2022 Japanese GP: Jos Verstappen makes surprise decision as Max likely to seal title

Max Verstappen could wrap up his second championship in Japan this weekend.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is coy on chis chances of winning the title at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

There was a slight possibility of the Dutchman successfully defending his crown at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, but he needed fortune to favour him under the lights.

Verstappen needed a win with the fastest lap, with Charles Leclerc finishing eighth or lower, and Sergio Perez outside of the podium places.

However, the weekend took a turn for the worse when the 25-year-old was under-fuelled during qualifying, and again when he got a poor start from eighth on the grid.

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Having recovered to fifth, a move on Lando Norris did not go to plan, and Verstappen once more had to recover to a seventh-placed finish.

Perez took the win, while Leclerc finished second, bringing Verstappen’s lead in the championship down to 104 points.

This weekend, the 31-time race winner’s fate is in his own hands, and he needs to beat Leclerc by eight points, while outscoring Perez by six.

Realistically, this means winning the race with the fastest lap and, with rain set to affect running – as it already has done during practice – this might be another slightly complicated race.

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As a result, the Hasselt-born racer is not counting on his second title materialising this weekend in Suzuka.

“It would be very nice if it happens here, but if it doesn’t happen here, I will be more in favour [to win it at] the next race [in the United States],” Verstappen told Sky Sports.

“It doesn’t really change anything, you just want to have a good weekend and try to maximise everything you can.

“I need a perfect weekend to clinch the title here, but to be honest, I’m not really thinking about it too much.”

The Honda name has returned to the Red Bull and AlphaTauri cars last year in celebration of the Austrian company’s partnership with the Japanese car maker.

Honda have been making engines for both teams this year under Red Bull branding after the decision was made to outscore power unit production to them until the end of 2026.

Verstappen and Perez were set to race with a Japan-inspired livery in Suzuka last year, but the Japanese Grand Prix was called off for a second year running.

Red Bull ran the special livery at the replacement race in Turkey, where both drivers finished on the podium behind race winner, Valtteri Bottas.

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Perez’s defending against Sir Lewis Hamilton that day helped his team-mate towards his first championship, but Verstappen would have liked to travel to Japan last year on his way to a dramatic success in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t be here last year in a title fight, so that’s why we are looking forward to being back here, then we’ll see what happens. We need a perfect weekend, for sure,” he added.

Verstappen’s father, Jos, is not at the racetrack this weekend, so he will be celebrating any eventual title success from home.