Home Australia Five quick F1 hits: Sainz publicly catches up with Red Bull consultant, Japan toasts local hero

Five quick F1 hits: Sainz publicly catches up with Red Bull consultant, Japan toasts local hero

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Helmut Marko, Peter Hardenacke and Carlos Sainz speaking in the F1 paddock in Japan

Carlos Sainz is the hottest commodity ending his contract at the end of 2024, and speculation is rife about where he will lead next season.

Meanwhile, Japan salutes one of its own who completes a first in 12 years.

Here are five key moments from the Japanese Grand Prix.

1. Sainz continues his audition for 2025

Carlos Sainz entered the 2024 season with the news that it would be his last at Ferrari, making way for Lewis Hamilton in 2025.

Since then, the Spaniard has been magnificent, taking a couple of third places and winning the Australian Grand Prix.

His victory in Melbourne came just two weeks after he underwent surgery to remove his appendix, ruling him out of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Sainz finished ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc in every race starting in 2024, and is the only non-Red Bull driver to win a grand prix since the penultimate race of the 2022 season.

The Spaniard had to work his way onto the podium in Japan, needing to overtake McLaren’s Lando Norris and teammate Leclerc late in the race.

Sainz’s excellent start to the year is proving to be the perfect audition for potential new employers, with many in F1 speculating where the Spaniard will sit in 2025.

“Unfortunately, I have no idea where I will be next year,” he told Sky Sports.

“It is true that we are talking to many teams.

“I just need to stay focused on what I’m doing and prove to myself, prove to everyone, that when they give me a fast car, I maximize what they give me.”

2. Rumors accelerate when Sainz and Marko meet

The F1 news cycle is often fueled by rumors and speculation.

With several drivers out of contract at the end of this season, speculation can often dominate the conversation in the F1 paddock.

Carlos Sainz is front and center of that speculation, following his brilliant start to 2024.

So when he was photographed chatting with Red Bull Racing advisor Helmut Marko in Japan, he caught the eye.

Red Bull Racing consultant Helmut Marko, Sky Germany’s Peter Hardenacke and Carlos Sainz in the paddock before practice in Japan.(Getty Images: Mark Thompson)

Red Bull has not finalized its driver line-up for 2025, with Mexican star Sergio Perez’s contract ending this year.

During this season there has been much speculation about whether Red Bull will resign from Perez or look for another driver, including Sainz.

The media were quick to highlight the meeting between Sainz and Marko over the weekend, wondering if this is a sign that Red Bull is interested in the Spaniard.

The pair are in a relationship, with Sainz being part of the Red Bull program when he was a Torro Rosso (now RB) driver and Max Verstappen’s teammate.

So the meeting could be between friends who crossed paths in an F1 paddock. But the public meeting between the two will add to speculation that Perez’s days at Red Bull may be numbered.

3. Mercedes changes strategy at the last moment

Mercedes tried something different at Suzuka on Sunday, but it turned out to be the wrong decision.

When the cars returned to the pits after the race-stopping first-lap crash, the Mercedes pit wall decided to put Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on hard tires, while all but one of their top 10 rivals were on track. medium compound.

Mercedes attempted to make a pit stop work, which ultimately proved to be the slowest strategy, with only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc successfully executing the game plan but using a different tire compound combination.

With Mercedes on the verge of finishing eighth and ninth, Lewis Hamilton demanded that the team pit again for newer, faster tyres, to try and chase down Fernando Alonso in sixth and Australian Oscar Piastri in seventh.

Russell was able to catch up to the duo and overtake Piastri on the final lap of the race, but the Australian made a mistake on the penultimate lap that cost him time and allowed the Mercedes driver to overtake him.

4. Yuki Tsunoda adds a point for Japan

Japan always has some of the most passionate Formula 1 fans, and the costumes and signs in the crowd add to the atmosphere of one of the sport’s best weekends.

Something that has often been missing for the thousands of people who pass through the gates of Suzuka is a native driver scoring points.

Heading into Sunday’s race there was a lot of optimism that RB driver Yuki Tsunoda would finish in the top 10.

The Japanese-born driver did not disappoint his fans, winning a brilliant midfield battle to place tenth and earn a point for the world championship.

Kamui Kobayashi was the last Japanese driver to score points at his home grand prix, guiding his Sauber to third place in 2012.

5. Verstappen joins the 3,000 lap club

Max Verstappen’s list of achievements seems to grow week by week.

The Dutchman won his third consecutive Japanese Grand Prix from pole position, becoming the first driver since Michael Schumacher to complete the hat-trick at Suzuka.

He now has 57 grand prix wins, third on the all-time list.

During Sunday’s race, Verstappen surpassed 3,000 laps led in his F1 career.

He joins an exclusive list of drivers who have achieved that feat: Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen is about 500 laps away from overtaking Vettel, while Hamilton and Schumacher lead more than 5,000 laps in their careers.

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