Round 18 of the 2022 F1 season is headed to a track we’ve not seen since 2019 — Suzuka. The land of the rising sun is back after a two-year absence due to COVID. This is widely considered to be one of the best driver tracks on the schedule and is beloved amongst drivers for its flowing racing style. Overall, this is a different style track than we’ve seen elsewhere on the schedule in terms of racing style and even features. That makes it interesting for F1 DFS,


Suzuka Circuit Track Layout

Originally built as a test track for Honda, and still owned by Honda, the 3.6-mile, 18-turn layout is a fantastic layout. It’s the only figure-eight layout on the schedule, including a crossover during Segment 3 crossing over Segment 2, and it’s one of the biggest elevation change tracks as well. Over the course of the lap the drivers are in the throttle roughly 77-percent of the time and there are really only two big braking zones on the track, Turn 11 and the chicane. With a couple of DRS zones, there are some interesting passing zones here but mainly it comes down to the braking zones to pass.

Japanese GP F1 DFS Strategy

There are 53 laps in Sunday’s race which does give a decent amount of laps led points and chances to run up front. However, based on qualifying and practice, we should really only expect one driver to lead the bulk of the laps. The biggest part of the race will be the pit strategies and whether a team can do it with a one-stop strategy based on tire selections. The forecast has also changed with a lower chance of rain than originally expected. That’s good as the dry conditions at Suzuka are better for overtaking and moving through the field. In terms of how we’re building, we’re looking for drivers that may have qualified a bit lower than they ran at practice (especially FP3) and the driver from each team we believe will outrun their teammate. While Suzuka is it’s own track, it’s similar to places like Spa, Canada, and Austria which were all tracks that are mainly high speed with only one or two key braking spots on a lap.

There will be no practice to qualifying table this week due to FP1 and FP2 being complete wash outs and not like race conditions at all.


Top F1 DFS Captain Plays

Max Verstappen

Is there any other choice? He’s on the pole, ran fastest in FP3, and has been the most dominant driver of the season. He needs a win and the fastest lap to clinch the 2022 World Championship which is all in his control at this point. He will be the most popular play across the board this weekend.

George Russell

This one is a strategy play. He’s been faster than his teammate much of the weekend except for qualifying. He’s also finished in the top-five every race weekend this year aside from Silverstone. If Russell can outrun his teammate, Hamilton, on Sunday we not only get the bonus points plus better finish position points, we also get the extra defeated teammate bonus. While we’re not hunting laps led here or a win, he’s still a sneak pick to get extra points in the captain chair.

Fernando Alonso

Alonso has run faster this weekend than where he qualified. Granted, there was rain involved in FP1 and FP2 where he finished P1 and P7 respectively. However, he went out and ran a P4 in FP3 when it was dry and everyone was making race runs. His experience at this track will come into play as well as he looks for overtaking chances. While it’s been a close battle between he and his teammate, Esteban Ocon, for the defeated teammate bonus, Alonso simply has more consistent speed in the car this weekend.

Alex Albon

Who’s his teammate? Oh right, Nicholas Latifi. Enough said. Latifi will finish last which gives us the automatic defeated teammate bonus for Albon. He ran P12 in FP3, the dry session, and P13 in FP2, the partially wet session. Expect him to move up a few spots during the race giving us some extra Spot Vs. Grid Position points as well.

Yuki Tsunoda

It’s his home race. If that puts extra pressure on him or not it’s tough to tell. He has looked reasonably quick on the circuit though. While there’s not really any difference between where he qualified and where he ran in FP2 or FP3, he is starting a few spots ahead of his, now, departing teammate, Pierre Gasly. If he can hold that spot or finish ahead of Gasly, that’s 7.5 bonus points for Tsunoda. The Alphatauris have run fairly quickly at the higher speed circuits this year, which is similar to Suzuka. He’s a cheap driver and cheap captain play depending on the build format you want to go with.


F1 DFS Driver Plays

Lewis Hamilton

It’s been a rejuvenating second half of the year for Hamilton and Mercedes. They’ve finished on the podium perhaps more than folks thought they would base on the start of the year. This weekend though, he’s been a bit of a struggle for him. While the speed is solid, there’s not a ton of upside here, unless chaos happens, but that still makes him worth playing. He is starting ahead of his teammate and if he can hold on to that advantage, there are bonus points, along with a solid finish position haul, in the waiting for Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz

Sainz has outpaced his teammate all weekend. Regardless of track conditions, Sainz has been faster in his Scuderia than Leclerc has been in his. With that being said, that gives us a tad more value here. Not only is he starting right next to Leclerc in the grid, he’s a couple grand cheaper with basically the same chance to score the same amount of points as LEC. That gives him value. Ferrari has been a team to give preferential strategy to their fastest car that week and that’s Sainz.

Lando Norris

It’s been a confusing weekend for McLaren. They weren’t as fast as we’d thought they’d be in the rain but then weren’t as fast in qualifying as they were in the dry FP3. That gives us some hopeful upside. If Norris can move up a few spots, there’s points to be had there along with the better finish position points. Let’s also not forget that he’s beaten his teammate nearly every weekend this year as well. He’s shown better speed than Danny Ricciardo again this weekend to start, not to mention he’s starting ahead of him as well. That give Norris a nice amount of value at this price tag.

Pierre Gasly

Gasly officially announced he’s moving to Alpine next year. That likely puts him on the back burner for strategy for Alphatauri the rest of the year. However, we won’t mind much this week. We’re simply playing him for the chance to move up from his starting spot. The Alphatauris have been quick at the higher speed, less braking tracks like Suzuka. There is risk here given the practice times shown in FP2 and FP3 this weekend and the fact that he’s starting behind Tsunoda. If he doesn’t move up and pass his teammate, there’s basically no value here, but that’s the risk worth taking. He’ll be minimally played and if it works out in our favor, that’s how we move up in the standings.

Esteban Ocon

Ocon came out flying in qualifying nabbing a P5. That was the best lap he ran all weekend. The good news for him? It’s a track that can be tough to pass at with the lack of bona fide braking zones. The bad news? His teammate, Fernando Alonso, ran faster than him all weekend prior to qualifying. If Ocon can hang on to this spot and defeat his teammate once more, there’s value here. If he drops back a few spots and loses out to Alonso, it’s hard to see the value even at this price tag. That’s the knife’s edge for Ocon this weekend.

Lance Stroll

Stroll is simply starting too far back. It’s that simple. He shouldn’t have much trouble moving up several spots given the speed he showed in FP3 running P10. He’s beaten his teammate nine times this year, including three in a row, and at a few similar tracks to Suzuka, he’s moved up well as well. There is big time value at this price but he’s likely to be popular because of that as well.


Constructor Plays

Red Bull

This one is self-explanatory. They’re likely to have the race winner and the driver that leads all the laps — Verstappen. Sergio Perez is also likely to have a solid run too starting P4 with a good shot to double podium with his teammate. They will also be a popular choice, even at this price tag. Playing them and Verstappen means you’ll need to be creative with the rest of the build regardless of contest type.


What are we going for here? We’re hoping that Ferrari can hold on to the double podium finish positions they’re starting in and thus get bonus points. We’re likely not getting laps led points from them nor any upside in Spot Vs. Grid Position points either. With that and the questionable strategy calls they’ve made, they might be a little less played than we’ve seen in the past races at similar tracks.


It’s been a minute since McLaren has been in the playbook as a constructor. That’s mainly due to Danny Ricciardo’s struggles. This week however, there’s hope that they can get a double top-10 finish finish for the second week in a row and only the sixth time this year. They’re starting P10 and P11 on a track that passing might be tough on. If, and it’s a big IF, they can move up a couple of spots each, there’s a shot they duplicate their day from Austria when they started P10 and P11 and finished P7 and P9.


It’s been a very good run of late for Merc. They’ve been able to move up and nab very good finishes, including double podiums. That’s not likely to happen here, but we can expect two very good finishes from them. Hamilton and Russell are both starting well and should hold spots along with moving up a couple of spots. If Ferrari has questionable strategies or starts, there could be an extra spot or two up for grabs for Hamilton and/or Russell to get. We’re hunting good finishes from Mercedes, just like we’ve gotten much of the season to this point.


Alpine has been good at tracks like this in the past this year. The cars are very efficient on tracks with less braking zones on them. Both drivers are starting well and should finish in the top-seven if not both in the top-six. That sets up great finish position points from this team not to mention that the price tag on them along with getting either Alonso or Ocon in your builds allows for a higher priced dominator to fit well as well.

Alfa Romeo

Here’s what we need for this play to pay off — rain. That’s what we need. In FP2, the Alfa Romeo duo both put up top-10 laps. That’s because in the dry the straight line speed and speed in the high-speed corners just can’t compete. If we do get the rain that there’s a chance of on Sunday, Alfa Romeo might just be the beneficiary but this is a very risky play for DFS.


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