Red Bull in the Suzuka competition Max Verstappen came back victorious after a difficult weekend in Singapore. At the same time, Red Bull secured this season’s team championship.
Behind Verstappen, McLaren, who reached the podium, were stymied Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri. With Valtteri Bottas there was even an exceptionally catastrophic weekend, when the race was abandoned after six rounds and two crashes.
Urheilu’s F1 expert Jukka Mildh brings together the talking points of the Japanese GP.
What solved it?
Verstappen, who started from the pole, decided the victory right at the start. The Dutchman even had a little trouble when the tires started to squeal. McLaren’s Norris got close, but Verstappen was able to hold on to the top spot. It had a lot of value, especially at a track like Suzuka.
– The track was particularly difficult and challenging for the tires. That’s why you had to succeed at the start and be able to drive in the front in clean air. That would be the best way to save on tires. Verstappen was then able to drive an even race after the start, says Mildh.
With the victory, Verstappen also secured Red Bull’s brand championship six races before the end of the season. Red Bull dominates the F1 series even more fiercely than ever, when you look at the available points.
Verstappen and his teammates Sergio Perez have taken a good 88 percent of all their available points. Nothing like it has ever been seen before.
Red Bull dominated the F1 series for the first time in the early 2010s, but then for the latter half of the decade Mercedes took over. Mildh praises how Red Bull has been able to renew itself, even though the management figures in the team have remained the same.
As the biggest factor, Mildh cites the fact that Red Bull succeeded best when the cars of the F1 series were renewed for the last season.
– They deserve their championship when they have been able to do something better with the new car concept. Red Bull always remains at the top in the races. Verstappen is also a really superior driver at the moment. Red Bull would probably have been able to win the marque championship with one driver at best, if they carried a little, Mildh estimates.
The situation is special in the sense that tighter competition between the teams was sought with the new car concepts. In addition, the series has come with a spending ceiling and, for example, limiting wind tunnel time for the most successful teams.
However, we are now in a situation where one team dominates the series by the clearest margin ever.
– When thinking about smoothing the performance of cars, it has not been successful. The drafters of the rules have not succeeded in their tasks, says Mildh.
With Red Bull’s dominance, the team’s spending budget for 2021 has also come up for discussion. Last year, it turned out that Red Bull had exceeded the F1 series’ spending ceiling.
According to Mildh, it is difficult to verify whether crossing the spending ceiling has helped Red Bull to a superior position.
– It is difficult to prove what the exceeded sum of money has been used for. This is speculation, but Red Bull must have been at their limits in terms of using resources. It could be that Red Bull has taken a risk. These are difficult to prove, but Red Bull is a cunning team and always skilled in such matters, Mildh reflects.
In any case, there is already speculation as to whether anyone can catch Red Bull before the next scheduled rule changes in 2026.
Ferrari entered this season with high expectations Charles Leclerc thought, for example, at the end of August in connection with the Dutch GP, that it may be impossible to beat Red Bull before the next big rule changes.
– There is a danger here that Red Bull will dominate the series with these rules. Others have a lot to do. I think we will still see a good boost to the series. Mercedes has not given up. Ferrari has had a bad season compared to expectations, Mildh describes.
What about Bottas?
Valtteri Bottas’ season has been very successful so far, but the race at Suzuka turned out to be exceptionally dark.
Bottas got off to a good start from the 16th grid and moved up a few places, but found himself in a tight spot before the opening corner. Alpine Esteban Ocon turned in front of Bottas. It caused a Finnish evasion movement. Bottas hit Williams to Alex Albon on the other side. Alfa Romeo had a flat tire.
Bottas had to go to the pits and fell to the top of the tail. When the Finn started to climb and overtake Williams Logan Sargeantthe American driver locked his brakes and crashed into the side of a Finnish car.
Bottas had to pit again, but stated that the Alfa Romeo was undriveable due to the hits.
– Valtteri immediately fell victim to the others at the start. Then there was quite a flash from Sargeant. Valtteri was a billiard ball in this competition today, says Mildh.
Bottas and Alfa Romeo went into the Suzuka race weekend with high hopes, because the updates brought to Singapore had to be seen specifically in Japan. However, Bottas was only 16th in qualifying, even though he felt he got the most out of his car.
At the end of the season, Alfa Romeo will have a tight battle for the last places in the battle between the teams in six races.
– As far as I understand, more update packages are coming to Alfa Romeo this season. It’s still a mystery where it will lead in terms of performance. The stable is still moving at a slow pace when talking about things related to development, Mildh underlines.
Mildh names Red Bull’s Sergio Perez as the biggest flop of the F1 weekend. The Mexican’s race was rough and ended prematurely.
He took a hit at the start of the Mercedes Lewis Hamilton with.
Later, Perez broke the rules for driving behind the safety car and received a five-second stoppage penalty. Perez didn’t even have time to complete his penalty before crashing into Haas due to late braking to Kevin Magnussen.
There was so much damage to the Mexican Red Bull that Perez had to stop the race. However, he was still sitting in the car and spinning on the track to such an extent that the penalty was not served at the next race in Qatar.
Perez had a strong start to the season and challenged Verstappen especially on the street tracks, but recently the trend has been downwards again.
Already in qualifying, Verstappen beat Perez by a good 0.8 seconds. That’s a very significant difference in formula one.
– Perez’s driving left the impression that his concentration was not right. At the same time, the team mate does a really punctual job. To an outsider, it looks like Perez doesn’t have things under control. He needs a posture exercise, says Mildh.
Mildh speculates that the pressure exerted by Red Bull’s management, known for its impulsiveness, may affect the Mexican. At the moment, Perez’s contract is valid until the end of next season, but changes can happen quickly in the energy drink brand’s stable.
– Perez may be under pressure to be able to keep his own team place. As long as Helmut Marko is making the final moves, Perez is in a tough spot. Red Bull must have two consistent drivers. Now Perez needs to put his mental side in order and his affairs in order, Mildh reflects.
In general, Mildh considers McLaren to be the biggest surprise in the F1 world at the moment. The successful team of previous years has dragged itself back to the top fight.
Now Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri were the best drivers in Japan after Verstappen. Mercedes and Ferrari were left behind in Suzuka.
Even at the beginning of the season, McLaren struggled at the tail end, but after the updates brought to Silverstone for the British GP in July, they have been able to challenge the big teams.
Mildh appreciates McLaren’s trick.
– McLaren’s very steep development curve is a surprise. It’s very rare that a team coming from behind the top box is able to make such big strides. The stable has developed at a tremendous speed during the year. Now they even got the update package working, Mildh said.
As icing on the cake, the drivers Norris and Piastri have also been hit.
– An even driver duo is emerging for McLaren, a bit like Mercedes has had George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, Mildh compares.
Next, F1 competes in Qatar in two weeks. Max Verstappen has an excellent chance to secure the drivers’ championship already in Saturday’s sprint race.
Verstappen now leads the series with a difference of 177 points to his teammate Sergio Perez. In F1 sprints, the top eight get points. The winner gets eight points and from there we go down one point at a time.
Sixth place in the sprint would be enough for Verstappen, even if Perez wins.
With the results seen earlier this season, it seems very likely that Verstappen’s championship will be decided in Doha.
– Deciding the championship in a sprint race is perhaps a bit bad for the sport, but that’s the way it goes when the rules are written like this, says Mildh.
Points standings of the teams
Drivers’ point standings