Webber a good outside bet
Sky Sports' F1 pundit Tony Jardine previews the Japanese GP and wonders if anyone can challenge Sebastian Vettel at Suzuka.
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Suzuka is one of Formula One's great heritage tracks, adored by fans and drivers alike.
It ranks up there with Spa and Silverstone as one of the cornerstone venues on the Grand Prix calendar. Set in the centre of Hondaland and it's dramatic fairground attractions, the drivers enjoy their own thrilling rides around the high-speed track famous for the Senna-Prost wars of 1989 and 1990 and for the crowning of 13 world champions over 27 previous races at the circuit.
It is the only genuine figure of eight circuit with a crossover section in the championship, almost Scalextric like, and it is a real experience drivers love.
The Japanese fans are passionate about F1, they queue Wimbledon style the night before for the best places and tickets usually sell out long before race day.
This is one place Sebastian Vettel won't get booed; they adore him. In fact his biggest danger this weekend is getting mobbed by the fans, the opposition are unlikely to prove a major threat, that is unless something goes wrong.
Vettel is on course for his fifth consecutive win of 2013 and his fourth win in Japan. He simply loves this track and will excel here, as will his faultless Red Bull which will lap up the high-speed turns of the S bends and the legendary flat-out 130R.
It is a case now of bet against Vettel if you dare. Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes have again flattered to deceive, front-row qualifying in Korea but, unable to use the car's tyres properly, the Englishman became so frustrated that he was asking his team if they had any ideas during the race itself!
At the last two high-speed tracks of Spa and Monza, the team failed to deliver as well but I have Hamilton scraping into second place as they should change their strategy and encounter fewer tyre issues which even affected Vettel at one point in Korea.
Vettel will be tough to beat but if it things don't go his way Mark Webber should be there to capitalise in the other Red Bull. Others will say the team are disenchanted with Webber and there is no way they will help him, but they want to secure the world constructors' title so they will get behind him if Vettel hits trouble.
Your odds on Vettel won't be great but if you want the 90 per cent sure winner go with the Red Bull steamroller that is the German. However, Webber for his first win of the year is a good outside bet.
Fernando Alonso, like Hamilton, struggled in Korea but he should be in better form in Japan. A previous winner there, I have him in third place meaning he will keep Vettel's hand off the crown for another race at least, even if the German does win.
Alonso was at war with his tyres and with Pirelli in Korea. He blames the change of tyre construction following the Silverstone tyre failures for the drop in Ferrari form whereas previously the Italian car, like the Lotus, was kind on its tyres and made them last. Japan should be better for Ferrari.
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were the surprises in Korea - another great drive from behind by Raikkonen to take second position, with Grosjean a frustrated third. Their high-speed form is not so good so for Suzuka I have them in fifth and sixth with the Finn ahead.
As with the other car-driver combinations we are looking at effective aerodynamics and traction on this rollercoaster of a track.
Nico Rosberg should be in the mix in the other Mercedes, looking to make up for his disappointment of his first-lap retirement last year when tagged by Bruno Senna.
He, along with Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas, can nail down a top-10 finish.