Thursday marked media day at Suzuka ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, where the world waits agog to see how Red Bull get along…
Following their drubbing at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, all eyes are on Red Bull to see whether the World Champion team bounce back to their usual strength at a track that looks tailor-made for their car.
It’s led to some tasty headlines, with Lewis Hamilton weighing in on their underperformance, while there’s plenty of other news from up and down the grid. Let’s look through the big F1 news stories from Thursday!
Lewis Hamilton watching to see extent of Red Bull dominance
With Red Bull’s RB19 failing to make it into Q3 before a subdued race on Sunday in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton says a bad result for Red Bull in Japan would confirm that ‘something’s up’ following the FIA’s recent introduction of a technical directive aimed at curtailing flexing bodywork and joints.
“I would think that if they’re not 30 seconds ahead like they have done in the past, then something’s up,” Hamilton told media ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
“It was obviously a difficult weekend the last one, but their car should be phenomenal here. They’ve been phenomenal all year long, their pace at pretty much every circuit.
“I mean, it’s going to be great to watch that car in general. Normally, you’d come here and it’s beautiful to watch the laps that they do because the whole team and the drivers are doing an amazing job with the package they have. So it’ll be interesting to see how the weekend goes.
“I hope we’ll be closer and I hope they’re not as fast as that 30-second gap they’ve had in the past.”
Too many Red Bull drivers means hunt for Lando Norris is off?
In recent weeks, fuelled by Norris and Red Bull personnel themselves, there has been plenty of flirting between the two sides about the prospect of Norris joining the Red Bull squad or partnering up with Max Verstappen.
But, with Daniel Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda, and Liam Lawson all trying to fit into two seats at AlphaTauri, as well as Sergio Perez’s future seemingly assured for the time being, Helmut Marko appears to be downplaying the possibility of snagging Norris any time soon.
“We almost have a luxury problem,” Marko said.
“Anyone who doesn’t drive in our B team next season will be the reserve and simulator driver for four cars.”
Max Verstappen lashes out at ‘not real’ F1 fans for celebrating winning run ending
With Red Bull failing to win every race in 2023 thanks to their Singapore defeat, Max Verstappen wasn’t happy with fans who celebrated their loss for the wrong reasons.
While the Dutch driver had no qualms about being beaten, he said fans celebrating due to finding their winning run boring don’t appreciate every aspect of F1.
“Honestly, I have zero interest in that,” said Verstappen, as per The Race, on the theory that Singapore was a good race in the interests of Formula 1. “For me, it was just we got beaten, in a very clear way. I don’t think about what is good for Formula 1.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily bad what was happening to Formula 1 because we were just better than everyone else. And if people can’t appreciate that, then you’re not a real fan.
“But that’s how it goes. That’s why I was also super relaxed about it, because we didn’t perform and other people did a better job than us.
“Then of course they deserved to win.
“They shouldn’t win because people say it’s boring that we are winning.”
Sebastian Vettel sets Suzuka ‘abuzz’ as comeback talk swirls
Four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel is in Suzuka for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, with the German driver helping to reveal the launch of new ‘bee hotels’ on the outside of Turn 2, helping to promote biodiversity at the track.
With the entire grid of drivers, as well as several team boss, heading out to meet Vettel at the corner, it’s prompted further speculation about a possible comeback – Vettel himself recently refusing to rule out the possibility and revealing he’s remained race fit while on the sidelines.
The possibility has the approval of 2016 F1 World Champion and compatriot Nico Rosberg.
“He’s only been out for a short moment now and why not if the right opportunity arises?” Rosberg told Sky Sports News.
“Why not think about it? If he would enjoy it, then it makes sense for him to keep the door open.
“Of course, all the fans in the world would love him to come back as he’s so popular as well.”
Yuki Tsunoda/AlphaTauri confirmation coming this weekend?
The ongoing speculation about the AlphaTauri line-up for next season is expected to come to an end this weekend, with a decision confirming Yuki Tsunoda in one of the seats slated for the coming days at Tsunoda’s home race.
A Tsunoda/Daniel Ricciardo line-up for next year is the expected outcome, while Tsunoda himself confirmed the decision will be made public “soon” as he spoke to media on Thursday.
But three into two does not go and, if rumours are to be believed and Tsunoda is secure, then that leaves Liam Lawson and Ricciardo battling it out for the final spot. Tsunoda was asked which driver he would prefer and suggested both have their merits.
“I think both perspectives have positives,” Tsunoda said. “Daniel definitely brings more experience and he showed a lot of feedback. He definitely can tell more details about how the car is behaving.
“So I think it helps a lot for the engineers and I think engineers like it, especially how he talks and how he helped the development side. So if the team wants to develop the car more to be competitive, maybe Daniel.
“But at the same time, Liam, I think he showed in the first three races that immediately he showed the good performance, and probably he’s still progressing.”