This week, the Formula One World Championship returns to the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture for an early edition of the Japanese Grand Prix. Asian Motorsport previews Round 4 of the 2024 season and details all you to know before the weekend gets underway.

By Seb Tirado

Suzuka in the spring

In a bid for better calendar regionalisation this season, the Japanese Grand Prix has been moved to earlier in the year. This move to spring would also reduce the chance of rain during the weekend, as seen in previous Grands Prix, however current forecasts show a chance of a wet qualifying and race.

The start of last year’s Japanese Grand Prix would see Alex Albon suffer substantial damage | Credit: Formula One

Whatever the weather, the 5.807km Suzuka Circuit will still present a challenge for the 20 drivers this weekend. The sweeping Esses, the Degner curves, Spoon and the exhilarating 130R are all corners that are challenging and iconic in their own rights in the world of motorsport. In February, the circuit signed an extension of their contract with Formula One to hold the Japanese Grand Prix until 2029.

An important weekend for Yuki Tsunoda and Ayumu Iwasa

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool | Visa Cash App RB

This weekend will see Ayumu Iwasa make his F1 weekend debut by appearing in Free Practice 1 with RB. The Japanese driver became a member of the Honda Formula Dream Project in 2020 after winning the French F4 Championship, and was then inducted into the Red Bull Junior Team in 2021 ahead of competing in the F3 Asian Championship and FIA Formula 3, where he finished 8th and 12th respectively. He went on to finish 5th and 4th in FIA Formula 2 in 2022 and 2023 and now currently competes in the Super Formula Championship, where he scored points in the season-opener at Suzuka and currently stands 9th.

Having reached Q3 and finished 7th in the Australian Grand Prix, Yuki Tsunoda is hopeful for a good result this weekend in Suzuka. Speaking in Melbourne, he said “the whole weekend is a great way to go into Japan, especially with this result under the belt, and at least, I’m able to give some hope to the Japanese fans. I haven’t scored any F1 points at my home Grand Prix, but the car looks good, so let’s try again this year.  I’ve been resetting myself every week and our car has been very consistent, which is different compared to last year. For myself, I just learn from previous races and focus on what I can do better to help the team.”

With many drivers out of contract at the end of this season, including Tsunoda himself and his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Iwasa will be keen to put himself on RB’s radar for a possible race seat in 2025 with a good performance in FP1 and in this season of Super Formula, especially with current reserve driver and 2023 Super Formula vice-champion Liam Lawson also waiting in the wings.

Pérez currently stands 3rd in the Drivers’ Standings. In his five race starts last year, Lawson would finish a highest of 9th. | Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Indeed, a strong performance from Tsunoda in the Japanese Grand Prix and onwards this year could put him onto Red Bull’s radar for the second seat alongside Max Verstappen, should Tsunoda decide to not re-sign with RB and if Pérez, who is also out of contract for 2025, does not remain with the team next year.

The championship outlook

Max Verstappen currently leads the World Drivers’ Championship for Red Bull Racing with 51 points, closely ahead of Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with 47 points. Yuki Tsunoda is 11th in the standings for RB with 6 points and Alex Albon for Williams and Zhou Guanyu for Kick Sauber stand in 15th and 16th with 0 points.

In the World Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull Racing lead with 97 points, followed closely by Scuderia Ferrari with 93 points. RB are 6th in the standings with 6 points, just ahead of Haas with 4 points. With 0 points each, Williams stand in 8th and Kick Sauber stand in 9th.

Weekend schedule

Free Practice 1 – 02:30 UTC / 11:30 JST April 5th

Free Practice 2 – 06:00 UTC / 15:00 JST April 5th

Free Practice 3 – 02:30 UTC / 11:30 JST April 6th

Qualifying – 06:00 UTC / 15:00 JST April 6th

Japanese Grand Prix – 05:00 UTC / 14:00 JST April 7th

Header image credit: Formula One


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