Just like last season, the Japanese GP is the race after Red Bull’s winning streak is broken. For various reasons, both the 2023 Singapore GP and the 2024 Australian GP have been difficult for the reigning champions. Last year, the introduction of two technical directives coincided with Sainz’s victory, creating some speculation as to how much it would affect Red Bull.

“Graining management is an area where Ferrari has proven particularly strong. And it’s probably no coincidence that they were strong in Las Vegas and now in Australia,” Christian Horner said after the Australian GP.

In both events, Pirelli brought to the track the softest tires on offer, namely C3-C4-C5. Graining is generally more likely when using softer compounds on ‘semi-permanent’ tracks. At these events, there is usually less grip and the surface is “greener”.

After the debacle in Singapore last year, Max Verstappen arrived in Suzuka and demolished the competition.

He took pole position by more than half a second, finishing 20 seconds ahead of McLaren on race day. Suzuka is more of a ‘normal’ track and certainly less ‘unique’ in terms of technical characteristics compared to Singapore and even Albert Park.

For this reason, we expect Verstappen and the RB20 to be stronger this weekend. They should be about 2-3 tenths faster than they were on race day. Red Bull’s tire struggles in Australia are unlikely to be repeated this weekend.

RED BULL BRINGS THE FIRST UPGRADE PACKAGE

The track in Japan corresponds to the RB20. Its strength is in fast corners, of which there are many in Suzuka. In the first sector, the first challenger – Ferrari – could struggle against Mclaren, given that the MCL38’s strengths are mainly in fast corners.

“Our car worked really well in Australia. From the first lap it seemed like a winning car,” explained Carlos Sainz.

“But it will be difficult to maintain this pace at every track until we put in the upgrades – to close the gap that we saw in Bahrain and Jeddah compared to Red Bull.”

Speaking of upgrades, Ferrari will bring a minor upgrade for Suzuka, which was approved a few days ago. The main improvements of the Italian team will arrive in Imola.

Meanwhile, Red Bull will try to get ahead of Ferrari. The latest upgrades from Milton Keynes, which will debut in Japan, are not considered “secondary”.

These upgrades include a new floor, which Ferrari will not replace until the 7th race. This macro component is key in creating aerodynamic load and performance on modern F1 cars. In addition, Red Bull will not move to the concept of zero sides, despite what was previously said.

Red Bull is undoubtedly the favorite this weekend in Japan. However, weather forecasts indicate that rain could play a factor at Suzuka this weekend. That could throw a spanner in the works and give the likes of Ferrari and McLaren the chance to upset the reigning champions.