The Japanese GP settles Max's Formula 1 World Championship title and kicks off the battle for second place.
The first Japanese Grand Prix since 2019 is done and dusted. The big news is Max Verstappen's second world championship title, which we covered yesterday. If you don't fully understand why full points were awarded, it's worth a read.
It seems Verstappen can't win a championship without some controversy, but unlike last year, there are still four races left. Look at the gracious post below if you feel he doesn't deserve the victory. Charles Leclerc was Verstappen's fiercest rival this season, and he conceded defeat via a courteous social media post.
In case you missed it, Verstappen was also embraced by Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso (also a two-time champ), and Lewis Hamilton. A crisp digital high-five to all these racers for demonstrating true sportsmanship. Toxic fans would do well to pay attention.
With the championship title wrapped up, the battle for silver can commence. Will Max Verstappen back down and let Sergio Perez take some wins? Heck, no. Verstappen gives no quarter, and Checo wouldn't want it anyway. Asking racers to back down is like asking republicans and democrats to sit down and have a meaningful discussion about *insert whatever topic*.
Perez is on 253 points, and Leclerc is one point behind. George Russell is closest to the battle for second on 207 points, but his car can't match the outright pace of the Red Bulls and Ferraris. Carlos Sainz has collected 202 points so far, so he needs two race wins just to catch up. It seems highly unlikely.
Perez is a stellar driver, but the pressure of winning the 2022 championship has now lifted from Leclerc's shoulders. Will this make a difference? Don't forget Checo's home race is coming...
In its press release, Scuderia Ferrari refers to the Japanese Grand Prix as a sprint race. It's the most accurate description of the 28-lap race we've read.
It was a perilous race, and mistakes were made. We're not sure who put intermediate tires on the car first, but it had a knock-on effect down the grid. In an interview with Sebastian Vettel after the race, he mentioned how stupid it was. Everyone knew the dangerous conditions and that full wet tires were required, yet every team chose the intermediate tire for fear of being left behind.
The full wet tire is commonly referred to as the "safety car tire" in the pitlane. It slows the car down to safety car speeds, which, in this case, was a Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series.
The drivers also had to deal with terrible visibility. The photograph of Charles Leclerc above perfectly demonstrates how treacherous it was. We often joke that World Rally Championship drivers must think F1 drivers are a bunch of wusses, but WRC cars go out one at a time, have closed cockpits, and are seated higher in the car. The new ground effects F1 cars add a new layer of complexity because as much as they use aero to suck the car downwards, that effect also lifts water off the road surface and sprays it into the air more than ever before. Imagine getting stuck in that rooster tail, having to time your braking using only track and muscle memory.
Then there's the recovery vehicle controversy. Jules Bianchi lost control of his car at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix in typical Suzuka weather conditions during a safety car scenario. He crashed into a recovery vehicle, and ultimately, the sport lost one of its brightest young talents and a dear friend to many on the grid. Eventually, it led to the introduction of the halo driver protection system. So when Pierre Gasly encountered a recovery vehicle on track in terrible conditions, he was justifiably upset.
Gasly was not the only one, and most drivers complained about it afterward, for a good reason. The FIA has launched an inquest into the matter, and we can expect stricter recovery vehicle protocols going forward.
Honda could not have timed its return to Red Bull's livery better. Not only did Red Bull score a one-two, but Verstappen became a two-time world champion in front of Honda's home crowd in Japan.
How does Honda fit into all of this? Technically, Honda is no longer involved in F1 aside from its sponsorship of the Suzuka Grand Prix, but it still plays an important role. After it left the sport, Red Bull purchased what was left and started Red Bull Powertrains. The Honda Racing Corporation's (HRC) employees were moved from their base to the Red Bull campus in Milton Keynes, England. HRC was located just down the road, so it's not as hectic as you think.
Honda will support Red Bull until the end of 2025 when it launches an all-new powertrain for the 2026 season. Christian Horner recently stated that the first 2026 powertrain was built and started up for the first time just before the Singapore Grand Prix.
Red Bull's new powertrain department is also why talks between Red Bull and Porsche broke down.
Daniel Ricciardo will not be on the grid for the 2023 season. It's unclear whether no seat was available or whether Ricciardo is holding out for a better opportunity. Either way, the Honey Badger will be missed. With Ricciardo and Vettel gone, F1's funnier moments will take a nosedive in 2023.
Pierre Gasly will join the Alpine F1 team next year. Alpine will be the most French team in the history of the sport, with a car built in Paris and two French drivers. French companies will be lining up for miles to sponsor the team, so keep an eye on the team next year. The only way to make this team more French would be to get sponsorship from the makers of cheese and condoms.
Nyck De Vries had a stellar F1 debut, and it was widely believed that he would join Williams. Instead, De Vries will take Gasly's spot at AlphaTauri. It's quite evident what Red Bull has in mind for this talented young man. He will be groomed by AlphaTauri and Helmut Marko, after which he'll be in line to replace Sergio Perez.
It's an amazing opportunity but undoubtedly a double-edged sword. Being a Red Bull driver means living in Verstappen's shadow, and that's not easy. Red Bull went through two talented drivers in one season (Gasly and Albon) before finding the perfect teammate for Verstappen. Will they ever find a pairing as perfect as Verstappen and Perez? We doubt it. Playing second fiddle to a generational talent is not easy. You only get a shot at the title once he decides to bow out, and that's not happening anytime soon.
Only two slots remain open. Williams has a seat, and Haas possibly has a seat. The American team has yet to confirm Mick Schumacher for next year, but we know Nicholas Latifi is on the way out.
The next race takes place at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Texas on 23 October. It's the second US race of the season, with the Miami Grand Prix making its controversial debut earlier this year. Next year there will be three US-based races, as a Las Vegas street race is joining the schedule.
America is a massive market for F1 at the moment, and last year's race at COTA was the second-most viewed US Grand Prix ever. With all the new fans joining because of Drive To Survive, this year will likely be another record-breaker.
Despite the success in the USA, F1 has been hesitant to add another team to the grid. Just imagine what the viewership would be like with Andretti Autosport competing in the midfield.