Japanese Grand Prix preview

It’s been a quick turnaround after last weekend’s race in Singapore for the Japanese Grand Prix this Sunday (27 September). And the big question is whether or not Mercedes’ poor performance at Marina Bay was just a blip?

The consensus seems to be that it was – the conditions in Singapore are very unique. Speaking to BBC Sport, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said: “I can’t tell you what the team have come up with but they have come up with lots of reasons for it being the way it was and the majority of them believe at least one of those many reasons had a domino effect.

“I am confident it has been understood but they will continue to do their analysis. We believe it was specific to Singapore so it should go back to normal.”

Sebastian Vettel took his third win of the season for Ferrari in Singapore, putting in a dominant performance. Regardless of Mercedes’ woes, he was simply the fastest driver in the fastest car.

Also speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “It was a big surprise to see Mercedes struggling. I don’t expect it to be the case here. Hopefully we will be a bit stronger again but Mercedes are the favourites.”

At least Hamilton’s eventual retirement was easy to understand. He reported a lack of power that led to him dropping to the back of the field before pulling into the garage to preserve his engine. The problem was traced to a broken metal clamp that caused turbo boost leakage.

Elsewhere, Jenson Button has sought to silence speculation about his future in F1, saying he is in “good talks” with McLaren about staying at the Woking team for 2016. There had been rumours that he would announce his retirement this weekend, after 16 years in F1.

McLaren is enduring a difficult first season with Honda power, suffering a lack of performance and reliability problems. Button retired in Singapore, his sixth non-finish of the season. He has just six points on the board; only the Marussia drivers, who have failed to score so far, are behind him.

McLaren has an option to retain Button for 2016. Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Button would only say that there are “many possibilities” for next season.

Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Red Bull pilot Daniil Kvyat topped the timesheets in Friday’s sodden practice sessions at Suzuka. But the forecast for Saturday and Sunday is fine and dry, so the times set are meaningless.

As such, Saturday’s final practice session will be a frantic affair and only then will we learn if Mercedes is back on form. And, indeed, if Ferrari have actually made any significant progress.

Drivers’ Championship standings after 13 races

  1. Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes — 252 points
  2. Nico Rosberg — Mercedes — 211
  3. Sebastian Vettel — Ferrari — 203
  4. Kimi Raikkonen — Ferrari — 107
  5. Valtteri Bottas — Williams-Mercedes — 101
  6. Felipe Massa — Williams-Mercedes — 97
  7. Daniel Ricciardo — Red Bull-Renault — 73
  8. Daniil Kvyat — Red Bull-Renault — 66
  9. Sergio Perez — Force India-Mercedes — 39
  10. Romain Grosjean — Lotus-Mercedes — 38
  11. Max Verstappen — Toro Rosso-Renault — 30
  12. Nico Hulkenberg — Force India-Mercedes — 30
  13. Felipe Nasr — Sauber-Ferrari — 17
  14. Pastor Maldonado — Lotus-Mercedes — 12
  15. Fernando Alonso — McLaren-Honda — 11
  16. Carlos Sainz Jr. — McLaren-Honda — 11
  17. Marcus Ericsson — Sauber-Ferrari — 9
  18. Jenson Button — McLaren-Honda — 6
  19. Roberto Merhi — Marussia-Ferrari — 0
  20. Will Stevens — Marussia-Ferrari — 0
  21. Alexander Rossi — Marussia-Ferrari — 0

Manufacturers’ Championship standings after 13 races

  1. Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team — 463 points
  2. Scuderia Ferrari — 310
  3. Williams Martini Racing — 198
  4. Infiniti Red Bull Racing — 139
  5. Sahara Force India F1 Team — 69
  6. Lotus F1 Team — 50
  7. Scuderia Toro Rosso — 41
  8. Sauber F1 Team — 26
  9. McLaren Honda — 17
  10. Manor Marussia F1 Team — 0

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By Only Motors

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