays. I think the team deserves at least one more win this season, because I really believe that, in terms of potential, this is Ferrari’s best season in the hybrid era. It would be the ideal way to prepare for next season. The passion is similar to what we feel from our Italian and European supporters, but the culture is so different that you can see some unusual sights, such as fans wearing full race suits and helmets inside the paddock, as if they were one of us drivers".
At Williams, Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance says:
"Following a challenging weekend in Singapore, we are looking forward to moving on to Suzuka, which should offer a much better opportunity for the FW44. It has been a few years since we last raced here but the circuit won’t have changed too much and will still present a great technical challenge for both the drivers and the engineers. Overtaking is not easy in Suzuka but it is possible and the racing is always good here. The drivers will need to quickly find a rhythm, especially through the Esses, but once they have that, the laptime can improve very quickly. The tyre compounds are from the very stiffest end of the Pirelli range, which we last used in Zandvoort. These tyres should work quite well in Suzuka, but if it is cold and damp then they will become more difficult. As part of the 2023 tyre development programme, all teams will take part in an extended FP2 session this weekend and will test candidate tyres for Pirelli. This will complicate our preparations for the race weekend a little but is important work for 2023. Everyone is looking forward to once again taking on the challenge of Suzuka and enjoying the amazing atmosphere in Japan".
Alex Albon on the Japanese Grand Prix continues:
"Japan is one of my favourite circuits on the calendar and I really enjoy Suzuka as a place. I think this track will suit our car a lot more than Singapore however, I think with the weather looking a bit up and down, it should make for an interesting weekend. I’m very excited to be heading back to Japan as it’s one of my favourite places for racing as well as to visit, so let’s see what we can do".
Nicholas Latifi is particularly enthusiastic about driving on the Suzuka circuit and concludes:
"Japan is one of the tracks I’m most looking forward to driving on the calendar. Besides Singapore it’s now the last one that I’m still yet to experience as a Formula 1 driver and I haven’t driven it in any other category. It’s always very exciting to learn new tracks and especially coming to a track like Suzuka which is a hardcore old school circuit. It definitely looks like a layout I will enjoy with it being fast and flowing in certain sections with little margin for error. I’m looking forward to getting on track and experiencing the unique and passionate atmosphere that the Japanese fans bring".
In Mercedes, Team Principal, Toto Wolff, takes stock of what the previous Singapore Grand Prix was for his team and focuses on the challenge that awaits them in Suzuka:
"Japan It was a very difficult Sunday for us in Singapore. There were still some positives to take because we saw glimpses of the car's pace and potential. But we couldn't convert that into points in the race itself, although the car showed it was competitive in free air. We've had plenty to debrief and analyse over the past few days and many learnings to take forward. Thankfully we can move quickly onto the next race and a new challenge for us to tackle. Our target is to rebuild the momentum we had before Singapore and capitalise on the positive underlying performance of the car. There are still five opportunities to score good points and end the year strongly. Suzuka will give our package some challenges, and it will be hard to repeat the qualifying performance we saw in Singapore - but I hope that will be balanced out with a stronger Sunday afternoon. F1 hasn't been to Japan since 2019 and the team is really looking forward to being back. It's such a special track; one of the most challenging for both man and machine. And we've missed all the brilliant Japanese fans, too".
The French rider of AlphaTauri, Pierre Gasly, shows his regret for the missed opportunity to take points for the team in Singapore but at the same time shows himself motivated to return to racing in Japan:
"We missed an opportunity to pick up good points, especially in terms of the Constructors’ in Singapore and we have to take a close look at how we ran the weekend. Honestly, we did not look too competitive in the dry on Friday, but Qualifying was fun and set us up for a good opportunity in the race. It looked as though we were going to make the most of it as I was running in a good position ahead of the Aston Martins, but we pitted too early for slicks and there was no coming back from that. We need to do a better job as there is potential for some good results before the end of the year, starting right away in Japan, which I am so pleased to be visiting again after a two year break. Suzuka is an incredible track, especially the first sector with all the quick corners and it’s definitely one of my top three favourite tracks. And going there as a Honda driver, it’s always a special feeling to be able to race in Japan in front of our fans. I was with Honda at the start of their latest period in F1, and even before then as I was racing with them for my season in Super Formula. I get a lot of motivating support from Japan and it was a real shame we were not able to race there for the past couple of years, especially as I love the culture, I love Tokyo and the food too, even if Yuki is the expert on that topic! So I am very happy that we are going to race there again. Last time we were there, back in 2019, I had a good weekend; qualifying ninth and finishing seventh, so let’s see what we can do this time".
Yuki Tsunoda concludes:
"My first visit to Singapore did not go the way I had hoped. We had not looked great on Friday but recovered enough to get to Q3 which I was pleased about. In the race, the conditions were very tricky and I think we switched to the slick tyres a bit too early. But having said that, it was my mistake; I misjudged my braking point and crashed. Now, I’m going to put that behind me and focus on this coming weekend for my very first home race in Formula 1. In one way, Japan is just another race, but in another it is one I have been looking forward to ever since I started in Formula 1. I used to drive at Suzuka quite a lot in Formula 4, so I have some experience of it, but when I recently drove the track in the simulator, in a Formula 1 car, it’s a very different world. Actually, because you have so much more downforce, I think you are on the throttle for more of the lap in a Formula 1 car than in Formula 4. The view of the track changes completely and it’s like a whole new track. My experience there from the past will still be useful and I remember how to drive Suzuka. I am looking forward to racing there in front of my home fans very much. I know there will be a lot of interest from the fans for this race. I can’t imagine what it will be like, so it will be very different to every other race weekend, but I am looking forward to enjoying a new experience. I am happy about the attention; I am the sort of person that does not feel much pressure from other people anyway. When I’m driving, I only pay attention to myself and all that support will give me extra energy on every lap in a positive way, and that will be helpful and nice. Many of my friends and family will be coming to Suzuka and I know that even those for whom I couldn’t get passes, have bought tickets. And a very important final point, I get to eat Japanese food for a whole week".
In McLaren, the English driver Lando Norris is happy to return to race in Japan and focuses on the excellent weekend his team had in Singapore:
"It's good to be back in Japan for the first time in three years! It's the second of our double-header in Asia, the fans were sensational in Marina Bay and I'm sure it'll be the same this weekend in Suzuka. It's a fun track and I'm looking forward to the challenges it brings. Singapore was a great result for the team and everybody's contribution was rewarded as we secured double points in difficult conditions. We're now fully focused on continuing the hard work and building momentum as we enter the final five races of the season".
Daniel Ricciardo, underlining the desire to get back on track at the Suzuka circuit, outlines his teammate's words regarding the performance he had in Singapore:
"I can't wait to get back out on track again this weekend in Suzuka, especially after an enjoyable double top five team result in Singapore. We managed the conditions well and most importantly picked up valuable points in the Constructors' Championship! It's great to see the team's hard work pay off. The Japanese fans are always so passionate and it'll be another exciting race off the back of the atmosphere in Singapore! I'm looking forward to the seeing the upgrades on my car as they worked well for Lando last weekend. The steps we've made forward should allow for more strong drives and positive results to see the season out”.
Andreas Seidl is enthusiastic about returning to Japan and analyzes the situation regarding the fight affecting his team for the fourth place in the Constructors' Championship:
"It's great to be heading back to Japan for another returning race on the calendar! We're looking forward to going racing again with the short turnaround from Singapore. The Japanese fans are always so passionate so it will be another event full of energy. Suzuka is a demanding track for the drivers, but Lando and Daniel are well prepared for the challenges the second part of the Asia double-header provides. The team are all aware that there is a tough fight ahead of us to make fourth place ours in the Constructors' Championship. The standings can change in a single weekend as we saw after Singapore, so we must focus on keeping the battle in our own hands in the final five races".
In Alfa Romeo Racing, Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal, focuses on his team's weekend in Singapore and outlines the team's objectives here in Japan:
"Singapore is just behind us and we head back to the track for the second stint of the Asian double-header in Suzuka already. We haven’t raced here since 2019, and it’s good to be back on a historical track that witnessed so many captivating battles in the past. We had a difficult weekend in Singapore, and despite a decent performance we ultimately didn’t add any points to our tally, but the positive we can bring with us into this new race week is the promising pace we showed in dry conditions on Friday. Together with the upgrades we are set to have in Japan, these are good starting points on which to build our race. We must maximise our efforts ahead of qualifying, to place both cars in a suitable position to get in the mix of the midfield, avoid being in risky battles at the bottom of the field and bring back home some points".
Valtteri Bottas, disappointed for not being able to score points for Alfa Romeo in the Singapore Grand Prix, is motivated to return to Suzuka where he won in 2019:
"I am happy to go back to Suzuka after three years: the atmosphere here is incredible, and the fans are super passionate and welcoming. I have particularly good memories of the last time we raced here, in 2019, as I won the Grand Prix, having also finished on the podium the year before. Last Sunday in Singapore wasn’t really our day, and it was a bit frustrating to finish just one place away from points. Despite this, we were showing good pace, and we’re also going to have new upgrades on the car, so hopefully we can put ourselves in the game from the start of the weekend and fight for the top ten".
Zhou Guanyu concludes:
"A new race week, and a new track for me to discover. I am thrilled to race in Suzuka, one of the most iconic tracks on the calendar, and I’m looking forward to being there and enjoying it. It was really unfortunate to have my race end prematurely because of somebody else’s mistake in Singapore, especially because we had decent pace, and we could’ve built something on that. We performed well in dry conditions, so hopefully the weather will be on our side in Japan; this weekend we are also set to bring some upgrades on the car which, if we do our homework for qualifying and place ourselves well on the grid, may help us get the results we want on Sunday".
In Haas, the Team Principal Guenther Steiner comments on his team's performance in the Singapore Grand Prix:
"The entire race weekend, I think it was one of the best, or the best, executed weekends this year. Starting on Friday, we didn’t have any issues because we knew we had to stay out there to get laps for the drivers so they could learn the track. On Saturday with the changing conditions, we couldn’t have done anything different or better. It was the same on the choices of tire and the strategy on Sunday. Going back, we would do the same, the only thing we would change would be to get Mick in a lap later as we know now that there would’ve been a safety car but of course we didn’t know that then. It was very good and it gives us confidence that we can handle difficult weather situations".
On the race in Singapore, especially on the unfortunate episode that happened to Magnussen, Steiner declares:
"When something like this happens in the race, it’s very frustrating and obviously I get very upset about it because first of all, we put ourselves in this position and then we got help from the FIA to be put into an even worse position, having to come in to change a part which is not a safety issue. If I didn’t feel emotional about it, I shouldn’t be sitting here in my opinion. I care, I care about the team and there were two instances which went against us. One inflicted by ourselves and one inflicted by somebody outside which was completely unjust. On how we recover, we just have to rethink about what we can do better next time. I think we shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position, but time heals all wounds and we’ll be ready for Japan".
Regarding the battle for seventh place with Aston Martin and AlphaTauri in the Constructors' Championship in view of the last remaining races, he declares:
"I think if we can do a good job, all of us do a good job, we can still fight for seventh. We were in a position to score points in Singapore, we just messed it up. We need to look at ourselves and at what happened, and then get better from there. I think in the races coming up, our car is not worse than the others we are competing with".
Regarding the Suzuka circuit, with memories of the races for the team at this track, Haas’ Team Principal declares:
"For me, it’s one of my favorite circuits as it’s a cool race track and the fans are so passionate about it. I think our car should be good at this track, we just have to execute. I think it’s very good that we get back to Japan, I really like it".
Remaining in the Haas team, Kevin Magnussen talks about his memories of the Suzuka track:
"I have memories of watching Formula 1 and it was one of those tracks where, as a kid, it made me want to try it that much more. It has a lot of history - obviously with Senna and Prost, and Honda of course - but for me we’ve scored a few points, and I’m hoping to score more on our return".
On the weather factor, a recurring factor here in Japan, Magnussen says:
"It’s one of those races where you’re always looking at the weather forecast and a few times we’ve had typhoons, it’s always crazy weather. All round it’s quite a crazy race".
On the characteristics of the car in correlation with the peculiar traits of the Suzuka circuit, he argues:
"I think it should be alright, it could be good for us. It’s not a low downforce track so we should be able to run the optimal package for the track. With these cars, Japan is going to be easier to overtake on because it always used to be following".
Regarding the support given to Japanese fans, the Haas driver declares:
"Japan is a crazy race in many ways, but particularly because of the fans. They’re at the hotel when driving to the track, they’re so into it and always so great - it’s a pleasure going there".
Mick Schumacher, the other Haas driver, declares:
"It definitely holds memories of going to Japan with my family between 2010 and 2011. It was a great time, I love the food there and overall I’ve just had a great time. I’m excited to go there and get the feeling of the race track myself".
Regarding the weather factor, recurring on this track, Mick says:
"Well, it’s great because our car normally works well in wet conditions, so I’m really excited about the race itself".
On the characteristics of his car in correlation with the characteristic features of the Suzuka circuit, Mick declares:
"I think it’s a track that should be positive for us. Obviously we know some teams have brought upgrades but I’m still confident about our car so it’s just a matter of putting everything in the right place at the right time".
On the support that the Japanese fans have given since the drivers arrive in the paddock, the German driver of the Haas team concludes:
"It will be my first time driving there so everything is a first, but I’m really looking forward about meeting everyone. The fans were such a great support to my father for all these years and I’m sure they still are, so I’m excited to see all the red flags with my dad’s name on".
Ayao Komatsu, Director of Haas Engineering, on his career within the world of Formula 1 declares:
"I’m originally from Tokyo and came to England in 1994, so almost 30 years ago, all because I wanted to work in Formula 1. After I finished university and did some British Formula 3, I got a job at BAR Honda Formula 1 Team in 2003, working on Vehicle Dynamics. I then went to Renault and was there for 10 years, initially working on the tires and then went on to become a Performance Engineer, then a Race Engineer. I was the Race Engineer for Romain Grosjean at the time and eventually became Chief Race Engineer. When Haas F1 Team was setting up, I got the opportunity to join and was excited about establishing a new team and I’ve been here ever since".
On the memories of the Japanese Grand Prix, Komatsu declares:
"I haven’t gone as a fan before as my family didn’t really have anything to do with motorsport. I started watching it in the late eighties because of McLaren Honda and then Senna versus Prost. My first Japanese Grand Prix was in 2008, but in Fuji, and I was with Renault at the time - Fernando won so it was amazing - my first home race and our driver won. From 2009 we’ve gone back to Suzuka so I’ve been going for nearly 12 years. My most memorable race was in 2013 when Romain was leading the race for so many laps against a faster Red Bull. We finished on the podium in third, so that was a very good race".
Regarding the work that is done behind the scenes, in what is the home race, he says:
"It’s always special having a home race. Especially because when I started watching in the late eighties, Suzuka was always the title decider. The iconic McLaren Honda versus Ferrari or Prost and Senna as teammates one year. To be able to go back there for the first time as a Formula 1 engineer was so special. One thing about Suzuka is the atmosphere. We go to so many races these days, but the Japanese Grand Prix fans are always so amazing. You can see they’re enthusiastic and they know everything about the sport, so I’m excited to be going back to see them for the first time in three years".
On the support that Japanese fans give, as soon as they arrive inside the paddock, he declares:
"The first time I went to Suzuka, I saw my name on a banner in a grandstand and thought wow, I’m just an engineer. What’s amazing is that even on Thursday, there are so many people in the grandstands watching us do our track walk and build the cars. It’s also special with the amount of children who come to the track, prepared with a few words in English and gifts for each team. I haven’t seen that at any other race before so it’s nice that we manage to give something back to those children".
Sebastian Vettel, four-time World Champion, recalling many special episodes on this track declares:
"Suzuka is a fantastic circuit - my favourite on the whole calendar, in fact. I have so many special memories of this place - the track is just a special place, and the fans are absolutely amazing as well. Overall, the atmosphere just feels magical. This place is a huge challenge, and it is so satisfying when the perfect lap comes together. It is tough to predict exactly how we will perform this weekend, but we delivered some good points at Spa which is also a lower-downforce circuit".
Lance Stroll is excited to return at Suzuka and declares:
"I am really excited to return to Suzuka - a true drivers’ circuit and a challenge I absolutely relish. It is simply one of the best circuits in the world. The first sector in particular is among the most thrilling sequences on the whole calendar. Traditionally, this has not been the easiest circuit for overtaking, but the changes to the cars for this year should hopefully improve that prospect this year".
At Ferrari, Carlos Galbally, Head of tyre science, talks about his journey in the Maranello team and explains his passion for motorsport:
"My journey with Ferrari started back in 2016, although I guess you could say it’s been in the making for a lot longer than that. I’ve always been passionate about engineering and cars, so after finishing my Mechanical Engineering degree in Spain I moved to Germany where there is a bigger tradition in car manufacturing and therefore more engineering opportunities. After some years in the road car industry, I was fortunate enough to be able to take the step into Formula 1 with Sauber. After an intense period in Switzerland, I was given the option to move to Italy to work for the biggest name in the business, and the decision was more than clear".
Regarding the tyres factor on this track, he declares:
"It’s a very high energy track, characterised by its high speed sections with frequent changes of direction. It is an anomaly in the season in terms of left-to-right energy distribution, being the most symmetric track of the year (with as much energy turning left as you have turning right). Due to the high energy content, Pirelli brings the three hardest compounds available (C1/C2/C3), which is actually the least common combination, only used at five races, with Japan being the last of them. Tyre wear rates are on the high side, because of the long combined corners, while the track abrasion level is typically on the medium to high side. The combination of all these factors, along with the unpredictable weather, makes Suzuka an intense test for every aspect of tyre management".
And more specifically in the management of tyres on this track, the Head of tyre science of Ferrari argues:
"As with other high energy tracks, such as Spain, Silverstone or Holland, it will be important to get the right balance between warm-up over one lap and avoiding overstressing the tyres on the long runs, which always requires some compromises between Qualifying and the race. The FP2 long runs will also be of critical importance, as they provide the best chance to collect data needed for tyre race management. This helps us give indications to the drivers and always plays a critical role in deciding on the best target strategy. On this topic, the reduced amount of free practice time introduced this year poses some challenges, which we are overcoming through ever more accurate pre-event simulation preparation".
In Alpine, the French driver Esteban Ocon does not hide the disappointment for the double retirement in the previous Singapore Grand Prix and on the return to the paddock at Suzuka declares:
"How the weekend unfolded for us in Singapore did not reflect how competitive the car was and the potential we know it has. We were very disappointed to walk away with two engine-related retirements and I know the team is working hard to get to the bottom of the issues to ensure they do not happen again. Days like these happen in racing unfortunately, but we’ve got a chance to bounce back quickly in Suzuka this week. It’s great to be back in Japan, a country many of us haven’t been to since 2019. On my side, I haven’t raced here since 2018 which seems like a very long time ago. Suzuka I think is one of the most exciting tracks in the world and definitely my favourite on the F1 calendar. The atmosphere is really amazing, and the fans are always so passionate and very knowledgeable. I hope they are as happy to have us back as we are to be back in this beautiful country and at such a historic track".
Fernando Alonso concludes:
"Suzuka is a thrilling test for Formula 1 drivers. It’s a historic track and one of the most fun places to drive. We go from a street circuit to a more traditional track this weekend, but it has several challenging corners and sequences. The weather can be mixed too so you don’t know what to expect. I also love the culture in Japan and the fans can create such a special atmosphere. It’s for sure one of my favourites of the year. I’ve had a lot of good memories there. I think one of my best moments was the overtake on Michael [Schumacher] going into the famous 130R corner. It was a good overtake and not somewhere that is easy to make that move given the sheer speed of the corner. We won the race in 2006 as well which was a huge moment in the Championship heading into the season finale in Brazil. This place holds some good memories for me and the fans are always so great".
On Friday, a soaking wet Suzuka welcomes Formula 1 drivers for the first time in three years. Widely considered as one of the best circuits on the calendar with its lethal combination of corners, the Japanese track will host a very difficult F1 weekend because of the weather. A lot of controversy awaits the circus on race day, but for the moment calm reigns on the 8-shaped circuit, as on-track action is limited, and the teams try to figure out the best set-up for their cars, since chances of dry conditions are real, especially on Saturday. The biggest event of Friday is undoubtedly Mick Schumacher’s crash at the end of FP1. The German keeps pushing after the chequered flag and ends up having huge aquaplaning that sends him into the barrier outside Dunlop curve, a very fast left-hander. A costly mistake for the Haas driver, who is prevented from participating in FP2 because the mechanics will not be able to repair the damage in so little time, as the chassis needs to be changed. The mistake is costly also because of Schumacher’s delicate situation: in fact, he is yet to renew his contract with the American team and all these crashes (combined with many qualifying sessions and races finished behind his teammate Magnussen) do not help him retain his seat, as his position is deemed highly at risk. Schumacher states:
"It was quite wet and unfortunately, we had an aquaplaning moment which ended up in us losing the rear. We’ve lost time and we’ve got to do a big job tomorrow, but the track is great, the car felt great today so hopefully we’re in a good position. Tomorrow should be dry so we’ll see what we can do from there".
Unlike his teammate, Kevin Magnussen, the first to go out on track, completes a solid Friday that sees him shine under the rain with a double P5:
"It was wet all day today so I was worried we weren’t going to get any running but actually it was kind of good conditions for intermediates, at points it was a bit too much for them, but we got quite a few laps in. I’m happy for the fans who came out to watch the cars go round to actually see some running".
Mixed feelings for Guenther Steiner, Team Principal of Haas F1 Team, as his drivers provide very different performance:
"It was a mixed day today. The actual testing in FP1 and FP2 was good but unfortunately Mick could only do FP1 because on the way back from his practice start, he crashed pretty heavily and we couldn’t fix it for FP2. The test program from Kevin was good and we got time to do some major changes on the car, to do a back-to-back of different set-ups thanks to the additional 30 minutes which were supposed to be for the prototype tire test. Tomorrow we will again have two cars out running in FP3 and we’ll go from there".
The rain that disrupts Pirelli’s plans to test the tyres of 2023 in an additional 30 minutes during FP2 gives some drivers the chance to show their excellent skills once again, like in the case of Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard masters the elements in his Alpine to claim 1st position in FP1 with a bit more than three tenths of a second on the Ferrari duo of his fellow countryman Sainz and Leclerc. Alonso, who won in Suzuka in 2006 and delighted the fans with an exceptional overtake on Schumacher around the outside of 130R the previous year, places 7th in the second free practice session:
"It was a good day for us and it’s great to be back in Suzuka. Although the rain doesn’t help our preparations, I felt sorry for the fans who stayed out in this weather all day long. I always prefer the dry weather if I’m honest. The car felt good in both sessions for us today and it was nice to be in first position at the end of Free Practice 1. I’m excited for tomorrow and let’s see what we can do in potentially dry conditions".
A great start for the French team means that also Esteban Ocon performs well in wet conditions, placing 4th and 9th in the two sessions. The Frenchman, who will be joined by his fellow countryman Gasly in 2023 for a very interesting line-up, shares his thoughts with the press:
"It’s really fantastic to be driving in Japan again after so many years. I have missed this track and it was great to experience it with these cars. As expected, it was a wet one today, but we did get more running in the end than we originally thought we would. The car performed well in both sessions and we recorded some good data on the programmes that we ran today. I definitely got the most of that one set of Intermediate tyres! I’m looking forward to what looks like some dry running tomorrow and a good Qualifying for the team".
Chief Technical Officer Pat Fry talks about Alpine’s Friday:
"Today was obviously very wet and everyone’s running was fairly restricted by just wanting to use one set of Intermediates and to do limited running on a full wet tyre without damaging them. We did enough laps to get a feel for the car balance in these conditions as well as working through our start programme. At the moment tomorrow is predicted to be dry so we will have a busy final practice to do everything that we normally would do on a Friday; a mixture of tyre evaluation and high and low fuel running. There is a threat of rain on race day, but potentially just after the race, so we will need to be prepared for all conditions".
Despite setting competitive lap times, Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Leclerc are not immune to mistakes on such a technical track in such difficult conditions. In particular, the Spaniard tastes the gravel outside turn 8 (the infamous Degner curve) in FP2, just like his teammate in the previous session. A 2nd and 6th place mean Sainz has beaten Leclerc in both FP sessions:
"It’s been a very wet Friday, which normally means not a lot of running, but today the conditions were stable and we were able to test both the Intermediates and the Wet tyres. We’ve managed to learn a couple of things in these wet conditions so overall we can say it’s been a productive Friday. Now it’s time to prepare for qualifying tomorrow".
Charles Leclerc risks a little bit more than his teammate, almost hitting the barrier outside the hairpin. The Monegasque laments issues with his front tyres, which he feels are in strange shape, and that causes him to go long, fortunately without beaching his Ferrari. FP1 is definitely better for Leclerc, as he places in 3rd position just 0.071s behind Sainz, while FP2 sees him struggle a bit more, finishing in P11:
"Overall, it was a good first day on track in terms of performance. While FP1 went well and I had a good feeling in the car, I can’t say much about FP2 as my tyres were completely worn out. The weather tomorrow should be quite different to what we saw today, so FP3 will be a very important session for us to adapt to the conditions as quickly as possible in preparation for qualifying".
Max Verstappen has the chance to seal his second world title in Japan. The Dutchman is the first to try out intermediate tyres in FP1, but a new downpour prevents him from setting a significant lap time, forcing him to settle for P6. Definitely better his outing in FP2, as Verstappen closes his Friday behind the Mercedes duo of Russell and Hamilton. Even though he is a bit overshadowed by others during both practice sessions, the defending champion has cemented his reputation as a rain master with fabulous races in the wet and drives a car which will surely allow him to fight for the win (if not be the man to beat) in what is expected to be a wet Sunday:
"It was obviously raining a lot today, so the two sessions weren’t very representative of what it will be like during qualifying or the race. It’s good to be back on track and always nice to be here in Suzuka. We were expecting more rain so it was good that we could go out on track for as long as we did. It’s a bit tricky to know where we are with pace when in the wet, but we did some basic set ups today and not much more than that. We’re almost starting from zero tomorrow in the dry, but it’s the same for everyone, I don’t think it will make a massive difference throughout the grid. Let’s see tomorrow what we can do".
Sergio Pérez is another fearsome driver in wet conditions, as proved by his performance in the previous race in Singapore. The Mexican starts his weekend with an average 10th place in FP1 to improve later and finish FP2 right behind his teammate (+0.048s from P3), even with a run in the gravel at the hairpin:
"It was wet out there and overall I think it was a shame for the fans today because of the weather but it looks better for tomorrow. Hopefully we get plenty of action on Saturday and then race day looks mixed so that can also be a great one for the crowd. This track is always a challenge and when it’s wet even more, it is the best track in the world, I think. We have managed to get a good read in these conditions, we are fairly comfortable and have a good idea of what we need to do, so it should be a good weekend”.
Thanks to a loaded set-up used specifically for the rain, the Silver Arrows bounce back on top scoring a promising 1-2 in FP2. Among the first drivers to use intermediate tyres in the second free practice session, the Mercedes duo led by George Russell enjoys being under the spotlight again. With a time of 1'41"935s the young Briton precedes his renowned teammate by 0.235s, after only completing four laps in FP1:
"It is always nice to end the day top of the time sheets, and it was a decent improvement from FP1 when we were pretty much at the bottom. The wet conditions today were probably not that representative for the rest of the weekend, but it was a good learning opportunity for the future; it's important to understand things like the tyre crossover from wet to intermediate, and even if that doesn't pay dividends this weekend, it will in the future. It's amazing to be back here in Suzuka - the circuit is so iconic, one of the best in the world, and the first sector is just a joy to drive because it is so fast and flowing. I've no idea what to expect tomorrow in the dry - we will be battling for the top six positions, and hopefully we have a shot at something better than that. Let's wait and see".
After a 13th place in FP1, Lewis Hamilton improves significantly in the following session, even though performance seems to matter a bit less in a legendary track such as Suzuka, where for a racing driver it is just magical to drive around:
"It's been a very chilled day! It's been grey and wet, with a little bit of running, but we expect different conditions for the rest of the weekend. There's always something useful to learn on set-up, tyre wear and temperatures, as well as moving around the car balance between the sessions - plus we get data on our competitors, too. And it was positive in second practice that we could switch the tyres on today. This track is just beautiful to drive and it's great to see the fans here again - and it will be even more fun in the dry. When you do your first lap of the weekend, it's always special to think of all the legends that have been here; then you come up to the last chicane or turn one, thinking of Senna and Prost, and you realise what a privilege it is to drive at a place that has had so much history. Looking to tomorrow, I don't really know what to expect. I guess Ferrari and Red Bull will be rapid, and I hope that we are fast too - like I do each week".
Andrew Shovlin shifts the focus on Saturday as a rain-soaked Friday is not that indicative of Mercedes’ performance:
"It's great to finally be back at Suzuka and good to see so many fans enjoying the session undeterred by the rain. Our morning wasn't great as we missed the best window for running but it did highlight that we were struggling for rear grip and tyre temperature. We'd made some setup changes over the break and the car was in a better place for the afternoon. The time sheets are not a fair reflection of pace as our times were set on new tyres but, like for like, we seemed to be in a reasonable position compared to Red Bull and Ferrari. We are expecting a dry qualifying session and most likely a dry race. The regulations do allow us to carry a third set of tyres into the final session tomorrow on the basis that both sessions were wet today, although that does mean we are going to have a very busy hour trying to fit in all the necessary low- and high-fuel work".
Nicholas Latifi struggles through the day as he goes long at the hairpin after misjudging the breaking point and has a bit of a misadventure after the 130R in FP2: while approaching the Casio chicane, the Canadian driver goes the wrong way and takes a shortcut that comes a few metres before the actual turn. A 360° and he is on track once again. He ends his day in P12 and will also face a difficult Sunday as he will have to serve a five-place grid penalty for his collision with Zhou Guanyu at the Singapore GP:
"It’s my first experience here and it’s a very fun track to drive. It’s much easier to learn a track when it’s dry as you can focus on hitting your references and not have to worry about sliding around out there. Even in the wet there’s still a lot of grip, so I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in the dry and hopefully we can experience that tomorrow. It’s yet to be seen how much of today will be useful for the coming days as there’s still a chance of rain on Sunday but unlikely for Saturday. Overall, I’m happy with today with no real issues and now our focus is on maximising the dry running for tomorrow".
Alex Albon concludes FP2 right behind his teammate. The Williams duo is separated by just 0.032s, and this should give a (rough) idea of the car’s performance according to the Thai driver:
"Even in the rain this track is amazing; I love it round here! Today wasn’t too bad and I enjoyed it. It’s hard to get a real feel for the car in the wet, but we were not too bad in terms of competitiveness, so we need to see what happens tomorrow when it’s dry. The target is a little unknown, but the simple goal is that we are aiming for Q2".
According to Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, it all comes to run as many kilometres as possible, so that the drivers are ready for when it matters, especially on such a technical track like Suzuka, even in difficult conditions:
"It has been a slightly odd day with the wet weather persisting all day, the Pirelli dry tyre testing consequently cancelled, but FP2 remaining at 90mins duration. With a risk of rain for Sunday, there was little appetite for running multiple sets of wet and intermediate tyres. Although this limited the amount of running that we could sensibly complete, we were still able to do some useful testing and start to get Alex and Nicholas into the rhythm of Suzuka. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for dry conditions and so we will have to start again in FP3 and understand how the Pirelli slick tyres work here. We should be able to apply some of the learning from today to the dry and therefore start the session in a good place".
There is a driver on the grid for whom racing at Suzuka is particularly special. Yuki Tsunoda is the first Japanese driver to compete in his home Grand Prix since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014. For this great occasion, Tsunoda sports a special livery on his helmet with cherry blossoms and koi carps. The 22-year-old enjoys every single lap, even though he is one of the victims of the tricky Degner curves, even trickier under the rain, exploring the gravel trap. Tsunoda suffers another mishap, as his crew of mechanic mixes up the tyres when changing into inters. The Japanese driver states:
"It’s been an amazing experience, an absolute dream come true. When I left the garage for the first lap in FP1 I was really emotional, especially when I entered Turn 2, as I’d been watching there last time I was here as a fan. I tried to not let this get to me when driving but as soon as I jumped out the car the adrenaline hit, and it was a great feeling. I haven’t driven here since Formula 4, and I’d say even my out lap today was a faster lap than I’ve ever done here before in Suzuka. The conditions haven’t been great, with the rain, so it’s been tricky to find the sweet spot with the car, as sometimes the track dried really quickly and other times the rain was much heavier. We’ve spent the day gathering as much data as possible and building up the pace lap-by-lap when possible with the weather, but we’ve still got some work to do. Tomorrow looks to be sunny, so it’ll be another new experience for me, which is harder heading into Quali with little running, but everyone is in this position with the new car, so we’ll see what we’re able to do".
Despite a 16th and a 19th place, Pierre Gasly seems satisfied with his Friday and ready to take on the challenges of the rest of the weekend, even after an intense karaoke session with his teammate:
"It’s been good today, even if we only did three push laps so not the busiest Friday, but I’m super excited for tomorrow. We did everything we planned to, we only had one set of Intermediate tyres for the full day, but we’ll be running in the dry tomorrow, and it looks like the race may be dry too, so it’ll be important to get as much out of the car as possible in FP3. I’m confident though that whatever the conditions over the next few days are, we can be competitive and I’m looking forward to getting back out on this great track".
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer at AlphaTauri, sums up a challenging day for his team:
"We came into the weekend with the risk of rain for Friday being high, and in fact the whole day has been a washout. So, we didn’t get to complete the planned Pirelli test in FP2. Instead, we ran an Intermediate tyre, that did not come out of our race allocation, and a Wet tyre, but had to make these last across both sessions. The Wet tyre is robust so we could complete some good running on this when the conditions called for it. The Intermediate was faster, but was more prone to aquaplaning. We completed a few test items on the Inters, but the fronts quickly grained with the high energy input from the track. This meant we had a lot of understeer, therefore it is hard to learn much when the car has this balance. We did try some sustainable running to wear through the graining in preparation for Sunday, given there is a rain risk for the race. Tomorrow is looking dry, so it will be a busy FP3 programme trying to prepare for Quali and the race in the space of one hour, but at least we can carry one of today’s dry tyres over to help".
Sebastian Vettel wants to bid farewell to his favourite circuit in the best possible way. Last in FP1, the German does much better in FP2 placing 15th, enjoying the support of the Japanese fans:
"All the banners in the grandstands and the fans around the circuit make it feel like the closest thing to a German Grand Prix without the German flags! It is great to see so much support. Out on track, the grip was not great, but it was good fun - it is still a great track, even if it is wet, and I enjoyed myself. Obviously, it was all about being out at the right time if you wanted to set a competitive lap-time - but that was not the most important thing for us today. There is probably not much we can carry over into tomorrow, when it is expected to be dry - but we were still able to test some things, especially in the second session, and they might give us some added direction".
Lance Stroll ends his day in 18th place:
"Despite the wet weather today, we were able to learn some things here and there on the track. Tomorrow will be a complete reset, with it expected to be dry, although there is still a chance of rain on Sunday. If the conditions are like this in the race, then what we have learned today will definitely come in handy. Either way, I am loving being back in Japan; the energy is great and the circuit is fantastic, even in these conditions".
Valtteri Bottas goes out at 130R in FP1 after a small snap of oversteer: a scary corner in ideal conditions, even scarier in the rain. The Finn centres the top ten in both practice sessions, with a good 9th and 8th place:
"It’s great to be back in Suzuka, it’s definitely my favourite track and I really enjoyed driving here, even in the wet. It hasn’t been a bad day for us: the car performed pretty well and, while in the past we sometimes struggled on wet tracks, today everything was ok as we got the tyres to work - this is a track that creates a lot of energy. We tried the new front wing we brought here, which worked as expected: of course, due to the weather we weren’t able to collect all the data we would have wanted, but the feeling we were expecting was there and it gave us more stability in the high speed corners, which is what we needed it to do. I am looking forward to tomorrow".
His teammate Zhou Guanyu enjoys hif first laps at Suzuka at the wheel of an F1 car. The results are both good and in line with Bottas, showing the Chinese driver has decent pace and confidence in the rain. Zhou ends his Friday in 10th position (+2.590s from Russell):
"I loved driving this track and seeing so many fans with fancy hats and costumes - they are so passionate, especially after three years without Formula One here. The conditions were not easy, it was very slippery, but I really enjoyed it! It was my first time ever driving on this track and there was a lot of standing water, which made the day very difficult: but the car was performing quite well today, and that’s what is important. I haven’t tried the new wing yet - we saved it for tomorrow, given that the conditions made it quite risky, but the feedback from Valtteri is positive. After a couple of races with no upgrades, we are looking forward to seeing how much of a step we make with this".
McLaren holds the record for most wins in Japan with eleven. The Woking-based team delivers an average performance in the rain-soaked Suzuka practice. Lando Norris manages to claim P8 in FP1, with a gap of 1.641s from Alonso, while he is only 16th in FP2, dropping almost four seconds away from Russell’s best lap:
"While conditions were pretty challenging today, the laps we did were useful. We are struggling for pace a little bit, so we have some work to do overnight. However, tomorrow is expected to be dry and Suzuka will be a very different place, so we'll work hard to get ready for FP3 and set ourselves up for quali and the race".
Daniel Ricciardo finishes behind his teammate in both practice sessions, and despite the worst position in the final classification, the gap is much smaller in FP2, as the Aussie clinches 17th place just 0.145s from Norris. Few laps, but still worth it for Ricciardo:
"Arigato. Alright, it was fun to be back on this track. Conditions were slippery but it was actually a good time, I enjoyed it. In the morning we weren't looking too bad for the most part. It was only a few laps, but I felt relatively comfortable in the car. This afternoon, I would say there was a little less pace but it's really tricky with tyres. You don't know what people are doing and it's hard to get a real read on it. We probably have a little bit of pace to find from this afternoon's session - but tomorrow looks dry so that's going to be completely different again, and then we're not sure what Sunday's going to be yet! I think it's still useful for us, the learning we did, and we'll try to improve a few things for tomorrow - but overall, really happy to be back on the track".
Andrea Stella, McLaren Executive Racing Director, comments on the day:
"Today we had limited running due to the wet conditions, which also meant the Pirelli dry tyre test planned for FP2 was cancelled. We could still gather useful information on both the Wet and Intermediate tyres. We couldn't run as much as we normally do in dry Friday practice sessions because Wet or Intermediate tyres may be needed on Sunday when there is a chance of rain. This track is also quite aggressive on tyres even in wet conditions. We expect tomorrow to be dry, so the work to set up the car will be more based on simulations and experience than on the actual data gained on Friday, which is an interesting challenge, but it is the same for everyone. Hopefully, we can use FP3 efficiently and get some good preparation for qualifying and the race".
The rain completely disrupts Pirelli’s plans for the Japanese free practice, as a test was scheduled to try out the 2023 slick tyres. However, even tough days like this Friday in Suzuka help the tyre manufacturers and the teams better understand the behaviour of the tyres, especially after a radical regulation change like the one that has occurred at the beginning of the year. A lot of new information and an excellent performance both for inters and wets leave Simone Berra, Chief Engineer, quite satisfied:
"With wet weather a distinct possibility on Sunday too, I think the teams were able to get a feel for the 2022 cars and tyres here in these demanding conditions and also validate the crossover point between intermediates and wets. The front tyres are the most stressed, so these will dictate the overall tyre wear life for the race. Both the intermediates and wets performed very well in conditions that were cold with plenty of standing water. We had no issues with warm-up - helped by this high-energy track - and saw several long runs. Now the teams have to reset their thinking for what is set to be a dry day tomorrow: FP3 will be particularly important as it will be the first taste of slick tyres and the only opportunity to prepare for qualifying. As a result, the teams will have to think carefully about whether to use a wet or dry set-up for Sunday".
On Saturday, October 8, the weather looks much better at the international racing course than it looked on Friday. The air temperature is 21 degrees with 51% of humidity, while the track temperature is 30 degrees. The track brings the three hardest type compounds in the range this week: the White C1 Hard, yellowed C2 Medium and the Red C3 soft. Yesterday the teams opted for intermediate and wet. Drivers are already in their cars waiting for the beginning of the last session of free practice. The green light turns on and all the cars slip to the track. There are mixed choices regarding the compounds for these first bests as all drivers opt for soft or medium tyres except for Hamilton and Alonso who chose hard tyres. Sainz starts his first attempt on soft tyres: he scores 33.885 in the first sector, 1'16"768 in the second, and completes his first lap in 1'35"491, going quickest. However, he slips soon in the fourth place as Perez takes the lead on soft tyres (1'33"236), followed by Norris on soft tyres (+1.010), and Tsunoda on medium tyres (+2.163). Verstappen tries his first best and gets a purple in the first sector (32.085), 1'13"901 in the second, and completes in 1'32"050, going straight to the top of the rank. Stroll on soft tyres takes P6 (+4.442), followed by Ocon (+4.450) on medium tyres, Vettel on soft tyres (+4.866), Hamilton on hard tyres (+5.151), Magnussen on medium tyres (+5.728). Russell on medium tyres is P11 (+5.919), followed by Ricciardo’s Mclaren on soft tyres (+6.176), Latifi on medium tyres (+6.606), Gasly on medium tyres (+6.989), and Schumacher on medium tyres (+9.430). Alonso climbs to P8 on hard tyres (+4.660), while Leclerc on medium tyres goes P6 (1'36"200), behind Sainz. Gasly and Ricciardo climb to the first five positions, with Ricciardo in P4 (1'34"472), a half-tenth quicker than Gasly (1'35"019). Hamilton tries again on used hard tyres. He scores +4.033 in the second sector, compared to Verstappen’s time and goes twelfth (+4.546). Norris has a bit of wheel lock-up in the front right exiting the chicane but he manages to take P3 (+2.196) behind the two Red Bulls. Vettel is completing a new lap and scores 1'36"557 in P12.
Tsunoda tries again on medium-used tyres. However, he scores +6.096 in the second sector and he raises his foot from the pedal, giving up this lap. Albon on medium tyres tries again and scores +2.963 in the second sector, climbing from P9 up to P6, while Alonso gets +1.947 in the first sector, +3.128 in the second, and crosses the line in 1'36"125, taking P9. Tsunoda tries again on used tyres and goes fifth (+2.927). Leclerc tries on medium tyres. He gets +3.778 in the second sector, loses the back of his car but he manages to hold the car within the track and goes eleventh (+4.150). Norris tries again on soft tyres. He gets +2.075 in the first sector, +2.958 in the second, and completes his lap in P3 in 135.792. It’s very gusty, says Hamilton to his team radio. Meanwhile, a wind at 11.5 km/h blows on the track. Yeah, *** Alonso doesn’t know how to move, says Tsunoda to his team, coming to the chicane before the finish line. Vettel tries again on soft tyres. He scores +4.866 in the second sector, and crosses the finish line in 1'37"874 in P13, while Russell completes a new lap and takes P15 (+4.577). Sainz is driving in the last sector and is approaching the chicane when has a little wheel lock in the front right, as his teammate Charles is right ahead of him: Thank you Charles, says ironically to his team. Verstappen tries again on soft tyres. He gets +2.376 in the first sector, compared to his 32.085, +4.027 in the second, compared to his 1'13"901 but he does not complete his second attempt and raises the foot from the pedal. The wind sensitivity right now is among the highest I’ve felt all season, says Latifi to his team. Perez on soft tyres tries a new best. He scores +2.859 in the first sector, +4.945, and goes second quickest (1'37"767). Everyone is on the pits except for the two Mercedes, Bottas, Ricciardo, and the two Red Bulls. Indeed, Hamilton is ready to try a new best. On soft tyres, he scores +0.668 in the first sector, +0.952 in the second, and crosses the finish line in 1'33"254 going third. Bottas climbs to P4 while Russell gets +0.554 in the first sector, +0.649 in the second, and goes quickest than his teammate is (1'32"998), taking P2.
Zhou on soft tyres gets 1.611 in the second sector and crosses the line in 1'33"640, putting his car in P6. Alonso on medium tyres gets +0.344 in the second, scoring the fastest second sector so far, +0.503 in the last sector, and goes second quickest. His teammate Ocon also on medium tyres scores +0.375 in the second sector and takes P3 (+0.635). The two Ferraris decide to try to score a new best again on soft tyres. Sainz gets the fastest first and second sectors, 31.897 and 41.063, and goes quickest in 1'30"965 with Verstappen at +1.085 to him. Leclerc scores -0.055 in the first sector, +0.294 in the second sector, and goes second in 1'31"388, taking P2 and making Verstappen slip one place behind. That Ferrari is in the middle of the road there, says Verstappen, coming to the final chicane and going back to the pits. Meanwhile, the Mercedes team says to Hamilton that they struggle more in the straight lines but they look stronger in the last speed corners. Gasly on soft tyres gets +0.761 in the first sector, +1.517 in the second, and from P15 goes to P7 (+1.947). His teammate Yuki on soft tyres takes P6 ahead of Gasly, while Mick goes in P15 (+3.517). Russell on soft tyres tries again and scores +0.742 in the first sector, +1.897 in the second, and keeps in P9 (+2.033). Albon goes fourth on soft tyres (+1.429). Vettel on medium tyres scores +0.920 in the first sector, +3.869 in the second, but he raises his foot, giving up this attempt. Verstappen decides to try the medium tyres. He scores +0.043 in the first, +0.275 in the second, and completes his lap in 1'31"316, taking P2. His teammate Perez on medium tyres tries again. Compared to Sainz, Checo gets +0.486 in the first sector, +0.863 in the second, and goes fourth (1'31"937). Zhou on the softs is on the flying lap. He gets +0.671 in the first sector, +1.187 in the second and goes fifth (+1.420). Russell completes a new best and takes P4, while his teammate Hamilton gets a purple first sector in -0.084 (31.853), +0.390 in the second, and completes his lap in P5 (1'31"589) at nine minutes to the end of the session.
Ricciardo on soft tyres comes out the pit and scores +0.229 in the first, +0.508 in the second, and completes in 1'31"860, going in to the top six at P6. Leclerc on the softs scores the fastest first sector (31.800), -0.051 in the second, and goes second fastest in 1'30"980. Sainz starts a new personal best. He scores +0.064 in the second sector, hitting a bit on the curbs but he manages to keep P1 (1'30"985). Norris on soft tyres crosses the line and takes P6 (+0.782). Five minutes to the end of the session and all the drivers are back to the track except for Hamilton and Zhou to set up a bit before the last flying lap. Verstappen on soft tyres gets the fastest first sector (31.723), -0.256 in the second, scoring the fastest second sector (40.981), flies in the last sector, and goes quickest in 1'30"671, making Sainz slip to P2 (+0.294). Perez tries again at 2 minutes and 30 seconds to the end. On soft tyres, he scores +0.341 in the first sector and +0.700 in the second, as he was stuck in traffic jam. Indeed, Russell coming out to sector two almost crashed into the back of Gasly’s car. Perez completes his lap and goes fifth 1'31"514, scoring his personal best so far. Leclerc tries again at 26 seconds to the end of the session. On soft tyres, he scores +0.454 in the first sector, +0.856 in the second, enters the chicane and goes third in 1'31"886. Time is out and FP3 is completed. Verstappen is the fastest overall with 1'30"671, followed by the two Ferraris, with Sainz in P2 (+0.294), Leclerc (+0.309), Alonso (+0.649), Perez (+0.843), Russell (+0.859), Hamilton (+0.918), Norris (+1.076), Ocon (+1.079), and Stroll (+1.167). Ricciardo is in P11 (+1.189), followed by Albon (+1.275), Bottas (+1.300), Vettel (+1.551), Magnussen (+1.619), Schumacher (+1.695), Tsunoda (+1.706), Zhou (+1.714), Latifi (+2.197), and Gasly (+2.210). After a pause, it is time for qualifying. The set of compounds is not changed and the weather is similar to what it was earlier during the practice, with an air temperature of 19 degrees 57% of humidity, and 27 degrees track temperature. Drivers are ready for Q1. The green lights turns on and Latifi and the two AlphaTauris are getting into the track. Tsunoda is the first to start on soft tyres.
He gets 32.284 in the first sector, 1'13"408 in the second, and completes his first best in 1'31"631, quicker than Gasly on soft tyres is (+0.418). More cars are getting on the track and it is Norris’ turn. On soft tyres, he scores -0.413 in the first sector, -0.282 in the second, and goes quickest in 1'31"431. Hamilton on medium tyres scores +0.014 in the first sector, +0.538 in the second, and goes third (+0.460). Russell on medium tyres gets -0.232 in the first sector, +0.210 in the middle sector, +0.282 in the last one, taking P3 from his teammate. Perez on soft tyres scores a purple in the second sector (-0.536) and goes first in 1'30"622 at 10 minutes to the end. Verstappen on soft tyres is out of the track and is going fastest in the first sector up now, scores -0.804 in the second, and is the fastest (1'30"224). Sainz on soft tyres gets a purple second sector (-0.010) and goes second (+0.112), splitting the two RedBulls. Leclerc on soft tyres tries his first best, scores +0.204 in the first sector, +0.122 in the second, and takes P3 in 1'30"402, behind his teammate. Ricciardo on softs is P5 (+0.656), followed by Bottas on soft tyres (+1.036), Norris on soft tyres slipped in P7 (+1.207), followed by Stroll on soft tyres (+1.294), and Schumacher on soft tyres (+1.297). Russell on medium is P12 (+1.489), followed by Magnussen on soft tyres (+1.660), Vettel on soft tyres (+1.660), and Hamilton on medium tyres (+1.667). Zhou heads up into the top 10 (+1.339). Albon starts his first best on soft tyres, scores +1.094 in the second, and gets P11 in 1'31"588. The two Alpines are driving through the middle sector. Ocon on soft tyres scores +0.492 in the second sector and goes sixth (+0.722), while Alonso on soft gets +0.220 in the second, and takes P4 in (+0.379). Gasly and Tsunoda tries again. Gasly scores -0.210 in the second sector and goes ninth (+1.098). Problem with the brakes. What the **** is going on? Says Pierre, not happy with the brakes. Tsunoda gets +0.379 in the second and takes P10 behind Gasly (+1.122). Yuki also complains about the brakes as he had the wheel lock up while driving through the chicane. Work on brakes, straight-line braking when you can, says the team to Yuki. Tsunoda replies: Yeah, I know I’m doing.
Five minutes to the end of the session and the majority of the drivers are back to the pit lane. Meanwhile, the FIA stewards delete Albon’s time 1'31"588 due to track limits at Turn 14 on lap 3. Hamilton and Russell try again. Compared to Russell, the last driver to qualify, Hamilton on soft tires scores -0.287 in the first, -0.497 in the second, and goes seventh (+0.682), managing to save from the drop zone. Russell scores +0.061 in the first sector, +0.315 in the second, and places his car ahead of Hamilton’s one in P6. Two minutes to go and the only drivers still in the pits are the two Red Bulls, the two Ferraris, and Alonso. Vettel starts his last flying lap. On soft tyres, he scores -0.070 in the first sector, compared to Schumacher’s 32.032, the last driver to qualify for Q2 currently. Vettel loses time in the middle sector but manages to gets -0.170, and goes up to P10. However, everyone else is improving, so he may be still at risk. Stroll on soft scores +0.181 in the first sector, +0.835 in the second, and takes P14 (+1.195). Bottas on soft gets +0.422 in the first sector, +0.838 in the second, and goes in P10 (1'31"220). Zhou on soft is quicker than his teammate is and goes eighth (1'30"894), putting Norris into the drop zone. Schumacher and Magnussen try the last best on soft tyres. Schumacher from P18 goes to P11 in 1'31"152 while Magnussen does not manage to save from the drop zone and takes P16. Norris tries to save himself from the drop zone. Compared to Stroll’s time, he gets a purple in the first sector, -0.605 in the second, and takes P8 in 1'30"881. Tsunoda on soft tyres gets himself out of the drop zone in P12 (+0.906) while Ocon on soft tyres crosses the line and takes P6 (+0.472). Finally, Albon on soft tyres gets +0.804 in the second but does not improve enough to qualify for Q2, taking P16 (1'31"311). Q1 is over and Verstappen is in P1 (1'30"224), followed by Sainz (+0.112), Leclerc (+01.78), Alonso (+0.379), Perez (+0.398), Ocon (+0.472), Russell (+0.641), Ricciardo (+0.656), Norris (+0.657), and Zhou (+0.670). Hamilton is in P11 (+0.682), Tsunoda (+0.906), Schumacher (+0.928), Bottas (+1.002), and Vettel the last driver to qualify for Q2 (+1.032). The drivers excluded for Q2 are Albon (+1.087), Gasly (+1.098), Magnussen (+1.128), Stroll (+1.195), and Latifi (+1.287).
"We’re through Mick. Good Job".
Says the team to Mick Schumacher, while Alex Albon says of his qualifications:
"It’s frustrating to miss out on Q2 by just half a tenth, as I definitely feel like we had the car today to be in Q2”, says Albon. “The very end of our outlap was slow because the cars in front of me were very slow through sector 3, so the tyres weren’t quite ready. I was sliding around very quickly early in the lap and that causes the tyres to overheat. More than any other circuit that is very detrimental to lap time. Our race pace was okay in the dry, so we’ll need to wait and see what happens tomorrow".
According to Nicholas Latifi, qualifying went better than FP3:
"From how FP3 went, Qualifying went better than expected. It’s been my first time driving this track in the dry. However, I only managed to do two representative laps in FP3. The track itself is quite difficult to get up to speed with as It requires a lot of commitment and full trust and confidence in the car. To only have a few laps to really put it on the edge was unfortunate. I’m happy with the steps I made and as a team we went in the right direction with the car. To be a few tenths from Q2 is a positive as it wasn’t a perfect lap with a few mistakes in the middle of it. We’re very fast in the straight here so if we manage to get ahead of cars tomorrow it could be interesting".
Dave Robson, Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, is disappointed that they missed the Q2 because the car’s pace was good:
"The car had the pace for Q2 today and so to miss out again is disappointing. We needed to get everything right to progress and we didn’t manage that today; we need to look at the session and understand how to be better. The tyres need careful preparation to get a good lap out of them and with Alex having to slow down for the cars ahead just before opening his lap, he couldn’t get the perfect preparation. Nicholas made some sizeable changes to his car after FP3 and although these were in a good direction and gave him a more competitive car for qualifying, he couldn’t maximise the performance in the two laps that he had in Q1. It looks certain that there will be rain at some point tomorrow and this could easily affect the grand prix. Although we are starting the race from further back than we expected, there should be opportunities to get back to a good position before the chequered flag".
Kevin Magnussen finds that he exploited all during the Q1:
"It was a pretty smooth qualifying, but I didn’t have any more in it. Mick and I have different set-ups but it was two tenths that I was behind. My lap was good, there were no mistakes and the car actually felt fine so it’s one of those where you’re P18 but it’s hard to understand why. There’s some chances of mixed weather tomorrow and in this position you hope for that".
Lance Stroll explains that he lost time due to the wheel-lock up in the hairpin at Turn 11 that made him lose three tenths:
"Unfortunately, I locked up in the hairpin at Turn 11 and lost three tenths, and that was the difference between us making it out of Q1 today. However, the car was good to drive, and it was great fun out there driving Suzuka in the dry once again. It is not ideal to be starting from 19th, but tomorrow is a new day and we will see what we can do in the race. If the weather does turn wet again as it did on Friday, it will provide some good opportunities for us to move up the order".
Pierre Gasly is disappointed with today’s performance:
"I’m disappointed with today. We replaced the front left brake disc ahead of Quali and then on the out lap we were behind a lot of cars, which meant we couldn’t get enough temperature into the brakes. Every time I touched them, I had front locking, which was really tricky, and meant our last attempt went to waste. Tomorrow will not be easy from where we start, but it might be raining. I hope it will be, because it would bring more excitement and more opportunities to make our way forward. Our car works well in the wet, so I think that these conditions would be best for us".
From the next season, Pierre Gasly, from Rouen in Normandy, France, completes Alpine’s all-French line-up, the first in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1995. The 26-year-old made his Formula 1 debut in 2017 with Scuderia Toro Rosso following his 2016 GP2 Series championship title. He moved to World Champions Red Bull Racing before returning to Toro Rosso where he took his maiden victory at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix while driving for AlphaTauri. He is well-known to the Renault Group having won the 2013 Formula Renault Eurocup Championship as well as finishing Vice-Champion in the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series before competing for Renault e.dams in Formula E.
"I am delighted to join the Alpine family and begin this new chapter in my Formula 1 career. Driving for a team that has French roots is something very special. I know the strengths of Alpine having raced against them over the past couple of years and, clearly, their progress and ambition is very impressive. I wish to thank Red Bull as this marks the end of our 9-year journey together. It is thanks to their trust and support that I became a Formula 1 driver, and what we’ve achieved with Scuderia AlphaTauri over the last years has been very special. Looking ahead, I want to give the maximum and utilise all my experience to fight for podiums and ultimately contribute to Alpine’s fight for championships in the future".
Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine’s Team Principal, is extremely happy that Pierre will join Alpine, as he is a proven talent within Formula 1:
"I’m very happy that Pierre will be joining the team for 2023 and beyond. He is already a proven talent within Formula 1, and we are looking forward to harnessing that within the team. Our team has several objectives for the coming seasons and I firmly believe our driver line-up is a great reflection of the team’s high ambitions. I trust Pierre and Esteban can, together, motivate the team to continue its progress towards these goals. We would also like to thank Red Bull for agreeing the terms to allow Pierre to take this step".
Laurent Rossi, Chief Executive Officer, Alpine, adds:
"I would like to welcome Pierre to the Alpine family. He is a talented and motivated driver who will contribute positively to our objectives in Formula 1. Pierre is completely aligned with the ambition and progression that has, to date, been a hallmark of the Alpine project. As a young, but highly experienced and successful driver, his trajectory is on course with our own, and we look forward to growing together".
Luca de Meo, Chief Executive Officer, Renault Group, concludes:
"We are proud to present an all-French driver line up from 2023. Our roots are in France, and Alpine was born in Normandy, so this is a serendipity of sorts. Both will drive the team and the Group forward and, I hope, we can become a symbol of pride for France".
Scuderia AlphaTauri is pleased to announce that Nyck de Vries will join the team for the 2023 Formula 1 season, replacing Pierre Gasly who will leave at the end of the current season. The 27-year-old Dutch driver begins his official F1 racing career with one Grand Prix already under his belt, following a stand-in appearance for Alex Albon at this year’s Italian Grand Prix. Additionally, he completed several FP1 sessions in 2022. Dominating in other categories, Nyck has a number of titles already against his name; notably, he was the 2020-21 FIA Formula E World Champion and 2019 FIA Formula 2 Champion, as well as being the 2010 and 2011 Karting World Champion. Said Nick de Vries:
"I’m extremely excited to be joining Scuderia AlphaTauri for 2023, and I want to thank both Red Bull and the team for giving me the opportunity to drive in F1. After Formula 2, I took a slightly different path with motorsport, but F1 has always been my dream and I’m grateful to be able to fulfil it. I’ve had a lot of chances to experience the 2022 car this year and I think that has put me in a great position for the upcoming season, I hope this has helped to prepare me for what is to come. Having spent most of my teenage years in Italy for karting, I’ve always felt at home there, so for me it’s great to be joining an Italian team, that already has a real family feel, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and to start to build our relationship before the next season".
Franz Tost adds:
"Scuderia AlphaTauri had a very successful time with Pierre. We will never forget his fantastic victory in Monza and his podium finishes in Brazil and Azerbaijan. I want to thank Pierre for all the effort he’s put into the team in the last years, and I wish him all the best for his future. Now, we are pleased to start a new chapter with Nyck, who’s very much welcome at Scuderia AlphaTauri. He is a very high skilled driver, as he won in all the categories he competed in, with many races and championships under his belt. His last big success was winning the Formula E World Championship, and this is clear evidence that he is a very competitive driver, who deserves a seat in F1. I am looking forward to seeing him in our car and I’m confident that with Yuki and Nyck we will have a very strong driver line up for 2023".
Q2 starts and the first one to get on the track is Sainz, followed by Leclerc. It seems there is not huge rush for anyone else.
"Looks like the sun is out, so could be a slower track".
Says Sainz: he opens the dance on used soft tyres and scores 31.612 in the first sector, 1'12"499 in the second, going first in 1'30"444. Leclerc on new soft tyres, gets 31.643 in the first, 1'12"402 in the second, and takes P2 in 1'30"486. Perez on soft tyres gets +0.239 in the first sector, +0.164 in the second, and goes third, followed by Vettel in P4 (+0.541). Verstappen on soft tyres tries his first best in Q2. He scores -0.034 compared to Sainz’s first sector, -0.127 in the second, and goes fastest in 1'30"346. Norris on soft tyres gets a purple first sector (31.465), +0.252 in the second, and goes fifth (+0.621). However, Hamilton takes P5 from Norris with a gap to Verstappen of +0.322. His teammate Russell scores +0.149 in the second and goes eight (+0.356), while Ricciardo on soft tyres gets +0.131 in the second and climbs up to the fifth (+0.313).
"Brakes are so bad".
Says Tsunoda to the team. Bottas takes P10 in 1'30"929 while his teammate is in P13 (+0.895). Five minutes to the end of the session and everyone is back to the garages to set up the last things before the last flying lap. At three minutes to the end of the session, all the drivers are back on the track, except for Verstappen, the two Ferraris who seem more interested in saving a set of tyres than in scoring a new best. Vettel is the first to start. He scores -0.010, compared to Bottas' 31.711, the last driver to qualify for Q3. Vettel gets -0.220 compared to Bottas' 1'12"770, and gets +0.731, managing to save from the drop zone. Perez on soft tyres scores -0.195 in the first sector, getting the fastest first sector (31.383), -0.363 in the second, getting the fastest second sector (40.626), and goes quickest in 1'29"925. Bottas on soft tyres scores +0.145 in the first, +0.332 in the second, and goes eleventh in 1'30"709. Zhou on soft tyres takes P12 in 1'30"953., while Schumacher does not improve and keeps P14 (1'32"247). Tsunoda gets P12 (1'30"808). Norris climbs to P5 in 1'30"473, putting Russell into the drop zone. Hamilton goes fourth (+0.518). Alonso goes second (+0.418) and splits the two RedBulls, while Russell manages to exit the elimination zone and goes seventh (+0.540), putting Ricciardo out. Q2 is over and Perez is in P1 (1'29"925), followed by Alonso +0.418), Verstappen (+0.421), Ocon (+0.432), Hamilton (+0.518), Sainz (+0.519), Russell (+0.540), Norris (+0.548), Leclerc (+0.561), and Vettel (+0.731). The drivers who will not drive in Q3 are Ricciardo (+0.734), Bottas (+0.784), Tsunoda (+0.883), Zhou (+1.028), and Schumacher (+1.514).
"Ah I did my best".
"Yeah, that was a pretty good lap for us".
Says the team.
"Daniel, we are in p11, three milliseconds behind Vettel".
Says the team to Ricciardo, who looks so frustrated with his P11.
"I'm disappointed with the overall result because the session was looking good. From the first lap, it was strong and I was comfortable. I think the 1m30.8 was a quick time on the first set of tyres. From there we were competitive, but it was hard to get much more out of it, and we were trying to push a bit more, but that hurt some other corners. I was hoping we would be able to keep gaining, especially with track evolution, but the gains at the end were very minimal, and it was really hard to make that next step. I think it was looking pretty good and then obviously to be out in Q2 was not really what we thought was going to happen. I think we were relatively competitive, but I think we were just ultimately missing that last little bit. 0.003s is painful, but we'll try again tomorrow".
Valtteri Bottas finds that they got everything out of their lap but it was not enough for Q3:
"It feels like we really got everything out of our lap and we didn’t leave anything out there: unfortunately, that was not enough for a spot in Q3, and we missed out by less than 0.1s. Both my Q2 laps were pretty good, but it shows how close the midfield is that a mere few hundredths of a second can make such a big difference: it’s disappointing, but we’re not far off and we know we will be battling for the points. Tomorrow is when it really matters and the forecast is still not clear yet. We looked good in the rain yesterday, so I wouldn’t mind some wet weather we can use to climb a few places".
Zhou Guanyu is happy about what he didi today especially because he had to get used to today’s dry conditions:
"I am quite happy with what I could do today, especially considering I only had one session to get used to this track in dry conditions, being my first time on this very technical circuit. We made good progress throughout the day and things were looking quite promising, but Q2 was really tight in the midfield. We were so close to Q3, but in the end it was a bit too far from us: still, we gave everything we could. We are still in a position to target the points tomorrow - and, if it rains, all bets are off. We looked strong in the wet on Friday: if there’s a bit of rain tomorrow, we could have an even better chance, and it could be a really entertaining race for everyone".
Frédéric Vasseur, Alfa Romeo’s Team Principal, finds that they are really close to the midfield as demonstrated by the fact that they missed the top 10 by less than 0.1 with Valtteri:
"Today was another demonstration of how close the midfield is, as we missed out on a place in the top ten by less than 0.1s with Valtteri. I am also pleased for Zhou - Suzuka is a very complex track, and he did really well as in his first experience on this circuit. Even though we would have wanted to be in Q3, we can be optimistic about tomorrow’s race; we are close to the points with both cars, on a track where overtaking is possible and where we have pace. The weather is the big question going into Sunday: we looked strong in the wet yesterday, so a rainy afternoon tomorrow could play to our strengths. In any case, we know we can be in the fight: we’ll give all to bring home some points".
Yuki Tsunoda is overall happy with today’s results although he had some issues with the brakes and lock-up in Q1:
"I’m reasonably happy with today. We made a good step up from FP3 but were unfortunately held back by the brakes, I struggled a lot with them and had a big lock-up in Q1, then lost a lot of confidence in Q2. I think the balance of the car was looking good and we could have looked to get into Q3, so it’s a bit of a shame we weren’t able to. That aside, it’s been great to see all the fans here, it’s a special opportunity for me, as I’ve never experienced this level of fans in our team kit, wearing my caps and clapping so much at every corner - it’s been fantastic and given me a real boost. Now we must look to the race tomorrow, there’s a possibility of mixed conditions and we’re in a good position to hopefully make our way forward if the opportunity arises".
Guillaume Dezoteux finds the FP3 difficult:
"The third free practice session was difficult. It was our first opportunity to setup the cars for a dry track and we struggled to find the correct balance, especially on Pierre's side of the garage. It pushed us to take more risks than we would usually do, and we made several significant setup changes on both cars ahead of Qualifying. Unfortunately, we were hampered by brakes material issues that we need to understand and analyse in detail. Both drivers struggled a lot in Q1 with front wheel locking, and while Yuki did manage to perform a good lap, Pierre couldn't and got knocked out. In Q2, Yuki managed to improve, and he extracted more from the car, but still the confidence in braking wasn't there. Looking ahead to the race there are still opportunities, especially if the rain hits the track in the middle of the race, as some forecasts suggest. We will review the different scenarios tonight and prepare both cars in the best possible way".
Mick Schumacher thinks that they maximised everything from this session:
"It seems like we pretty much got the maximum out of it. I think maybe one position more could’ve been in it, but we start the race on the clean side which might actually be better for tomorrow’s race start. I hope for rain, our car in the rain is pretty good and our performance in it on Friday was great, so I’m very much looking forward to some mixed conditions".
Guenther Steiner, Haas’ Team Principal, says that it was not the result they expected today:
"It wasn’t the result we hoped for today. Kevin went out in Q1 which was pretty disappointing, and Mick made it into Q2 but he couldn’t better his time from Q1. We start where we start tomorrow but there could be mixed conditions and maybe we can make something out of it. We just need to make sure we are not making any mistakes".
Q3 starts and the drivers have 12 minutes to get the best position on the grid as the battle for the Championship intensifies. Ten minutes to the end and everyone is on the track except for Vettel. Leclerc on soft tyres flies in the first sector, scoring the fastest first (31.264) and second sectors (1'11"615), and goes quickest temporarily (1'29"557). Perez on soft tyres scores 31.441 in the first sector, 1'12"088 in the second, and goes second (1'29"994). Sainz on soft tyres, gets the fastest first sector (31.192), scores 1'11"857 in the second, scores the fastest last sector (17.845), takes P2 in 1'29"702, making Perez move down of one position. Verstappen gets the fastest first sector (31.116), does not improve in the second, and scores the fastest third sector (17.782), going quickest (1'29"304). Hamilton goes fifth in 1'30"958 but Russell takes P5 from him (1'30"957). However, it lasts a few as Alonso crosses the finish line and takes P5. Suddenly Verstappen says *** *** Mate, Unbelievable, to his team. Norris is on the straight behind him and overtakes him after Turn 15 from the inside. Verstappen, who was going very slowly in the middle of the road, turns suddenly his car to the right, as he loses control of it, while probably trying to warm up his tyres. Then, Verstappen overtakes Norris and says sorry to him, waving his hand. However, the FIA stewards announce that the incident will be investigated after the session. Vettel tries again and scores +0.539 in the first sector, +0.874 in the second, and goes sixth (1'30"554).
"Ok, boys. Good session. i really enjoyed it. This track was better than other ones. Thank you".
Five minutes to the end and everyone is back in the garages. At two minutes to the end of Q3 drivers are coming back to the track to try all their tricks to get the best position on the grid. Leclerc tries again for pole position. He opens the DRS and scores +0.033 in the first sector, -0.207 in the second, getting the fastest second sector (40.166) but he goes second. Perez scores +0.257 in the first sector, +0.284 in the second, crosses the line and takes P4 (+0.405). Sainz gets +0.011 in the first sector, -0.120 in the second, and goes third (+0.057). Verstappen, who is currently in P1, tries again. He does not improve but he manages to keep P1 in 1'29"304 and gets his first pole position in Japan. Hamilton gets +0.565 in the second and goes sixth (+0.957). Russell goes eight in (+1.085). Time runs out and Q3 is over. Tomorrow, Verstappen will start from the pole position (1'29"304), followed by the two Ferraris, Leclerc (+0.010). Sainz (+0.057), Perez (+0.405). Ocon is in P5 (+0.861), followed by Hamilton (+0.957), Alonso (+1.018), Russell (+1.085), Vettel (+1.250), and Norris (1.699).
"Not an ideal start. But Not bad, guys. Not bad".
Says Verstappen. He turns off the engine, jumps out of his car and waves to the viewers before starting with the interviews.
"It was pretty incredible to drive here again, especially in qualifying when you are on low fuel, these cars really come alive through the first sectors. I am really happy to be on pole and in general, just super happy to be back here in Japan. During qualifying, I lost a part of the duct from the car in my final lap so that’s why I couldn’t really improve, nevertheless the first lap was good enough. It will be interesting to see what the weather does tomorrow, there may be rain during the race, I am quite confident that we have a good race car so let’s see what we can do. I’m not thinking about the championship still, I’m just taking it day by day. The most important thing is that we have a competitive car, and we had that today in qualifying. We still need that perfect race".
Sergio Perez is not particularly satisfied with today’s performance:
"It wasn’t a great day for me in qualifying but we will try everything we possibly can for tomorrow. It doesn’t change my life much if I am third or fourth, the most important thing is that we have a strong race car and we are able to progress through the field. I have to push tomorrow to be in contention and I have to be in the mix. I believe I can be strong in the race, so I am massively looking forward to it. I think it’s too early to predict the weather because it can change so rapidly here, the rain could come at any moment in the race or it might hit earlier. I think strategy will play a role tomorrow and if I am able to get a Ferrari at the start it would be good. You have to be quick around here and the degradation is pretty high so I think it will come down to who has the better pace".
Christian Horner, Red Bull’s Team Principal, says:
"It was a very close qualifying; Ferrari has been quick all season so we were not expecting them to be any different here. However, it was a big lap from Max and to secure pole here ahead of what looks like varying conditions tomorrow is hugely important. Sergio starts on the second row and always seem to race better than he qualifies, so we are looking forward to seeing what is to come from him tomorrow. The variable conditions could play into his hands and I think he will be in the mix, two Ferraris in a Red Bull sandwich! With regards to the incident with Max, we are happy with the stewards findings. I don’t think Max was trying to block him, I just think he wasn’t expecting someone to come up behind like that and certainly not again when Lando did it on the final run! I don’t think there was any malice to it though, on either side. Plenty of racing to do tomorrow and we are looking forward to an action packed day here at Suzuka".
Charles Leclerc is enough satisfied with today’s results:
"The car felt good and it’s always great to drive on this track, especially in the first sector because it has so much grip. It’s a very fast lap, but the more you push in the first sector, the slower you are in the last due to the tyres overheating. I think it will be an interesting race. It will be a challenge for everyone to make the right calls with unpredictable weather ahead".
Carlos Sainz finds that:
"It was a good lap, clean all the way until the last chicane where a snap exiting the last corner cost me quite a bit of lap time. That was frustrating, but we’ll keep pushing. In general, the car felt good today and I’ve been comfortable with the balance all weekend. Tomorrow, we don’t know what the weather will be like, but we are aiming to get both cars up there again. We’ll give everything until the chequered flag".
Laurent Mekies, Ferrari’s Racing Director, finds that today was difficult as Leclerc missed by just one hundredth of a second and Carlos for half a tenth:
"It was an extremely close qualifying session: we missed pole position by just one hundredth of a second with Charles and half a tenth with Carlos. It’s a shame as we know on this track pole is very important, however there were still a lot of positives for us today, as our car was very competitive with both drivers. Together with Max, they were in a league of their own on a track featuring all types of corners and that says a lot about the quality of their cars. So, we can be pleased with the performance of the F1-75, and we were also able to save one set of Soft tyres with both drivers in Q2. It’s a sign that all the work we have done in Maranello over the past few months is paying off, so a big thank you goes to everyone back at the factory. Yesterday the track was always wet, so today we had to start from zero. Both our drivers worked perfectly with the team and were able to get into a rhythm immediately, putting in some solid laps and improving progressively through the sessions all the way to Q3. Tomorrow it’s going to be a very long race with many aspects playing their part, starting with the weather. Tonight we will analyse all the data and prepare for every possible scenario. Max will be as usual super fast, but we will do our best to try and battle with him right from the first lap".
Esteban Ocon is pleased with today’s performance and the overall weekend:
"I’m delighted with today and how the weekend has unfolded so far. Fifth place is a great result for us, just behind the Red Bulls and the Ferraris. After the disappointment of last weekend, it is very satisfying to bounce back in this manner and show our potential. The upgrades are working well, and our car suits this circuit, so it’s a job well done from everyone trackside and at both factories. We are in a solid position to score points with both cars tomorrow so we are fully focused on finishing our Japanese Grand Prix weekend strongly".
As his teammate, Fernando Alonso is satisfied with today’s results and he hopes for mixed weather tommow, as the Alpine looks more competitive in wet conditions:
"I’m pleased to be starting in seventh tomorrow. I think we might be even more competitive in wet conditions, so I’m hoping for the weather to be a bit mixed tomorrow. If it’s a chaotic race, then we have a lot less to lose than the cars in front of us who are battling for the Championships. The car has felt great all weekend and I’m surprised about how close all of the teams are this weekend, with only a few tenths of a second separating a number of cars. I’m positive heading into tomorrow’s race. If there is some rain, we will stay focused and there is a possibility to be in the top five by the chequered flag".
Alan Permane, Alpine’s Sporting Director, is happy with qualifying results:
"We are very happy with our Qualifying performance today and, clearly, our car is working well at this magnificent circuit where it’s brilliant to be back racing. We put together three solid Qualifying sessions today where everything clicked into place and I think that is reflected on the timesheets. Esteban did a great job to keep finding improvements throughout the day to qualify in fifth place. Of course, points are awarded on Sundays and if we can keep our two current places then we’ll be in a great spot. We’ll remain realistic, though, be wary of our close competitors, and I think we can have a competitive race tomorrow in any conditions. There is a high chance of rain but, in the wet on Friday, we had no issues so we’re looking forward to whatever may come our way".
Lewis Hamilton recognises that on this track the Mercedes would have not been competitive for the front row or the win due to the car’s limitations:
"We knew coming to this circuit that we wouldn't be competing for the front row or the win - the Red Bull and Ferrari are in a different league here, and we have some fundamental limitations with our car. It feels good to drive and it was a clean session for me, but we are just a long way off in terms of the ultimate pace. We are pushing as hard as we can and it feels strong in the corners, but we are losing on the straights at this circuit. For tomorrow, I hope we will be a little bit closer, and maybe the weather will play a role, too. I don't think we can race the cars in front in a straight fight - but I hope we can beat the Alpines and my focus is simply on scoring a better result than we managed last weekend".
George Russell says that he hoped for a better place:
"P8 is not where we hoped to be qualifying here in Suzuka. We didn't expect to quite be in the fight with Red Bull and Ferrari, but we are a long way off them, and in fact had our own close battle today with Alpine. We know that our car has a lot of drag and on circuits like this, where you need a lot of downforce but also to be slippery on the straights, we tend to lose out. That's something we are working towards correcting for next year, but it takes time to do so. Looking ahead to the race, I think we will have stronger pace than we showed today: our long runs in FP3 were decent, but I'm not sure if it will be enough to race the top four cars tomorrow".
Andrew Shovlin finds that both cars struggled in dry conditions today:
"We've been struggling with the car in the dry today; the race work in the morning wasn't bad but the single lap was proving difficult, and the tyres just weren't biting. We're losing a lot of time on the straights, but the corners are not especially strong either. By qualifying the balance was in a reasonable place but the lap time just wasn't coming. We stayed on the higher rear wing levels as the degradation in the morning was very high and there is a growing risk of rain in tomorrow's race. In both of those situations, the wing level should be a benefit. It will not be a benefit getting past the Alpine cars, though, which we need to do early if we stand any chance of getting into a race with Red Bull and Ferrari".
Lando Norris finds today tricky and probably the most difficult session so far:
"Tricky qualifying, probably the most difficult we've had this year. I think there was a little bit more to find, but probably only one or two more positions on the grid. Our competitors look quick, but we'll look for opportunities to make up places in the race tomorrow and hopefully keep up the fight in the Constructors' Championship".
Andreas Seidl, McLaren’s Team Principal, says that overall the team is not satisfied with today’s results:
"We're not entirely satisfied with P10 and P11 in qualifying at Suzuka today. Maximising everything would likely have gained us another place or two. At the same time, we have to acknowledge our primary competitors in the Constructors' Championship have, this weekend, been better so far. But the points get distributed tomorrow, and that's a whole new day. Our starting positions give us a decent chance of being in the battle for good positions. It's going to be a tricky afternoon if the current weather forecast materialises, and it will be important to execute a clean race regardless of conditions. We're looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. It's a great circuit, filled with fantastic, enthusiastic fans, and we want to give them something memorable to cheer".
Sebastian Vettel enjoyed driving on this track:
"It is so much more fun around here than at the other circuits! I mean, the cars and the speeds are great - but at this place you feel alive. I have enjoyed it so much over the years - and I had a wonderful day today. We will see what we can do tomorrow, but I am just very happy about today. At the same time, I am a bit sad - because it is the last time I will ever tackle this track in qualifying trim. I do not mind if it rains tomorrow - I cannot influence the weather! - but I think wet conditions would probably be a bit better for us. Still, we had a strong day today and I think we can make a difference managing the tyres whatever the weather. Laps like these make me feel sad about leaving F1".
Finally, Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s Team Principal, finds that Vettel drove a decent lap In Q3:
"Sebastian drove a strong lap in Q3 today and will line up in P9 for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix as a result. From there, he is in a good position to drive for points. Lance was on a quick lap in Q1 when unfortunately he locked up into the hairpin, ending his chances of making it through to Q2. But the weather forecast is uncertain for tomorrow afternoon, so a points-scoring finish is not impossible for him".
After wet practices and dry qualifying, on Sunday morning, the city of Suzuka wakes up with dark clouds and consequent rain, so that for the start of the race the track is wet. When the pit lane opens the drivers use a mixture of wet and intermediate tyres to assess the conditions before then going on intermediates. Everyone is on the grid, except for Pierre Gasly, who will start from the pit lane after a late breach of parc ferme rules to change his rear wing specification: in fact, his team make the call to change his rear wing ahead of the race. Lights out and Charles Leclerc makes a good start getting the nose of his Ferrari in front of Verstappen’s car on the run to the first corner, but immediately the Dutch goes around the outside and keeps his advantage, while Perez gets the jump on Sainz. Vettel slips on his way to Turn 1 before banging wheels with Alonso and running off the track; because of this he moves down to the back of the field. A few corners later, Sainz is caught out by aquaplaning and crashes out at the exit of the Turn 11 hairpin, hitting an advertising board on the circuit that finishes on track and is then picked up by Gasly, damaging his modified front wing. Zhou spins, while Albon retires from the race because of a contact with Magnussen. The visibility is very little, so the Race Control first sends out the Safety Car and then throws a red flag: the 18 drivers go back to the pits with two of 53 planned laps completed. Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez are the top three, ahead of Ocon, Hamilton, Alonso and Russell, with Ricciardo, home racer Tsunoda and Schumacher in the final points area. Rain continues to fall hardly during the break and while the race clock is paused at one hour and 55 minutes remaining, the overall three-hour window continuies to tick down, so everyone is worried trying to study the weather radar. First the Race Control states that the action will resume at 2:50 p.m. local time with a rolling start, and adds that there will be more than one lap behind the Safety Car on wet tyres, but then at 2:48 p.m. local time, this is suspended.
Shortly after 3:00 p.m., the race clock resumes to offer a definitive cut-off point for the day’s proceedings, whether the action will take place or not, while the rain is still heavy. At the same time, the stewards summon Gasly for an incident under the earlier red flag conditions, and he and a representative of his team require to report to the panel and discuss the matter at 6:00 p.m. After several track assessments it is announced that the race will start again at 4:15 p.m. With just over 48 minutes left on the clock, the Safety Car leads Verstappen and the rest of the field out of the pit lane. Hamilton says on the radio that the track’s good, while Ocon reports that visibility is better so far, and Leclerc adds that it’s not too bad for now. Verstappen states instead that the rain is increasing, but the Safety Car goes back into the pits with 40 minutes remaining and releases the cars to go racing again. Verstappen restarts and manages to keep Leclerc at bay, while Vettel and Latifi pit for intermediate tyres and go out of their pit boxes side-by-side in an incident that is looked at by the stewards. Verstappen and Leclerc lap quicker than Perez and the cars behind, while Norris and Bottas are the next to stop for intermediates. A lap later, also the leaders swap wets for intermediates, with only Alonso, Ricciardo, Schumacher and Zhou staying out on the extremes. Mick Schumacher is up in the podium places, he is told by his engineer that the team are hoping for the Safety Car, while Alonso and Ricciardo pit for intermediates. After the stops, Verstappen has five seconds of detachment from Leclerc while Schumacher is in P3, ahead of Perez, Zhou and Ocon. Hamilton is seventh, ahead of Vettel, Alonso and Latifi. Zhou pits and emerges at the back of the order, while Schumacher, still on wets, laps some 10 seconds off the pace. Schumacher switches the tyres and rejoins behind Zhou.
Behind, Ocon tries to keep Hamilton behind, and behind the English man there are Vettel, Alonso, Latifi, Russell and Norris. Russell does impressive moves on Tsunoda and Norris to work his way back into the points. Several laps later, Russell takes P8 from Latifi, while team mate Hamilton still tries to pass Ocon, but did not manage to do it, despite several attempts. Perez begins to get closer to Leclerc while everybody is on differing levels; Alonso, Stroll, Tsunoda, Zhou, Gasly all pit for fresh sets of intermediates late on. Verstappen runs the final few laps to take the victory and, just a few moments later, he is crowned World Champion, with Leclerc picking up a five-second time penalty for cutting the final chicane as he defended from Perez. During the pre-podium interviews, Verstappen is told that he has won the title, adding to his 2021 crown, as Leclerc drops to P3 behind Perez. Ocon finishes half a second clear of Hamilton for P4, with Vettel sixth and denying Alonso by just 0.011 seconds. Russell is P8, while Latifi and Norris complete the points area, while Ricciardo, Stroll and Tsunoda are out of the top ten. Magnussen is14th after his early contact with Albon, followed by Bottas and Zhou. Gasly and Schumacher are the final finishers. During the post-race interviews, Max Verstappen is interviewed simply as the winner of the race, but as the programme continues with interviews with Perez and Leclerc, the relegation of the Monegasque driver to third place, following a five-second penalty, is announced, and Max Verstappen is called up, who incredulously answers questions, celebrates with the mechanics, and even before stepping onto the podium asks if there is an error in the final standings, which would determine the drivers' rankings. Verstappen is the 2022 World Champion. He had a bad start and almost lost the lead to Leclerc, but after the rolling start retook the control and pulled out a 27-second lead over the field:
"This is crazy! To win here in Japan is really special, I feel really proud that we could do it here. When I crossed the line, I didn’t know that I was World Champion, there was a lot of confusion but I thought it was quite funny. The first Championship was very emotional and this time it feels very different, it feels even more beautiful because of the season we’ve had. The teamwork has been unreal, we kept on pushing, kept on believing and kept on improving the car. As a Team we’ve made very few mistakes, you can’t be perfect but for most of the races we were close to it. Working together with Honda has been incredible and of course a lot of my thanks goes out to the Team here at track, back at the factory and everyone that’s been contributing with the Red Bull Powertrains division. Everyone has been working flat out and has a huge amount of motivation. Checo has been an incredible teammate and now the full focus is on the Constructors Championship. Let’s see what we can do in Austin".
Perez pushed Leclerc lap after lap, then the Monegasque ran wide and was handed a penalty, finishing 3rd:
"I am very proud of what Max has done this season; he has stepped up as a driver. I was fighting with him in the beginning but then halfway through the year he moved into another gear, the way he drove in some races was unbelievable. It is a massive day for the Team, to do this in Japan in front on Honda and with a one-two is incredible. Hopefully soon we are able to secure the Constructors Championship for our Team, that will be massive. I am massively looking forward to the rest of the year. It was a great battle with Charles today, it was nice that we got to race because at one point we though we wouldn’t get to. It was a fantastic fight and we were pushing him hard towards the end, it was so difficult to overtake without DRS but I kept the pressure on, he made the mistake and he got the penalty to give me P2".
Team Principal Christian Horner is really happy about the race in Japan:
"What a race! Coming to the end, we were not sure we would be awarded full points, but to finish like that is beyond all of our wildest dreams. Max was truly dominant, he has been all season, but he was driving on a different planet today, finishing nearly 27 seconds in front of everyone else is an unreal effort which encapsulates his season perfectly. That is our 14th victory which is a record for the team and exemplifies how he and the team have raised it to the next level at every race. We are incredibly proud of and grateful for all the hard work put in by him and the team, both here and in Milton Keynes and all our partners for helping to make it happen. To achieve this Championship is truly special and to do it here in Japan with Honda makes it even more special. Checo has also had an incredible run, his season has been equally impressive. He is 2nd in the Championship and we are all working hard to keep him there. Equally, we are working to bring home the Constructor Championship after eight long years. So the season isn’t over by a long shot, there is still a lot of racing still to do and we are looking forward to getting back to it in Austin".
Max Verstappen wins his 32nd career Grand Prix, the 12th victory in the season, for the first time since the Italian Grand Prix, winning the Drivers' World Championship for the second consecutive season, the first Dutch national in the history of the category to win the title again, at the age of 25 years and 9 days, the second youngest bi-world champion. He, who had never triumphed or led a leading lap at the Suzuka circuit since his debut in the category in the 2015 season, equals Alonso's number of wins in the category, ranking sixth on the all-time list for most triumphs. Verstappen, who surpasses 8.000 kilometers driven in the lead, gets his second rainbow crown at the Japanese track where he made his debut in an official session during a Formula 1 Grand Prix, in that of the first free practice session in the 2014 edition for a different team, the one named Toro Rosso at the time. With four races remaining, Verstappen can still beat the record held by the two Germans Vettel and Michael Schumacher, both of whom were able to win 13 races in a World Championship in 2004 and 2013, respectively. The Dutchman equals the number of world titles held by Italy's Alberto Ascari, Britain's Jim Clark and Graham Hill, Brazil's Emerson Fittipaldi, Finland's Mika Häkkinen and Spain's Alonso. Verstappen is the 11th driver to win the drivers' title consecutively and the 17th of the 34 world champions in the category to win more than one title. For Red Bull Racing, it is the seventh consecutive victory, the 89th overall in its history, as well as the 14th of the season, setting a new record for most wins in a single championship since the thirteen victories achieved in the 2013 season. For the Milton Keynes-based stable, on its twenty-second one-two wins, the fifth of the year, a new record in a single championship for the Austrian manufacturer, it is the fifth success in the Japanese Grand Prix, the first in the turbo-hybrid era that began in the 2014 season, for the first time since the 2013 edition with Vettel, with the engines under a different name, Red Bull Powertrains, abbreviated RBPT, unlike the last triumph propelled by Renault powertrains.
The Austrian team ends a streak of six consecutive successes in the Japanese race by German manufacturer Mercedes between 2014 and 2019. Pérez, second, gets two consecutive podium finishes for the first time since the Monaco and Azerbaijan Grands Prix. The Mexican driver had never finished in the top positions at the Suzuka circuit, having finished seventh in his three previous appearances. For Leclerc, third, it was the fourth consecutive podium finish, the longest streak of his career, achieved twice in the 2019 season, although the five-second penalty cost him second place and ended his World Championship hopes, now third in the drivers' standings overtaken by Pérez. Thanks to Ocon's fourth place, Alpine achieved its best result of the season, while for Hamilton fifth place was the worst result on the Japanese circuit since retiring in the 2013 edition. The French team again overtook McLaren in the Constructors' Championship for fourth place, after swapping positions in Singapore, while for the British Mercedes driver it was the three hundred and sixth Grand Prix in the category, the same number of races as German Michael Schumacher and compatriot Jenson Button, in fourth place overall in the history of the World Championship. For the second consecutive race, Aston Martin, thanks to Vettel, features a driver in the first six positions, following the sixth place achieved by teammate Stroll in the Singapore Grand Prix. The German precedes Alonso at the finish line by 0.011 seconds. The Spaniard, in seventh position, gets points on the Suzuka circuit from fourth place with Ferrari in the 2013 race. The two-time world champion sets a new record for the longest interval between two races in the lead, 19 years 6 months and 16 days, between the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix and the Japanese race, beating Michael Schumacher's record of 19 years 1 month 9 days, between the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix and the 2011 Japanese Grand Prix. For Russell, eighth, it was only the third time during the championship to finish outside the top five, the second consecutive time. Thanks to ninth place, Latifi got his first championship points for the first time since the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, now ahead of De Vries and Hülkenberg in the drivers' standings, who replaced Albon at Williams in the Italian Grand Prix and Vettel at Aston Martin in the first two races, respectively.
It was the fifth time this season for the Grove-based stable to score points. Zhou achieved the first career fastest lap, the 16th youngest driver to achieve it in world championship history, at the age of 23 years, 4 months and 9 days, but with no additional points as he finished the race outside the top 10. The team for which the Chinese driver races, Swiss Alfa Romeo, had not recorded a fastest lap since the 2013 edition of the Spanish Grand Prix, when then Mexican Esteban Gutiérrez scored it and the team ran under the Sauber name. For an Alfa Romeo, it is the first fastest lap since the 1983 Belgian Grand Prix with Italian Andrea De Cesaris. For the thirteenth time in the history of the world championship, a driver won the championship as defending champion. Verstappen won his second rainbow title 302 days after the first one obtained in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, behind only Britain's Jack Brabham, winner of the 1959 and 1960 titles 247 days apart. Verstappen, however, beats German Michael Schumacher to third overall after 315 days between the 2000 and 2001 titles. The Japanese Grand Prix sees the awarding of the drivers' title for the 13th time, with Verstappen becoming the ninth different driver, the eighth on the Suzuka circuit, to graduate as champion. Before him, Britain's James Hunt won the drivers' title, on the Fuji circuit, in the 1976 edition, followed by Brazil's Nelson Piquet, who triumphed in the 1987 edition, compatriot Ayrton Senna, who won the drivers' world championship in the 1988, 1990 and 1991 editions, France's Alain Prost, in the 1989 edition, by Britain's Damon Hill, triumphant in the 1996 race, by Finland's Mika Häkkinen, winner of the drivers' title in the 1998 and 1999 editions, by Germany's Michael Schumacher, to whom the World Championship was awarded in the 2000 and 2003 editions, and by compatriot Sebastian Vettel, world champion in the 2011 edition. For the second time, the title is decided in the Japanese race when the latter was not the penultimate or final round of the World Championship, but rather held with still four Grand Prix to go, as was the case with Vettel's title in the 2011 World Championship.
Despite the fact that the Grand Prix was completed for between 50 percent and 75 percent of the distance required to reach the three-hour time limit, due to adverse weather conditions, with the points that would have been awarded under the new scoring system valid from this season, the latter were distributed normally as the race, suspended after two completed laps, resumed and was completed in the three-hour time limit, as per the regulations. The checkered flag was given at the stroke of three hours from the start of the event, without allowing the drivers to run the last additional lap. The latter is done once the two-hour race is completed, but that rule vanishes since the three-hour limit from the start of the event was used here. It was the third Grand Prix of the season to be suspended momentarily with a red flag, after those of Monaco and Great Britain, as well as the third in total, as well as the second consecutive one, to be finished before the scheduled distance, after those of Monaco and Singapore, run seven days earlier. Starting in 2014, the Japanese race is not completed according to the scheduled distance three times. The additional point of the fastest lap is not awarded as in the previous race in Singapore, which is for the second time in this championship and the sixth time overall after being reintroduced in the 2019 season, as it was achieved by Zhou, 16th, out of the top 10 positions. It was the Formula 1 Grand Prix completed by the winner with the lowest average hour ever in the history of the category at 53.582 km/h. The previous record belonged to the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix in which Britain's Jenson Button completed the race with an average of 74.844 km/h with the race interrupted two hours due to heavy rain. For the first time since 2013 with Vettel, the drivers' title is won by a driver wearing the number 1 on the car, reserved for the World Champion. Charles Leclerc had a good start, but did not manage to keep Verstappen behind. At the end, he was under pressure from Perez, so locked up and ran wide at the final chicane on the final lap. He returned to the track still in second, but was handed a time penalty:
"I gave it my all, but it was a difficult race for us today. We were strong in warming up the tyres in the first few laps, but then it all faded away. Especially at the end, I struggled with front tyre degradation and it was really difficult to keep Checo [Perez] behind me. I congratulate Max [Verstappen] and Red Bull for an incredible season, they’ve done an excellent job and deserve the title. We will use the last four races to work on our race execution, tyre management and becoming a stronger team all-round so that we can mount an even better challenge next year. We’ve already been making steps in the right direction in the past two races and we will keep on pushing this way until the end".
Sainz aquaplaned on the first lap and spun into the barriers:
"A tricky and disappointing Sunday. By the time the race started the call between Intermediates and Wet tyres was very close, but to be honest with either tyre the visibility would have been zero, which was the biggest limitation. I tried to get out of Perez’s spray and found myself in a big puddle, had aquaplaning and couldn’t do anything to hold the car. At that moment my only concern was not being hit. I was in a dangerous position in the middle of the track and I knew the other drivers couldn’t see me. Luckily for everyone, nothing worse happened today. We’ll reset and go back at it in the USA. Congrats to Max Verstappen and Red Bull for the Championship title".
Mattia Binotto, Ferrari’s Team Principal, expresses his disappointment for the result:
"First of all, congratulations to Max on taking his second world title in what has been a great season for him. He deserves it. For our part, the outcome of this shortened race is rather disappointing, especially for Carlos who had to retire on the opening lap in really difficult conditions. Charles drove a good race overall, but unfortunately, he suffered with tyre wear on the Intermediates after pushing very hard in the first few laps after his pit stop. Now we turn our attention to the final four races, ready to fight in Austin in a fortnight’s time".
As for the Alpine, Ocon defended well for the entire race from Hamilton, and gained his best result of the season:
"To finish fourth is a fantastic result for us, especially in these conditions. It was a difficult start with the rain and poor visibility, so we had to be fully focused to get through the early stages. I’m glad we managed to race and reward the fans who have been so good in their support all weekend. Racing Lewis [Hamilton] is always a pleasure and I was having to drive while looking in my mirrors the whole time. Congratulations to Max for winning the world championship. He deserves it after dominating and driving brilliantly at every race. We leave Japan with a great haul of points, claiming back fourth in the Constructors’ Championship".
Fernando Alonso had to work harder, pitted late for fresh inters and had to climb back through the field:
"It was a fun but very chaotic race today and I’m glad we managed to put on a show in the end for the fans. We scored some good points and I think we could have scored even more. It was a difficult race to manage with the wet conditions, safety cars and the red flag. There were also couple of incidents which I’m sure will be reviewed to improve for the future. Finally, congratulations to Max [Verstappen] on winning the Championship. Overall, it’s very well deserved and hopefully next year he has more competition".
Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine’s Team Principal, is satisfied for gaining points with both drivers, for which now they are again fourth in the Constructors’ Championship:
"It was certainly not an easy race across the board today with the challenging conditions bringing some very hard decisions for everyone. Firstly, I think it was great that we were able to have some racing today and repay the loyal Japanese fans who have been excellent all weekend. At one point it looked like there might not be any competitive laps due to the persistent rain, which meant poor visibility for the drivers on track. As a team, we can be pleased with our points collection from this race with Esteban delivering a fantastic result in fourth place after a supremely well managed race and Fernando in seventh to score 18 points. We’ve been strong all weekend here across every session, so we are deserving of the points we scored today and we move back into fourth in the Constructors’ Championship. It’s been a busy two weeks for the team across both Singapore and Japan and the hard work will continue as we look ahead to the next double header in Austin and Mexico in a fortnight. Congratulations to Max Verstappen on winning the title. He’s been magnificent all season and a pleasure to watch".
Hamilton started behind Ocon and finished behind him too. He pushed his rival but did not manage to pass him, despite trying on several laps:
"Once we got racing today, I had a blast out there - it was so tough in the conditions, hard to see and that's exactly how motor racing should be; a real challenge for us all. I wish we had been able to go longer and do more laps for the fans who waited so patiently, but we ran to time and were beginning to lose the light. In terms of my race, I tried everything I could against Esteban but like we saw yesterday, we were just too slow in a straight line. As soon as I pulled out of the tow, he was able to pull away from me, and I just couldn't get past even though we had a big pace advantage. I was trying every line and got so close, but he drove very well and didn't make any mistakes, so that was the maximum we could do today. Now we need to pick the bones out of these two races and learn our lessons to maximise the points we can score in the final four races. Finally, congratulations to Max - he's done exactly the job he needed to do to win his second title. We know what our problems are with this car, and I believe we have the team to come back stronger next season".
George Russell lost some time due to the pits and finished where he started:
"We need to review and see what we could have done better today. I think we had a stronger car than the result reflects, and that we could have been P6 today. I think that stacking in the pit lane cost me positions, and that made it a frustrating afternoon, so we need to look at it and see what the other options were. I made some good overtakes after that - but it was a case of trying to recover what we had lost. It was a strange afternoon overall: the conditions at the beginning were impossible, not with the grip but in terms of visibility and the amount of spray this generation of cars generates, and we need to learn the right lessons from the incident with the recovery vehicle on track while we were running behind the Safety Car. Overall, this has been a difficult double-header for us, and we've not scored the points we should have - so we need to regroup, focus on the final four races, and try to extract everything from the car we have under us. And of course, congratulations to Max on his second championship; the outcome has been clear for a while, but he and Red Bull have done an exceptional job this year".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, analyses the race and knows that there are some things to improve:
"Well done to Max on the championship, he's driven brilliantly this year. Our weekend has been pretty tough but today was frustrating: the car had good pace, but we were just stuck behind cars and had no chance of getting through without DRS. The conditions were clearly tricky, but it was good that we were able to get the race going in the end and give the fans some entertainment. There was only really the one decision point to make the in race which was when to come in for Inters. It looked like the optimum would have been to follow the Safety Car in when we restarted which was surprising given the amount of water on the track. We'd called to bring both in together and that cost us a bit of time in the stops for George with the stacking; he'd have joined a couple of places further up if we'd waited a lap which would have given him a better chance of being part of the race that Lewis was having with Esteban. Saying that, Lewis was having a frustrating time trying to get through. He had good pace and we'd opted for a high downforce level expecting rain, but he just couldn't find a way past due to the straight-line speed. So, plenty of things over the last two races that we can improve on, not least giving the drivers a better car in qualifying so we can hopefully start closer to the front. We'll be busy for the next week getting ready for Austin and hoping to get ourselves back into a position where we are racing for the podium positions".
Vettel spun at the start and then the swap to the inters made his race:
"Obviously, it was a shame that we only got half a race - but at least the people in the grandstands got to see some racing. We were waiting in the dry for the restart, but I imagine it must have been rather unpleasant to sit outside in the wet for a couple of hours. I got a very good start - but then I collided with another car at the first corner. I really could not see anything - I am not sure, maybe I aquaplaned or I made a mistake - but I lost all the positions I had gained and ended up last. When the race restarted, we made a good decision to box immediately for Inters. It was a great stop, then I pushed like crazy and managed to undercut most of the field. It has been a dream weekend - for us to score eight points is a mega result. I feel sad to have driven my last race here, but it has been a wonderful weekend, and to all the fantastic Suzuka fans I can only say, Thank you".
Lance Stroll made a brilliant start but his race went bad when he did not pit soon enough for the inters, and that costed him the points:
"Before we got going, I had noticed a strip of drier asphalt and decided to go for it at the start. It worked out really well - it was a really fun first lap. There was not much grip on those early laps and very little visibility; it was a tough call for Race Control, but it was clear that the race had to be stopped when Carlos [Sainz] crashed. I do not think the visibility was much better when we restarted, but it did get better towards the end. All in all, it was an eventful race, the fans were incredible with the weather, and now we look ahead to Austin and Mexico City".
Team Principal Mike Krack, says the race was great:
"Once the race finally got underway, it was a great one, albeit not a long one. But the main thing is that it provided excellent entertainment for the always-enthusiastic Japanese fans who braved the wet weather to fill the grandstands, and for viewers all over the world who stayed glued to their TV sets despite the long hiatus in the on-track action. From an Aston Martin point of view, we scored our second consecutive sixth place, thanks to a fine drive by Sebastian, facilitated by a good strategy call to fit Inters so soon after the restart and a superb pit stop that enabled him to exit the pit lane ahead of [Nicholas] Latifi. Lance pushed hard on his second set of Inters - another good call by our strategy team - and ended up a solid 12th".
Latifi pitted at the race restart for a set of inters. Then, he ran in the top 10 a fantastic mistake-free race to finish in the points for the first time this season:
"The beginning was quite tricky with the red flag and the delays. We made the right decision to pit straight away for the Inters which was critical in jumping the cars ahead of us. I struggled at the end with the front tyres but I’m extremely happy to hold on and get my first points of the season. Overall, I’m really happy for the team and it’s a nice morale boost".
Bad for Albon, who had contact at the start, damaged his hydraulics and caused an immediate retirement:
"It’s definitely a shame as I felt like today was a chance to maybe score some points. I actually had a very good start and was really pleased with it but then with the visibility being so poor, I couldn’t see the car next to me; I couldn’t even see the track. I had a light touch with Kevin [Magnussen] but where we hit it touched the radiator, we lost water pressure and it was leaking, so we had to stop the car. It was extremely dangerous out there and so bad in terms of visibility, in fact it’s the worst I’ve ever experienced in my career so far. We are driving over 200kph in that weather and, whatever you are seeing on external or onboard cameras, it’s a hundred times worse from the cockpit".
Dave Robson, Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, is happy for the result obtained in this race:
"Today was hectic and enjoyable, and in the end provided a very good race. Track conditions were fine at the initial race start but the visibility made it incredibly difficult for all but the leader. Both Alex and Nicholas had excellent starts and made places initially but were unable to capitalise fully due to poor visibility at T1. Alex was unfortunate to suffer contact from the Haas, which damaged the radiator and forced him to retire. When the race finally restarted, Nicky did an excellent job in tricky conditions. He was part of the decision to make the early switch to intermediates and this paid handsomely as he soon got into a potential points scoring position. Although Russell was able to overtake, Nicky had the measure of the McLarens and managed his car really well to collect his first points of the season. It was great to be back in Suzuka to race at this superb circuit. As a team we had some ups and downs over the course of the weekend, but we fought hard today and gave both drivers a good package for the conditions. It's disappointing that Alex was prevented from capitalising but great for Nicky and his team to score some points".
Norris went in at the race restart for intermediate tyres, but this catapulted him up the order:
"Firstly, I'm glad we got a race today. The Japanese fans have been amazing here all weekend, and they waited in the rain for ages, so I'm glad we could give them that. Of course as drivers we always want to race. The race itself was a tricky one. I lost a lot of positions in the first start which was unfortunate, but then made up for it with the pit-stop, and it was good to come away with a point. Finally, congratulations to Max on winning a second World Championship".
Ricciardo had a brilliant start and ran in the top 10 during the first lap, but then he finished behind his teammate:
"I'm happy we got to race today. It was looking very unlikely so, as a driver, of course, to have that opportunity and have a bit of fun, I enjoyed that, and more so for the fans, especially sitting out in this weather. The end result was just really a case of when we fit the Inters, which was tricky. It's not like a normal situation where it's ready and you just go. There are a few things to consider. I think the cars that went in, like Vettel certainly capitalised, so that's where we lost out today. Otherwise, I don't think our pace was too bad but it was also just a case of managing the tyres. We have some things to improve but ultimately, I'm just glad we made a race for the fans today. Congratulations to Max on winning a well-earned second Drivers' Championship".
Andreas Seidl, McLaren’s Team Principal, is not satisfied for this race, but hopes that the team will recover in Austin:
"It was a disappointing Sunday afternoon for us. On Daniel's side, despite moving up some positions at the initial start we were too conservative at the restart, staying out for too long which resulted in losing positions and dropping out of the points. On Lando's side we unfortunately lost several positions at the initial start which we then recovered by pitting at the right time following the restart. Overall, we were not as competitive as we would have liked to be. We will now use the time we have before Austin to see how we can extract more. Thanks to the entire team here at the track, back home and HPP for completing an intense double header. I'm happy for the great Japanese fans that got to see some racing in challenging conditions. Also, congratulations to Max for his second World Championship".
Tsunoda was near to the points area but lost out by pitting for the intermediate tyres later than his rivals:
"It’s been a difficult afternoon. I obviously wanted to finish in the points, so it’s a real shame that I wasn’t able to make it today. I think that I did the best I could today and extracted the most from the car, but the pace just wasn’t there. The whole weekend here has been so exciting still, I’ve really enjoyed my first experience of driving an F1 car round my home track and I want to say a huge thank you to all the fans that have come out to support both myself and the team, especially in these rainy conditions today. Also, big congrats to Max for winning the World Championship - it’s great that the Japanese fans have been able to witness that here today".
Pierre Gasly swapped his front and rear wing before the race and so started from the pit lane. Then, a piece of advertising boarding got lodged in his car forcing an immediate pit stop which dropped him down the order:
"We wanted to try something different today, however it’s very difficult to overtake on this track and we tried our best, but at the end it didn’t really work out for us. It’s a shame as it’s a special race weekend for us and Honda, but at the same time it’s great that Max has been able to win the Championship. He has been incredible, winning consistently, and has always been performing at his best and has got everything to be World Champion, so a massive congrats to him, to Red Bull and to Honda. It’s extra special to win the title here in Suzuka, so I’m really happy for them".
Guillaume Dezoteux, AlphaTauri’s Head of Vehicle Performance, defines this Sunday as difficult, as they did not manage to score points. Despite this, he is very hopeful for the next races:
"It’s been a difficult Sunday for us, and we didn't manage to get points today in Suzuka. Starting from the pit lane, Pierre was able to catch the pack immediately, but got hit by a panel that was broken during the crash of Carlos. This broke his front wing and front wheel winglet, however we were able to repair this during the red flag period. At the restart visibility was very bad, but the track grip was good enough to get on Inters straight away and gain on the cars that stayed on Wets. The degradation increased fast, and we decided to stop again, which unfortunately wasn't enough to pass the group of cars in front of Pierre. With regards to Yuki's race, it started pretty well by gaining positions before the red flag. Then, he lost a bit of time behind Norris on his first stint. We decided to also stop him for a second set of Inters to attack the group of cars held by Latifi. Yuki did a number of nice overtakes and made his way through the field, but it wasn't enough to get to the points today sadly. While we hope for better in the next races, I would like to congratulate Max for this amazing second World title".
Mick Schumacher did a good start, but then did not pit immediately for the inters:
"Our car is very strong, especially on inters, but unfortunately we put them on a bit too late. The fact that we were running P3 at some point, and even did our first leading meters in P1 is something positive. Points were up for grabs and we didn’t manage to get them today, but definitely the speed was there".
Magnussen finished his race 14th:
"There’s not a whole lot to say - it was another day with the weather being like this, which is always an opportunity so of course it’s disappointing not to get anything out of it".
Guenther Steiner, Haas‘ Team Principal, talks about the strategy put into place by the team:
"We were caught on our backfoot today with the strategy. We were too reactive and not proactive, and we ended up down the classification. It’s very difficult to make these decisions as we all know, and afterwards we’re always smarter with hindsight. We’ll review what we did and see that we do better next time".
Zhou spun at the start and dropped down the order. He pitted late on for fresh inters, set the fastest lap but didn’t get the bonus point as he didn’t finish in the points area:
"I have positives to take from the weekend, even though we didn’t score. It was nice to see that we can still be so close and have good pace; furthermore, it being my first time in Suzuka, I learned a lot over the weekend. Overall, it was a typical Sunday with weather changes and very low visibility. At the start, I suffered a spin at the hairpin, meaning I had to come back from the bottom. At the restart, there were only two ways to go: you either pitted on lap one to go on inters, or you tried to stay out hoping for more rain. I was quite far behind and there was a lot of spray coming my way from the cars in front, so I felt like the best option was to stay out on the wets. We did that, and when we saw the inters were clearly faster, I knew the gamble was lost: still, we gave it a try, and I got to gain my first-ever fastest lap for that. We can be quietly confident for the future: the upgrades we introduced this weekend are looking positive, but we still need some more time to properly understand them".
Bottas fought with Magnussen for much of the race:
"The conditions were very difficult today, in particular at the beginning of the race. The first couple of laps were quite risky, mostly because visibility wasn’t great from my position, it was a bit sketchy. We seemed to have good pace, especially as the track dried out a bit, but unfortunately it was difficult to overtake today: I think most of the drivers struggled with that, which was a shame as I ended up stuck behind Magnussen for pretty much all of the race. We can still find some positives from this weekend: we were super close to getting into Q3 yesterday, so that’s good. It’s a small improvement, and we must aim for it for the final races of the season. Hopefully, we can build on that, and have a good qualifying in Austin in a few weeks, where we will also be bringing some additional upgrades on the car".
Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur is disappointed as the team leave Japan with no points:
"Today was a difficult day in which the team performed under very tough conditions. In the end, there was no top ten finish for us, despite a quick car: overtaking turned out to be very difficult, even with a pace advantage, and we couldn’t make the progress we wanted after a challenging start. It’s a shame to leave Japan with no points: we now have to regroup and make sure we hit the right note in Austin, in two weeks. We know our car and our team are capable of battling towards the front of the midfield, but we need to get our work done to be there. One last thought has to go to the incredible Japanese fans: their presence has made the atmosphere of this race unique, despite the weather. They have been superb from Thursday to tonight and we’re looking forward to seeing them again next year".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, analyses the race:
"The Japanese Grand Prix came down to a 40-minute sprint race after the wet conditions hampered visibility too much for the race to start.. The conditions dictated the tyre strategy for everyone, as the safety car start meant that all the drivers had to start on the full wets. But it soon became clear that the intermediates were best for the circumstances, which performed strongly in inconsistent conditions at an impressive pace. Looking after the front tyres was critical, with the drivers showing their skills in managing their used intermediates during the closing stages of the race. A big thank you to the amazing Japanese fans, who finally saw an action-packed sprint after waiting so long, showing once again their passion and commitment to Formula 1 by staying put despite the challenging weather. They deserve all our affection and support".
At the end of the race, Pierre Gasly is summoned by stewards for speeding at Turn 12 at the completion of the red-flag lap after passing the crash site of Ferrari's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr. whose car was being recovered by a safety vehicle. The French AlphaTauri driver was penalized with a drive through converted to 20 seconds on the race time, and by two points on the super-license. He, 17th at the finish, climbs one position. The Federation issues a statement after what happened under red flag conditions, with the cars passing by the safety vehicle that was recovering the crashed car of Carlos Sainz Jr. The note explains that the world motorsports body is initiating a thorough review of the events, which will include the exit on the track of recovery vehicles. It is also clarified that in a Grand Prix completed with a minimum of two laps and finished under green flag conditions, points are normally awarded regardless of the percentage of race distance completed. The measures taken, which were made known before the next United States Grand Prix, concern: the information communicated by the Federation to the teams via the official messaging system so as to notify the teams that a tractor is on the track, with the teams being required to inform both drivers; the development of a virtual safety car and safety car monitoring window for the race direction and the remote operations center in Geneva, Switzerland, to view the status of all cars, whether they are on the track, behind the safety car and in the pits; updating the race directorate's procedures to better define the assignment of tasks to the race control team, including the delegation of monitoring tasks to the remote operations center, as required, under safety car or virtual safety car; in connection with this revision, the delegation of monitoring of cars entering the pit lane under safety car conditions and the resulting length of the train of cars behind the safety car.
In addition, the race director, who remains German Niels Wittich until the end of the season, with the abandonment of the idea of rotating race directors, defining Wittich as the sole race director for the last four rounds of the World Championship since the rotation was not met with favorable reviews from the drivers, as well as being in response to criticism of Portuguese Eduardo Freitas' performance in this race; dynamic virtual safety car and the implementation of a new feature that changes the speed delta required of the driver before and in sectors where an accident occurs, so as to help the latter know where accidents have been declared; the revision of the penalty precedents for drivers who fail to comply with the rules regarding yellow flag, double yellow flag, virtual safety car and safety car conditions; the evaluation of the current application of billboards, their construction, location and materials used to prevent the risk of them being ripped off and brought onto the track; and the awarding of full scores, with the Federation confirming how the rules have been applied to the letter, but in the next revision of the sporting regulations it provides further clarity. Regarding the incidents in this race, Pirelli's extreme wet weather tires have been blamed, according to some drivers underperforming. The Federation's technical department initiates talks with the Milanese manufacturer to get to the bottom of the problem. Ferrari decides not to appeal the decision of the stewards to penalize Monaco driver Charles Leclerc in the final laps of the race, believed to have gone off track and taken an advantage, initially second at the finish but later third due to the penalty. The run-up to Max Verstappen's second World Championship title comes to an abrupt and peculiar end, with four races to go. The race for the Constructors' Championship remains open, but only as a matter of numbers, as Scuderia Ferrari is far from the top, and does not seem to have the means to challenge the Red Bull Racing team. The next round of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship, the United States Grand Prix, will take place in Austin on October 21-23.