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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Japanese Grand Prix talking points: Verstappen returns to winning ways as Perez solidifies grip on Red Bull seat

After a couple of days have passed to digest all the happenings at the Japanese Grand Prix, it’s once again time to go over all the big talking points after the latest round of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship.

It’s situation normal once again at the top

Let’s be honest here, did we really think that the Australian Grand Prix was a turning point and we were going to have something new happen in F1?

No, of course not.

Especially given the next race was Suzuka and a race in which Red Bull have seemingly been untouchable at for the last three years.

Suzuka of course was the same race in which Red Bull and Max Verstappen vaulted right back to the top of the charts after their one blip last season in Singapore, meaning there really was no doubting that the pecking order would resume to normal after the anomaly that was the Australian Grand Prix.

So while every non-Red Bull and Verstappen fan relished Albert Park a fortnight ago, it now seems like a distant memory given we are back to the status quo in the world of F1.

Perez doing what is needed to stay at Red Bull

I’m going to be very cautious in writing this next point as I wrote a very similar section on Sergio Perez 12 months ago only for it to be sorely dated a few rounds later.

But, right now, Perez has done everything in his power to retain his seat at Red Bull in 2025.

Going into this season it was arguably the hottest available seat for the very hotly contested 2025 silly season.

With a Mercedes seat now available too, it’s got some competition, but there are many eyes on Perez and just whether or not he will be able to maintain his position at the team.

After four rounds, Perez has done what he has needed to do. Three second places and a fifth is solid particularly given the non-podium in Albert Park a fortnight ago can be put down to his penalty in qualifying and a technical issue with the car on the Sunday. So, it’s hard to argue against his driving so far in 2024.

Added to this his number one challenger in Daniel Ricciardo has been faltering badly at the junior RB team, and the one who has been shining in Yuki Tsunoda is seemingly being passed over. Perez right now has to be feeling a lot better than he was only a few months ago.

It is early though and perhaps this is a point we need to re-visit in a couple of months. But keep this up Sergio and the Red Bull seat will remain yours.

(Photo by F1 Oversteer)

Tsunoda is being unfairly ignored by Red Bull

Speaking of Tsunoda, why isn’t he in more serious contention for the senior Red Bull seat?

All eyes were on RB for this season when it came to Daniel Ricciardo and the expectations that he was set to shine on his full time return to the sport and solidify his chances on the fairytale return to the senior Red Bull team for 2025.

But that so far has gone horribly wrong for the Aussie, while his teammate Tsunoda has done everything and more that people were expecting from his more experienced teammate.

But that seemingly has come to nothing when it comes to the attention of the Milton Keynes team.

Tsunoda has been driving the wheels off that RB in 2024 and really should be in the conversation more for a move up to the team, especially given in the past we’ve seen drivers promoted for less.

While that seat at Red Bull is seemingly safe for Perez right now based on form, should things go belly up for him once again as the season progresses and Tsunoda continues his strong form, he easily should be considered for a promotion.

Mercedes in a far worse position than feared

What is going on at Mercedes?

Pre-season things looked good, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell praising the car and seemingly bullish about the prospects of the W15 going into the 2024 season.

However, after four races, things seemingly are getting worse for the team, with no podiums and only 34 points to show so far.

That puts them behind Mercedes customer team McLaren, and only one point ahead of another Mercedes customer team Aston Martin.

It is also their worst start to a season since 2011 where the team had scored 26 points after four rounds.

The frustration seems to especially be creeping in with Lewis Hamilton, who seemingly is confused as to what is going on at the team and constantly letting his frustrations out at journalists when questions are raised about his switch to Ferrari next season.

In hindsight, it seems like another incredibly smart move by the multiple World Champion in the same vein as his switch to Mercedes from McLaren in 2013.

For whoever ends up at the team replacing Hamilton next season, let’s hope that the team’s fortunes change and change soon.

(Photo by Pitpass)

Will Williams end up missing a race?

Let’s be honest, if they keep crashing, they might just have no cars left.

Two crashes for the team in Suzuka puts them in a precarious position moving forward, and although Albon’s crash wasn’t his fault, they have to be getting nervous at every round as they continue to wait for their spare chassis to arrive.

That doesn’t look like it’ll happen until Miami, so both Albon and Logan Sargeant are on very thin ice right now when it comes to keeping their cars on the road.

Failure to do so could mean they have nothing to race at an upcoming round, and that would put the team in an even worse position than they already are.

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here


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