File picture: Toru Hanai / Reuters.

Lewis Hamilton is looking to hit back from his defeat in Malaysia at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, after playing second fiddle to Red Bull's Max Verstappen in Sepang on Sunday.

Despite stretching his Formula One world championship lead over Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to 34 points with five races left, Hamilton took a swipe at his Mercedes team.

"There are some real big problems that I can't really explain to you," he said. Hamilton, a three-time winner in Japan, will be hoping for a better performance from his car this week than in Malaysia.

Here are five big talking points ahead of this week's Japanese Grand Prix, the 16th of 20 races in the Formula One season:

Hamilton aiming to drive it like Curry

Lewis Hamilton limbered up for Suzuka by joining NBA superstar Stephen Curry for a spot of golf in China. Britain's world championship leader will hope some of the Golden State sharp-shooter's magic rubs off on him after Curry donned Hamilton's yellow helmet to take a tee shot. 

Looking like a member of electronic music duo Daft Punk, Curry fluffed his drive before removing the lid to whack one down the middle of the fairway - with a power and precision Hamilton will want to emulate in Japan.

The kids are not alright at Ferrari 

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne blamed a "young team" for the reliability issues that plagued them at last week's Malaysian Grand Prix. 

After Sebastian Vettel had to start last because of engine trouble, Kimi Raikkonen failed to take up his second place on the grid after suffering similar gremlins. Employing some serious manager-speak, Marchionne promised Ferrari would be "making some organisational changes" after insisting both red cars could have won in Malaysia.

Red Bull putting the fizz into F1

Whether it be Max Verstappen's seat-of-the-pants style of driving or Daniel Ricciardo's eye-watering "Shoey" celebration, Red Bull is without doubt Formula One's coolest team. Dutch flier Verstappen's second career win in Malaysia fired a warning to Mercedes and Ferrari, while Ricciardo also finished on the podium. 

The only downside of continued success for the F1 hipsters is that more poor souls will be forced to drink champagne from the Australian's sweaty boot.

Radio Alonso: the art of diplomacy

Fernando Alonso's frustrations at McLaren have sparked more than the occasional tantrum from the Spaniard over the team radio. One of Alonso's more memorable meltdowns came in Japan two years ago when the former world champion barked: "GP2 engine, GP2 engine, very embarrassing!" 

Engine supplier Honda was far from amused and it remains to be seen if Alonso will show more charity this weekend after McLaren recently ended its ill-fated partnership.

Point to prove for spluttering Honda

And speaking of Honda, how the team would love to go out with a bang with McLaren at its home track - albeit it figuratively, rather than literally. 

Honda is set to supply Toro Rosso next year, which may fill the Red Bull-owned team with a sense of foreboding. But a strong showing at Suzuka would sweep away much of the gloom and doom that has followed the Japanese manufacturer around again this season, and hopefully ring in some optimism for 2018.