Max Verstappen aims for 'perfect weekend' in Japan to retain F1 title

Dutchman can retain his drivers' title if he gains eight points on nearest rivals Leclerc and six on Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen attends a press conference ahead of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 6, 2022.  (Photo by Philip FONG  /  AFP)
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Max Verstappen said he needs "a perfect weekend" at Suzuka to clinch his second straight Formula One drivers' championship at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen is 104 points clear of nearest rival Charles Leclerc and can retain his F1 title if he gains eight points on the Ferrari man and six on Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

To do so, Verstappen needs to win the race and claim the fastest lap, or if he finishes first and Leclerc finishes lower than second place.

The flying Dutchman is trying not to think too hard about wrapping up the title, despite 12 previous Formula One world champions having been crowned at the Japanese Grand Prix.

"It would be very nice if it was here, but if it doesn't happen here I will be even more in favour the next race," said the 25-year-old, who missed the chance to clinch the championship at last week's Singapore Grand Prix after a seventh-place finish.

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

"I need a perfect weekend to be able to clinch the title here but to be honest I'm not really thinking about it too much."

Should the 25-year-old triumph at Suzuka he would become only the third driver after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel to clinch the title with four races to spare.

The Japanese Grand Prix returns after a three-year absence because of Covid and Verstappen is excited to be competing in front of the "crazy" Japanese fans again.

"They're very passionate – crazy but in a good way, and they really dress up," said Verstappen, who has won 11 of 17 races so far this season.

"You could see quite a few people walking around with a DRS rear wing on their heads. It shows you how popular motor sport is in Japan."

Verstappen's Red Bull car will carry a Honda logo at this weekend's race as part of a "strengthened relationship" with the Japanese company.

Honda officially left Formula One at the end of last season but signed an agreement to continue providing technical assistance in engine development to Red Bull and sister team Alpha Tauri until the end of the 2025 season.

Verstappen will be looking to improve on last weekend's performance, after a fuelling blunder in qualifying left him with too much work to do on Singapore's tight Marina Bay street circuit.

Verstappen called the race "a prime example of how you don't want a weekend to go" but insisted there was "not really much to change" in Japan.

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes talks to the media in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka. Getty Images

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said he did not plan on retiring from Formula One any time soon.

Hamilton, who races for Mercedes, signed a two-year contract with the Brackley-based team last year keeping him at the outfit until the end of 2023 at least.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday's race, Hamilton said he would race beyond the end of that deal.

"I plan on staying longer," Hamilton said, adding he definitely wanted to remain with Mercedes in some role for life.

"It's just not set in stone how long."

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff in an interview with Channel 4 that aired over the Singapore Grand Prix weekend said Hamilton, who turns 38 in January, had told him he could go on for another five years.

Hamilton said he hadn't spoken to Wolff about his comments but that it was a possibility.

"I'm feeling good," said the Briton, who made his debut in 2007 with McLaren before moving to Mercedes at the end of 2012.

"I love what I'm doing.

"We have a lot of work to do, a lot to achieve still.

"So I'm not planning on going anywhere, any time soon."

Updated: October 06, 2022, 7:53 AM