Under scrutiny | Is Red Bull already introducing its first major update at Suzuka?

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Under scrutiny |  Is Red Bull already introducing its first major update at Suzuka?

In Australia, Max Verstappen not only saw his own record for most consecutive victories in Formula 1 go up in smoke, but his impressive streak of 43 consecutive races in the points also came to an abrupt end after just four laps. Because Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Pérez was also unable to make a fist in the race at the Albert Park Circuit, the competition, with Ferrari in the lead, benefited from the poorer day of the championship formation. Can Verstappen and Red Bull get revenge in Japan or has the ban now been finally broken? In Under the microscope, F1Maximaal highlights the five most important storylines towards the Grand Prix weekend.

1. Sainz victory promises Verstappen’s unparalleled performance

The Australian Grand Prix was one to quickly forget for Verstappen and Red Bull. Despite pole position and a great start, the Dutchman was unable to do what he has done so often in recent races: immediately create a gap to the rest of the field. A braking problem in the third corner of the second lap allowed Sainz to close the gap of almost a second and then pass Verstappen with the help of DRS. A lap later smoke came out of his car and there was no other option than to send the RB20 into the pit lane and call it a day.

It was only the second time since the Miami Grand Prix, the fifth race of 2023, that Verstappen had to leave the victory to another driver. In addition to the aforementioned Australian GP, ​​the other time was in Singapore last year. Verstappen’s ‘defeats’ show a few striking similarities, because in both cases Carlos Sainz came out on top and the Japanese Grand Prix was the next race on the calendar. The fact that Verstappen completely lost the competition at Suzuka after his disappointing fifth place in Singapore bodes well for next weekend.

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Last season at Suzuka, after a poor performance by Red Bull in Singapore, Verstappen made no mistake about who was the best. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)

2. Red Bull will probably introduce the first update

Prior to the season, Red Bull announced during the presentation of the RB20 that updates would be coming soon to Verstappen and Pérez’s new battle weapon. From the Japanese Grand Prix onwards, there would be more work towards the zeropod concept, but according to the generally well-established Formu1a.uno, this does not seem to be the case at the moment. However, the championship formation is expected to introduce a new floor next weekend in Japan, which should provide an important advantage over Suzuka.

The troubled Alpine is also releasing updates for the A524. The French racing team announced this itself through team boss Bruno Famin. Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, who did not score a single point in the first three races, will have a new front wing at their disposal at Suzuka and the first steps will also be taken for a better weight distribution of the French team’s car.

3. Wolff reverses his decision and is still present in Suzuka

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was initially expected to skip next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, but the Austrian has decided to travel to the land of the rising sun to continue the work of the German racing team in Suzuka. survey. Mercedes has had a dramatic start to the season, even the worst in years. After three races, the team from Brackley only has 26 points and Mercedes is at a loss.

A week and a half ago, the German team experienced its worst race in almost six years. For the first time since the Austrian Grand Prix in 2018, both drivers did not reach the end of the race. Lewis Hamilton retired early in the race at the Albert Park Circuit with an engine problem, while George Russell ended up in the wall on the last lap, whether or not due to the actions of Fernando Alonso. The dramatic start and the fact that Mercedes is in the dark about the cause of all the misery has probably meant that Wolff now feels compelled not to abandon the ailing team.

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Toto Wolff will not leave his drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to their fate and will still be present in Japan. (Photo: Pro Shots/Panoramic)

4. Ferrari in an important weekend looking for the first Suzuka victory in twenty years

Ferrari has made an excellent start in 2024. In Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, a driver from the Italian team was on the podium each time, but the greatest success came a week and a half ago in Australia when Sainz and Charles Leclerc, somewhat helped by Verstappen’s bad luck, turned it into a double victory for Ferrari . A great start, but according to engineer Jock Clear, Ferrari will only really discover what the SF-24 is worth in Suzuka. Tire wear plays a prominent role on the iconic circuit and that was precisely one of the weak points of the predecessor of the current Ferrari car in 2023. A nice test!

What are the chances that Ferrari can also compete with Red Bull in Japan? Many experts do not estimate that chance to be too high. Ferrari managed to put pressure on Red Bull in Melbourne and Verstappen had to do everything he could to snatch pole position from the Italian team on Saturday, but it is widely believed in the paddock that Suzuka is Red Bull territory and with Verstappen behind the wheel of the RB20, they have also won convincingly in recent seasons. Moreover, no Ferrari driver has been on the top step of the podium since 2004, when Michael Schumacher crossed the finish line first.

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According to Ferrari, the race weekend in Japan will really show what the results in the previous races have been worth. (Photo: Pirelli)

5. Japan GP never before so early in the season, yet another chance of rain

For years, the Japanese Grand Prix was almost traditionally only scheduled for October. Last season, when the race at Suzuka was held on September 24, this was already slightly deviated from, but in 2024 the Japanese GP, which has already decided several title battles in the past, will already be the fourth race of the season. Never before has an F1 race been organized in Suzuka so early in the season (on April 7). However, it is not the first time that the Japanese GP was scheduled in April, in 1994 the TI Circuit Aida was the setting for the second race of the season on April 17.

The new position of the Japanese GP means that we are back in Suzuka after six months. But why was the Asian race moved from autumn to spring? This is partly due to the aim of a more logical division of the full F1 calendar, which has 24 races this season. The Japanese GP will now be succeeded by the Chinese Grand Prix, which could last take place in 2019 due to the corona pandemic.

In addition, Suzuka is regularly hit by heavy rain in the autumn, for example the 2022 edition was halted for hours due to persistent rain. Yet, despite the relocation, the weather gods seem to be playing a role again. On Sunday the rain seems to hit the circuit the hardest, according to the latest forecast from AccuWeather there is a ninety percent chance of rain on the day of the race.

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