Can anyone beat Red Bull again? What to watch for at 2023 Japanese GP


Red Bull looks set to clinch the 2023 constructors' title at this weekend's Japanese GP, but can it avoid another Singapore-style upset? And which drivers have all to play for with spaces still remaining on the 2024 grid? Here's what to watch for

Verstappen battles with Leclerc at the start of 2022 Japanese Grand Prix

Verstappen battles Leclerc at the start of last year's Japanese GP

Antonin Vincent/DPPI

The Japanese Grand Prix could signal a return to normality for the majority of the grid, with Red Bull looking likely to regain its dominant form after failing to win in Singapore for the first time in 16 races.

Last year at Suzuka, the championship leaders were in control throughout treacherous conditions and Max Verstappen won by 27 seconds after only 28 laps of racing to secure his second consecutive drivers’ world title.

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If the RB19 returns in previous dominant form, a similar result could be on the cards in 2023. But should it stumble once again, a field of drivers — hungry to follow the success of Carlos Sainz‘s Ferrari — will be in hot pursuit.

The Singapore Grand prix winner has been in brilliant form after a pole position at Monza, followed by the top step of the podium at Marina Bay. With Red Bull in touching distance of the constructors’ championship, could he help to push the team’s expected celebrations a little further back in Suzuka?

The Japanese Grand Prix itself is widely regarded as a driver favourite — blasts through the iconic ‘S’ Curves, the Turn 11 hairpin and 130R giving an utterly unique sense of speed. But as much as they may enjoy it, drivers have been bitten hard by Suzuka in the past — leading to moments of chaos and controversy. Will the same be said for 2023?

Here’s watch out for at the 2023 Japanese GP:


Can Red Bull win F1 constructors’ championship in Japan? 

Red Bull celebrates Max Verstappen becoming 2022 F1 champion at the Japanese Grand Prix

Can Red Bull wrap up sixth constructors’ title in Japan?

Red Bull

After 14 consecutive victories this year (plus the final race of 2022) — a record-setting streak that ended in Singapore — it may not be such a surprise that Red Bull is on the cusp of a sixth constructors’ crown heading into Japan.

Its current cushion of 308 points over Mercedes means that, to clinch the title at Suzuka, Red Bull must outscore Mercedes by a single point and not be beaten by Ferrari by more than 24. On past form (Singapore excepted), those targets are well within reach: a top three finish for Verstappen and Sergio Perez will accomplish both.

After a disastrous result in Singapore, some pointed their fingers to the recent changes in flexi-wing regulations as a possible reason for Red Bull’s sudden drop in performance. But team boss Christian Horner quickly put an end to the rumour, adamant that “zero changes” had been made to the RB19 in order to comply with the FIA’s new orders.

It appears Marina Bay is simply not suited to the car, which is expected to be back to dominant form in Japan — Suzuka’s fast and flowing corners suiting Adrian Newey’s latest F1 design almost perfectly.

2023 F1 constructors’ standings

Place Team Points
1 Red Bull 597
2 Mercedes 289
3 Ferrari 265


Will Yuki Tsunoda get AlphaTauri contact extension at home GP? 

Yuki Tsunoda Japanese Grand Prix AlphaTauri

The Japanese driver has performed well against his team-mates — but will it be enough?


Yuki Tsunoda has had three team-mates in 2023 and arguably outshone two of them — Nyck de Vries who was released after numerous poor performances and Daniel Ricciardo who Tsunoda out-qualified and beat in Belgium.

Despite unfortunate finishes to his last two grands prix — completing just half a lap over race weekends in Monza and Singapore — the Japanese driver is rumoured to have secured a contract extension with AlphaTauri for 2024, with Ricciardo possibly signing later on. Point finishes in Australia, Azerbaijan and Belgium, along with a perceived heightened level of maturity and race craft seem to have done enough to secure his position on the grid for at least one more year.

The official announcement could take place as soon as this weekend at Suzuka — the site of Tsunoda’s home grand prix — but that would still leave Liam Lawson’s fate undecided. His assured performances since substituting for the injured Ricciardo have proved him worthy of a place on next year’s grid… but with who? Japan may be his final chance to stake a claim, with Ricciardo hoping to return at the following race in Qatar.


Can Ferrari repeat its Singapore success? 

Carlos Sainz Singapore GP

Victory at last for Ferrari in Singapore — ending Red Bull’s streak of victories

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Ferrari became just the second F1 constructor to win a race in 2023, after Carlos Sainz led from lights out to the chequered flag. But repeating the same success in Japan could be a tall order.

When asked what victory in Singapore meant for possible results in Japan, the Spaniard replied: “I don’t think it means much, I think this year, it’s going to be a bit like this. We’ve had two great weekends in a row [Italy and Singapore], but I think the two tracks that we’ve been to have suited our car. In particularly this one [Marina Bay], a high downforce track.”

“There’s going to be tough weekends out there where we’re not going to be fighting for podiums, and we’re going to get P5s, P6.”

Certainly, the characteristics of Suzuka don’t appear to augur well for  repeat of last weekend. Lower levels of downforce are used at the high-speed circuit and tyre degradation — Ferrari’s Achilles Heel this year — is significant.

Should Red Bull continue to flounder, Ferrari could still find itself in the chasing pack, having qualified second and third in Japan last year, although it’s once again likely to be fighting against a resurgent McLaren and improving Mercedes.


Will Lawson beat Sargeant for Williams seat in 2024?

Liam Lawson Logan Sargeant

Lawson vs Sargeant: who will start 2024 at the wheel of an F1 car?


Since stepping in to replace an injured Ricciardo at the Dutch Grand Prix, Liam Lawson has become a revelation: finishing 13th in Zandvoort, 11th in Monza and 9th in Marina Bay. His results have almost certainly placed the Kiwi on multiple teams’ radars, including Williams, which may look to refresh its 2024 line-up following the continued poor performance of Logan Sargeant.

The young American made another critical error during last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix: running wide and hitting the wall at Turn 8. The contact was enough to rip off the Williams’ front wing and cause a full safety car — Sargeant ultimately finishing last on the road before a time penalty dropped Fernando Alonso behind him.

This certainly hasn’t been the first mistake the rookie has made this season — with heavier crashes in Australia and Zandvoort — and he has also failed to meet the mark set by Alex Albon. His team-mate has clocked up  top-ten finishes in Bahrain, Canada, Britain and Italy.

In the past, team principal James Vowles has offered sympathy and support for Sargeant’s position, but emphasised that he needed to demonstrate continued improvement and to score points. With neither in evidence — at least from the outside — Williams may well opt to make a move for Lawson as it aims to pitch both of its cars into the midfield battle.


Japan’s F1-frenzied fan base out in full force

Japanese Grand Prix fans

After missing out on F1 action in 2020 and 2021, Japanese F1 fans returned to Suzuka in full force for 2022

Grand Prix Photo

Many among F1’s Japanese fanbase spare no effort in showing their support for drivers, the race and the series itself. The crowd is awash with fans in full race suits and helmets, wearing custom hats, and even bringing extravagant gifts for their favourite drivers.

“I got a little horse this morning!” said Sebastian Vettel ahead of the 2022 Japanese GP. “Not a real horse. I mean… They come up with very thoughtful gifts. Nice letters and nice messages.”

They’re very passionate; crazy, but in a good way,” said Verstappen. “And they really dress up for it as well. You see quite a few people walking around with a DRS rear wing on their head. It just shows you how popular motor sport I think is in Japan.”

The sheer scale of the 200,000-strong attendance expected at this weekend’s grand prix also plays a part in summoning the unique Suzuka atmosphere, that doesn’t go unnoticed by drivers, even during the race.

“You can’t help but smile,” said Lando Norris. “It’s hard to because of the helmet but when you look in the grandstand and see people cheering for you, it’s really nice.”

Japanese GP fans

Grand Prix Photo

Japanese GP fans

Grand Prix Photo