This website uses cookies for analytics and personalised content. View our Privacy Policy for more information on cookies.
Skip to main content

Aussie watch ahead of the F1® Japanese Grand Prix 2024

Matt Clayton
Thursday, 4 April 2024

Adjust your clocks and settle in for the afternoon – Japan comes much earlier than usual for Aussie fans this year, and there’s opportunities for both Aussies on the F1® grid to shine at Suzuka this Sunday.

Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice? When Max Verstappen came to Singapore last year on a record 10-race winning streak, it was Ferrari and Carlos Sainz who left Red Bull Racing feeling blue. When Verstappen came to Australia two weeks ago on a nine-race run, looking to equal that all-time winning record? We know what happened next…

Also a coincidence, as we head into round four of the Formula 1® season with the Japanese Grand Prix (Apr 5-7)? Suzuka is the circuit that’s been next on the calendar both times after Sainz snapped Verstappen’s winning ways, which might be a bad omen for the rest after what the Dutchman did to the field last year after his Singapore swoon. A 19-second win from pole on a weekend where he led every on-track session was a venomous response after Singapore, Verstappen revelling in Suzuka’s sweeping curves with the RB19 at his fingertips. This year’s car might be more potent, if (as Australia proved) occasionally fallible.

Register your interest to find out when tickets go on sale for the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix 2025.

For Australian drivers Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo, Suzuka offers a chance to capitalise on momentum or uncork some, while for Australian fans, Japan being in autumn rather than spring is even sweeter from a start time point of view, with daylight savings ending on the east coast the night before race day.

Here's what we’re watching – in daylight! – this weekend.

Piastri’s happy returns

Japan 2023 – just nine races ago, incidentally – will always have a special place in Piastri’s heart, as it was at Suzuka that the McLaren man took his maiden front-row start on the Saturday and his first podium finish on the Sunday when he finished third on his maiden visit to the revered track.

While an unobstructed view at the start of the race and a trophy at the end of it made Japan memorable for the driver who celebrates his 23rd birthday this Saturday, Suzuka ‘23 left a slightly sour taste as Piastri finished 17secs behind McLaren teammate Lando Norris despite starting one place ahead of him, Norris’ superior tyre management exposing an area Piastri knows he needs to work on.

Piastri’s race pace was again inferior to his teammate in Melbourne a fortnight ago, which – with Verstappen unusually out of the picture thanks to a brake-related retirement – meant Norris finished on the podium while Piastri was fourth for the second race running. McLaren’s MCL38 machine should relish Suzuka’s sweeps and swoops, meaning Piastri is a strong chance to repeat that breakthrough podium from last September.

Ricciardo’s reset

You don’t need us to tell you that it’s been a tough start for 2024 for Ricciardo, who is yet to outqualify RB teammate Yuki Tsunoda in three attempts, and had to grimace for the cameras as the team celebrated its first points in Ricciardo’s backyard when Tsunoda finished eighth, which became seventh after Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) was penalised after the race in Melbourne.

While ex-drivers weighed in on Ricciardo’s season start – some of whom the average fan had to Google to discover who they were – and the rumour mill out of Liam Lawson’s native New Zealand optimistically had Ricciardo being replaced sooner rather than later, the 34-year-old decamped to his native Western Australia and put his phone on silent to regroup ahead of what’s becoming an increasingly-important slate of races before the series shifts back to Europe next month.

There’s been signs of optimism for Ricciardo across the first three races, but only slivers, and Suzuka – where he missed out last year with injury and has only raced at once since 2019 – is a tough place to find form. Ricciardo will relinquish his car to Japanese ex-F2 driver and Red Bull junior Ayumu Iwasa for FP1 on Friday, meaning he’ll need to hit the ground running from FP2 to get his season out of first gear.

Perez tiptoes the tightrope

Those of us wondering what Red Bull Racing could do with Verstappen out of the picture got a glimpse of the answer in Melbourne, where teammate Sergio Perez spent just five of the 58 laps inside the top three as he recorded an underwhelming – for the equipment he’s in – fifth-place finish.

Perez being a non-factor in Australia was a surprise given how his season started, with back-to-back second-place results to Verstappen in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia exactly what his team wants as he looks to arrest his form slide of late last year and earn another contract at the sport’s dominant force.

One thing to keep an eye on? Perez has no room for as messy of a Japanese GP as he had last year, where he earned four penalty points after being judged to have overtaken Alonso’s Aston Martin under safety car conditions before crashing into Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and eventually retiring.

Perez now has eight penalty points; any driver who accumulates 12 over a 12-month span gets banned for a race. None of the Mexican’s points are due to expire until Singapore in September, meaning he has to be on his best behaviour for another 14 rounds.

Japan fast facts
Circuit name/location: Suzuka International Racing Course, Ino
Length/laps: 5.807km, 53 laps
Grands Prix held/debut: 33, 1987
Most successful driver: Michael Schumacher (six wins)
Most successful team: Ferrari, McLaren (seven wins apiece)
2023 podium: 1st: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), 2nd: Lando Norris (McLaren), 3rd: Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

The Formula 1® Japanese Grand Prix 2024 will be available to watch live on Foxtel and Kayo. See our article What time does the F1® Japanese Grand Prix 2024 start for Australians? for your local timings.