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Rain could 'spice up' Japanese Grand Prix, says Verstappen

TOKYO - Title-chasing Max Verstappen said on Wednesday that the prospect of rain at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix could "spice things up" as he looks to clinch his second straight Formula One championship.

The flying Dutchman can retain the title in Suzuka with four races to spare if he gains eight points on nearest rival Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and six on Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

The Japanese Grand Prix is returning after a three-year absence because of the coronavirus pandemic, and rain has been forecast for Sunday's race. Last Sunday, a heavy downpour had also caused a delay of more than an hour to the start of the Singapore Grand Prix won by Perez.

Verstappen, who finished seventh on a wet Marina Bay Street Circuit, has dominated this season's championship with 11 wins from 17 grands prix and he predicted an "exciting race with changing conditions" as he spoke to reporters in Tokyo.

"Let's see what the weather will do because I see there is a bit of rain forecast, that might spice things up a little bit," said the 25-year-old.

"We're looking forward to Suzuka again because we're on a high as a team, we've won a lot of races in a row now, and of course we want to keep that momentum going."

Verstappen's seventh-place finish edged him closer to the title and he will become only the third driver after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel to clinch the championship with four races to spare if he gets the job done in Suzuka.

He has never won the Japanese Grand Prix but said he was looking forward to racing on the "special" Suzuka track again.

"Nothing feels like here in Suzuka because of just the old-school nature - the gravel and the grass," he said.

"You know you have to really build up your confidence and really build up to the limit."

Red Bull said on Wednesday that they and sister team AlphaTauri will feature the Honda logo on their cars, starting at the Japanese GP.

Red Bull have an agreement with Honda for engine development and the team said Perez will take on an ambassador's role with Honda's driver academy. - AFP