After failing to claim his second World Championship at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, this weekend’s returning Japanese Grand Prix presents Max Verstappen with his second shot at becoming a double World Champion.
The Dutchman endured a difficult weekend in Singapore, largely through no fault of his own.
Red Bull insufficiently fuelled the championship leader’s RB18 in qualifying, which led to a disappointing starting position.
He’s started this weekend in Suzuka considerably better, after ending the treacherously wet FP1 in P6 and FP2 in P3.
To become a two-time World Champion this weekend, Verstappen needs to basically win the race and claim the fastest lap.
Verstappen needs to outscore Charles Leclerc by six points and Sergio Pérez by eight, something that winning with the fastest lap would guarantee.
Whilst the focus should be on whether the 25-year-old will claim the title or not this weekend, there is another topic dominating the headlines.
Red Bull will discover on Monday if they did indeed exceed the 2021 budget cap, something which they have according to several reports.
Should they be found guilty, then the range of punishments that the FIA could award them with varies from a hefty fine, to a resource reduction and even a 2021 points deduction.
A points deduction is highly unlikely; however, according to the rulebook it is a possibility.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner insists that the Austrians have “absolutely complied” with the budget but are “waiting” to hear the incoming announcement.
“We were expecting certificates on Wednesday, hoping for them on Wednesday but that’s obviously been delayed for all of the teams,” said Horner, speaking on Sky Sports F1.
“The FIA has taken that choice so we await with interest to see what happens on Monday.
“But again we feel we absolutely complied with the cost cap, with the regulations, [we are] happy with our submission, and are waiting to hear what the feedback is.”
It’s somewhat unfortunate that the announcement wasn’t made on Wednesday, as at least then it’ll be known whether Verstappen is on the verge of his first or second title.
It could be argued that the cost cap saga has distracted the Dutchman and the team, something their performance at Singapore would suggest.
Despite it all, Horner is certain that the team’s “focus” is on this weekend, in what is a big one for Verstappen.
“It’s a big weekend for Max,” said Horner.
“It’s a possibility rather than a probability but it’s effectively another match point for him. That’s what we are focused on.
“The amount of noise that’s been around other topics, one can only think it’s designed to be a bit of a distraction.
“But we’re very happy with where we are, with where our submission for the cap is, and all focus on this weekend.”