FANTASY FOCUS: Who should be in your team for Japan?
It’s a campaign we don’t want to end, but there are now just five races left to play in our inaugural Fantasy F1 season. So are you ready for the final hurdle? You’re no doubt desperate to start off in style at the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend – and we’ve dived into the data to help you along the way…
The winners in Russia
Lewis Hamilton said it wasn’t ‘how I wanted to win’ after team mate Valtteri Bottas was asked by Mercedes to let the Brit past for the lead - but his Russian Grand Prix victory was certainly appreciated by our Fantasy F1 players.
The four-time world champion finished the Sochi weekend with an impressive 48 points, helped by activating his qualifying streak (achieved by securing five Q3 appearances in a row). That means that over the past three races Hamilton has racked up 153 fantasy points – that’s more than Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon have scored all season.
Behind the Brit, Sebastian Vettel may have finished third in the race - but in our latest scoresheet he finished second ahead of Bottas, no doubt helped by the 10-point bonus he received for finishing in the top ten for a fifth race in a row.
Charles Leclerc perhaps deserves a shout out too, given he crossed the line in P7 to bring home 19 points in Fantasy F1 – and that would’ve doubled to 38 had you selected the Sauber star as your Turbo Driver.
The losers in Russia
Four laps. That’s how long Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley lasted in Sunday’s race, before terminal brake issues on both cars forced them out of the race – and that was after they had suffered similar spins early on.
A race to forget for both of their drivers then, with Hartley finishing the weekend with a -14 point haul while Gasly left with -11. Toro Rosso themselves managed just three points, their second worst result of the season so far.
Carlos Sainz will be another driver looking to bounce back in Japan, the Spaniard having endured a tough time in Sochi. A first-lap collision with Sergey Sirotkin ultimately ruined his race, and he lost six places to finish 17th – ending the weekend with zero points.
As mentioned, Hamilton and Vettel were both boosted by their respective bonus streaks at the weekend – and they weren’t the only ones to deliver the goods in Sochi.
Max Verstappen replicated Hamilton’s exploits by earning a five-point bonus while Ferrari activated their race streak bonus (earned after Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both finished in the top ten for the third time in a row).
Turning our attention to Suzuka, Verstappen is poised for a race-streak bonus – and he’ll earn you 10 points if he lands in the points. Red Bull are also in the running for the same number of points, they just need the Dutchman and Daniel Ricciardo to both have a clean race so they can unlock that streak.
Before race day though, there’s plenty of chances to pick up some points on Saturday as qualifying streaks are standing by for Mercedes, Force India, Esteban Ocon and Roman Grosjean. The two drivers can both be used as your chosen Turbo Driver, so there's a chance to earn more points...
Verstappen was in the mood to impress on his 21st birthday last Sunday, charging through the field in no time – and Fantasy F1 players (with the star in their team) will be hoping for more of the same this weekend.
He has history in Japan, finishing second for the last two years at Suzuka - the only current circuit on the F1 calendar on which he achieved podium finishes in both 2016 and 2017.
So, based on his Russian race charge, Suzuka historical form, and with bonuses due, Verstappen fans will be hoping the engine penalties taken in Russia were worth it and Max can score big in Japan.
Whether he can deliver the goods remains to be seen – but we’ve no doubt he’ll give it a good go!
Turbo Driver headache…
Selecting your Turbo Driver is among the biggest Fantasy F1 decisions you can make each weekend, given the driver (as long as they’re priced under $19m) will earn you double points. Sometimes that can be the difference between a good and bad weekend.
Fernando Alonso was the most popular pick in Russia with 25% of players using the McLaren driver. That decision didn’t exactly pay off, Alonso mustering up just 11 points – which would have doubled to 22.
So who has the form to earn a healthier return in Japan? We don’t like to make the decisions for you, but Force India’s Perez (priced at $11.7m) has reached Q3 for the last three years at Suzuka and has finished P7 in the last two years.
Another driver perhaps worth a punt is Nico Hulkenberg, the second most popular Turbo Driver pick at the Sochi Autodrom. The Renault star had a run of five consecutive points finishes (all between sixth and eighth place) at Suzuka until he retired last year.
So plenty of food for thought before the deadline…
While we’ve got you, don’t forget about your wildcard (if you’re yet to use it). With just five races to go, now could be the time to use it, allowing you to change your entire team before the deadline for free!
However, you can only use this once per season, so make sure it‘s the right time. Is that now? We’ll leave that to you to decide…
Have you signed up yet?
To start playing Fantasy F1, simply click here to create your team – and remember you can make changes to your line-up at any time up to the selection deadline, which is the start of qualifying in Suzuka on Saturday. And don't forget, there are a host of exclusive prizes on offer for the winner.