Fernando Alonso has turned the screw on Lewis Hamilton in the last few rounds – does Hamilton have anything left to come back at him with?
Can Kimi Raikkonen snatch the championship from the McLaren drivers in the dying stages of the year? And what surprises do the new Fuji Speedway hold for the teams?
Read the preview and make your podium predictions below.
Looking for a track on the F1 calendar to compare Fuji to, the most likely match seems to be Indianapolis. Like the Indy road course Fuji has a very long flat-out section and a lot of very tight, slow corners.
There is a pervading sense of pessimism that the home of the Japanese Grand Prix for the next two years won’t be up to the same standard as Suzuka. But Fuji’s expanses and long straight may well lead to a bit of racing, something 2007 has been woefully short of.
Fuji’s first Grand Prix, way back in 1976 when the track was far simpler and quicker, was hit by heavy rain. A repeat this year could inject yet more drama into the 2007 title fight.
TV times – Britain
Schedules from ITV and Radio Times
Grand Prix Qualifying live – Saturday 29th September 5:30-7:20 ITV3 (Qualifying starts 6:00)
Grand Prix Qualifying repeat – Saturday 29th September 10:00-11:00 ITV1
Grand Prix Race live – Sunday 30th September 4:30-7:35 ITV1 (Race starts 5:30)
Grand Prix Race repeat – Sunday 30th September 11:30-13:30 ITV1
Grand Prix Race highlights – Monday 1st October 0:10-1:15 ITV1
Grand Prix Race highlights – Monday 1st October 18:00-19:00 ITV4
If McLaren are to salvage anything from 2007 they must put the distraction of their punishment out of their minds (or are far out of their minds as they can as the FIA wait to inspect their 2008 car) and concentrate on winning the drivers’ title.
Ironically the driver now best placed to do so seems to be Fernando Alonso, who has taken points off Lewis Hamilton in the last three races.
A non-race for Giancarlo Fisichella at Spa-Francorchamps and a poor strategic call on Giancarlo Fisichella’s car means Renault are looking over their shoulder at the advancing Williams-Toyotas in the constructors’ championship.
The constructors’ champions have vowed to focus on the drivers’ championship battle now – but will this mean openly favouring Kimi Raikkonen over Felipe Massa, who is now lagging behind.
Raikkonen cann expect his Ferrari to go well at Shanghai and Interlagos but Fuji could well favour the McLarens. If he can take more points off them here by repeating his Spa-Francorchamps win the Finn will be in a very strong position heading into the final rounds.
Honda are bringing a revised aerodynamic package to Fuji with a McLaren-style bridge front wing. Fuji’s low aerodynamic demands may give them the chance of grabbing a couple of points as they did at Monza.
A comfortable second in the constructors’ championship and already thinking about 2008, their drivers may hope of mixing it with the top two teams but it doesn’t look likely.
Toyota can at least count on strong home support at its own track, which some people believe was promised a crack at hosting the Japanese round back when Toyota first entered F1 in 2002.
Their local knowledge may help them get among the battle for points, which will be crucial if they have any hope of overhauling Williams in the constructors’ championship.
Mark Webber scored vital points in Belgium but David Coulthard suffered his second consecutive retirement. But Coulthard has raced well on occasions this year and we could see him battling through the field even if, as usual, he qualifies further back than Webber.
Keep an eye out for the Scotsman wearing a crash helmet in the colours of his late compatriot Colin McRae, who died in a helicopter crash during the weekend of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Alexander Wurz’s fight to keep his place in the team did not go well at Spa-Francorchamps where he suffered an awful race while Nico Rosberg shone.
He desperately needs to finish well in the final three races – hopefully it’s not already too late for the popular Austrian.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Vitantonio Liuzzi continues to show new team mate Sebastian Vettel the way but the two may have an entertaining fight on a track neither of them has raced on before. Assuming their cars can go the distances – Vettel’s didn’t in Belgium.
Adrian Sutil is the only driver on the grid to have raced at Fuji last year, where he won twice in Japanese Formula Three.
Armed with that extra knowledge, the revised Spyker and possibly the kind of inventive strategy the team used at Spa, he could bother the midfielders again.
Rumours were flying around at Spa that Honda were deliberately handicapping Super Aguri. Any such actions would not go down well with the Japanese crowd that has taken the Aguri Suzuki’s team to heart – expect the biggest cheers to be reserved for Takuma Sato.
Predict the podium for the Grand Prix – leave your comments below.
Photos: Daimler Chrysler | GEPA / Mattias Kniepeiss
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