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What We Learned From The Japanese Grand Prix

What we Learned From The Japanese Grand Prix

Written by Chris Winterburn

Valtteri Bottas defeated both his rivals, and Typhoon Hagibis, as he drove to victory in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday morning, handing Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport their sixth straight title in both the driver and constructor categories.

With Lewis Hamilton taking home the world championship yet again, the British driver was left to reflect on a bizarre season which started incredibly well, but has left him with more challenges moving forward than anyone could have anticipated. Aside from that it was a race of multiple talking points:

1, Lewis Hamilton needs to turn his focus to 2020 season

The British driver may well have celebrated yet another world title in fine fashion, but he will be aware that Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have shown the potential to challenge him on a more regular basis next season.

Yet again team failings cost him the victory on Sunday morning, however there was little complaining as he thanked his team for their continued support in recent seasons. There is nothing left to play for this term for the British driver, but he must take the challenge posed by both Verstappen and Leclerc seriously.

To do that he must look ahead to the 2020 campaign and come up with a strategy to make life difficult for the young upstarts who must remind him of himself a little.

2, Daniel Ricciardo and Renault F1 Team are ready for the season to end

Once heralded as the driver to take over from Hamilton, Ricciardo left Aston Martin Red Bull racing in search of greener pastures but has ended up with Renault, where he has watched far younger drivers surpass him.

Throughout the 2019 campaign the team has hardly ever got their setup right and the Australian has suffered. A world title looks unlikely now, and there will certainly need to be improvements ahead of next season is this sport shaking move is to end up a success.

The Australian fought for a sixth placed finish in Suzuka, but he has spent too much of the season looking at the front of the grid from afar, and that can’t have pleased one of the most talented drivers in the sport. Both Renault and Ricciardo look ready for this season of disappointment to end.

3, Racing Point SportPesa hit a speed wall but remain in the points

After the dramatic successes of recent weeks, a return of just two championship points feels like a failure for Racing Point SportPesa, which shows you just how far the team has come since the beginning of the year.

Yet, both Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez will look back at the Japanese Grand Prix as an experience to learn from, with the conditions negating the team’s biggest asset, their straight-line speed, a problem which Charles Leclerc also ran into. Perez will still be somewhat pleased with his two points as the team ends the season with some degree of consistency.

4, Early chequered flag an embarrassment for F1 and sponsors

A statement released on Sunday afternoon confirmed that the FIA are launching an investigation into the rather bizarre occurrence which took place at the end of the race, when the chequered flag was waved a lap early.

The Suzuka Grand Prix was pencilled to run for 53 laps, however it’s understood that the chequered light display panel was shown after just 52.

With the sport’s regulations still dictating that the race is declared over as soon as the chequered flag is shown, nothing could be done to rectify the error.

Whilst it can be laughed off as an unfortunate mistake, there is still no indication as to why the light panel was shown early, and it did actually impact the finishes of a number of the lower drivers on the grid, most notably Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.

Formula 1 will be embarrassed by the end of one of the more sponsor-heavy races of the calendar, especially as the sport looks to increase its popularity in Asia, one of the biggest markets in the world.

5, Carlos Sainz Jr is ready to shine in 2020

Over the last few races McLaren F1 Team has shown their gradual improvement with a string of truly impressive results, proving that the technical problems which have plagued the team for years are now a thing of the past.

Whilst everyone involved with the team was looking forward to starting from a position of strength with a clean slate in 2020 anyway, there is now genuine hope that the team has a star in their ranks in the form of Carlos Sainz Jr.

The Spaniard has been exceptional since the summer break, and his fifth-place finish, ahead of Leclerc, in Suzuka was the stuff of dreams for the British team. He showed race-smarts and a determination to take advantage of conditions, which is sometimes what can make a difference in F1.

Ahead of the 2020 season, Sainz Jr is settled and could be ready to shine for an entire campaign in 2020, especially with the turmoil in the paddock now seemingly no longer an issue for McLaren.

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