What time is the Japanese GP? And how can Verstappen win the title? | Top Gear
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Thursday 28th September
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What time is the Japanese GP? And how can Verstappen win the title?

Victory and the fastest lap point can give Max Verstappen his second world title at the Japanese Grand Prix. Here’s how…

Published: 07 Oct 2022

This weekend F1 returns to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, the first time in three years that the race has been held thanks to you-know-what-19.

This is Good News because Suzuka is one of the best F1 tracks on the planet, home to the high-speed ‘S’ curves and the fearsome 130R turn. Reckon this year’s machinery will take the latter flat out?

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On track, the big thing to look out for is that Red Bull driver Max Verstappen could wrap up his second F1 title in Japan, holding a 104-point lead over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with teammate Sergio Perez two points further back.

Off track, a storm is brewing over F1’s so-called ‘cost cap’, the spending limit that was introduced to stop the big teams using their financial clout to make the minnows even more miniscule.

Last week in Singapore rumours suggested two teams - allegedly Aston Martin and Red Bull - had broken these rules in 2021, although the FIA has pushed back its deadline to announce who had complied and who hadn’t. Expect another war of words between the team bosses about what the penalty for overspending should be…

For a full breakdown of what to expect (and the permutations of Verstappen’s title bid) simply continue scrolling.

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What time is the Japanese Grand Prix? And what time is qualifying?

For UK fans, the first practice session commences at 4am on Friday 7 October, with the second practice session starting at 7am. The third and final shakedown follows on Saturday 8 October, again at 4am.

Qualifying starts at 7am on Saturday, while the grand prix itself is on Sunday 8 October: lights out is at 6am, so don’t forget to set an alarm.

What’s the weather going to be like?

Friday’s running is expected to be interrupted by frequent rain showers, although qualifying on Saturday should be dry with temperatures peaking at 22 degrees Celsius (or 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit, if you prefer).

Sunday’s Grand Prix is also set to be dry, although there’s a chance of rain towards the end of the race according to the latest forecasts. Wet finale, anyone?

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Where is the Japanese GP taking place?

The Japanese GP is being held at Suzuka, where it’s featured almost every year (the race moved to Fuji for 2007 and 2008) since the late 1980s. The track is located in the Mie Prefecture in Japan, about 50km from Nagoya.

How many laps is the Japanese GP?

All being well the Japanese GP should be 53 laps long, enough to meet the criteria for a 300km race distance. Organisers will be keen to ensure that this is the case this time: in 2019 the race results were called on lap 52 after the chequered flag was waved early by mistake. Oops.

How can Max Verstappen win the world title?

If Max Verstappen wins and takes the extra point for setting the fastest lap on Sunday, he’s champion for the second year running regardless of what his rivals do.

Only Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez mathematically remain in the hunt. A maximum of 112 points will remain on the table after Japan (there’s a sprint race coming up in Brazil don’t forget, for which you earn up to eight points), so if Verstappen gains eight points over Leclerc and six on Perez, he’ll be champion. Anything less than that and things won’t be decided until the US GP at least.

The massive caveat for all of this of course is that even if Leclerc gets a maximum haul from the remaining five races, Verstappen only needs to amass 34 points in that time to guarantee championship victory. Given his haul so far, it’s really a case of when not if he’ll prevail. 

How can I watch the Japanese GP?

UK viewers can watch the Japanese GP live on Sky Sports’ dedicated F1 channel, for which you’ll either need a subscription to Sky Sports (duh) or Now TV’s sports membership. Alternatively, Channel 4 broadcasts free-to-air highlights of qualifying and the race: those will be shown at 10:50am on Saturday and 12:30pm on Sunday, respectively.

If you’re up early enough but can’t watch the race live, you can tune in for BBC Radio 5 Live’s commentary from 4:30am on Sunday.

What’s the Top Gear view on the Japanese GP?

It’s great to see the Japanese Grand Prix back on the F1 calendar after two seasons of not being able to visit what’s undoubtedly one of the greatest racing venues in the world. While the title might already be a formality, watching this generation of racier F1 cars go wheel to wheel at Suzuka will be spectacular regardless. Now to adjust our sleep schedule…

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