Drafting the Circuits
Formula 1 Report
Japanese Grand Prix
By Steve Aibel
The sound of championship doors being nailed shut by Lewis Hamilton.
The current champion bounced back from a substandard showing in Singapore with a dominant run at Suzuka in the Japanese Grand Prix. Hamilton cruised to victory by 18.964 seconds over teammate Nico Rosberg. Sebastian Vettel took the third step of the podium showcasing the three dominant drivers of the 2015 Formula 1 season.
Hamilton took control of the race in turn two and never looked back. Taking the inside line and squeezing Rosberg wide on exit, Rosberg had to let up or risk contact and running off the circuit. Rosberg dropped back to 4th position and spent the rest of the race clawing back through the pack Hamilton was never checked after this and wheeled away for a dominant victory.
The victory for Hamilton was his 41st victory and equaled Ayrton Senna for 4th all time. His next victory will tie Sebastian Vettle for 3rd position! Hamilton now has a 48 point lead in his quest for a 3rd Formula 1 Driver’s Championship.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari took 3rd and 4th position, but never showed the dominant speed and performance they had the previous week in Singapore.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas grabbed 5th position, although teammate Felipe Massa had another unlucky race making contact with Daniel Ricciardo at the start. Both drivers suffered punctures to their Pirelli tires and finished well out of the points. Ricciardo finished in 15th and Massa a lowly 17th.
The weekend in general was a disaster for Red Bull racing. Daniil Kvyat suffered a huge shunt in qualifying as he flipped his RB-11 at the hairpin turn. The car was written off as a total wash and the team had to completely rebuild it, replacing the chassis, gearbox and power unit. As a consequence, Kvyat had to start from the pitlane and did well working his way up to 13th.
Good thing the team had plenty of Red Bull Energy Drink as it must have been a long night for the squad.
Lotus had a fairly strong race on track although they were locked out of their hospitality suite due to bills not being settled. Romain Grosjean finished in 7th position, one spot ahead of Pastor Maldonado. Grosjean is expected to be announced as driver for Haas F1 Team on Tuesday leaving the financially stricken Lotus team. The paddock is still awaiting a decision from Renault on whether they will take over the team as a works effort.
It was announced this weekend that Pastor Maldonado would remain as a driver for the team in 2016 with reserve driver Jolyon Palmer expected to be slotted into the seat vacated by Grosjean.
Nico Hulkenberg placed 6th, continuing to show the strength of his talent and overcoming the 3 place grid penalty handed to him in Singapore. Sergio Perez finished in position 12 ending a strong streak of 3 races in the points dating back to Belgium.
Toro Rosso scored both cars in the points with a 9th and 10th place finish for Verstappen and Sainz. It will be interesting to watch for any shuffling in the constructors order between Force India, Lotus and Toro Rosso as the season concludes and the teams battle for position.
Sauber suffered a disappointing race with Felipe Nasr being the only car not to finish and Marcus Ericsson bringing the car home in 14th. Sauber have suffered in their inability to maintain pace on upgrading their car. What started as a strong package has not kept up and Sauber are languishing at the back of the pack.
Fernando Alonso brought some drama to another weak McLaren effort. Alonso finished in 11th position appearing extremely frustrated in the cockpit calling the power unit “embarrassing” and “GP2” quality. Jenson Button had been expected to announce his retirement from Formula 1 this week but in a surprise twist, it appears he may be staying on for another season with McLaren. Button finished in 16th position.
Alexander Rossi again placed in front of his teammate Will Stevens and handed another impressive run for Manor. This was an extremely emotional and difficult weekend as they returned to Suzuka where Jules Bianchi had the accident from which he eventually lost his life.
Rossi tailed Stevens for most of the race but was often logging faster lap times. Rossi worked his way ahead, when Steven spun at high speed going through 130R.
Rossi remarked, “I had stronger pace than my team-mate after the first stop. This was a good race and I’m very happy with the outcome. I struggled a bit on the first stint with the option tyre, but after the first stop everything turned around and my pace was good. I was pushing Will when he spun and thankfully he didn’t cross my path; I’m sure it looked every bit as dramatic from outside the cockpit as it did from where I was sitting! I’m pleased with how things are going after my first two F1 races.”
“My next race will be in Sochi with my GP2 Series Team Racing Engineering, where I’ll be looking forward to continuing the battle for 1st and 2nd in the rankings. I’m extremely passionate about finishing what we started there, and I will be looking to achieve another strong result. Then I will return to Manor Marussia F1 Team for the US Grand Prix. I’m incredibly happy I’ll be able to drive in front of my home crowd with this very special team.”
Formula 1 now has 5 races remaining, the next of which will take place October 11th on Sochi, Russia.
- Lewis Hamilton 277
- Nico Rosberg 229
- Sebastian Vettel 218
- Kimi Raikkonen 119
- Valtteri Bottas 111
- Felipe Massa 97
- Daniel Ricciardo 73
- Daniil Kvyat 66
- Romain Grosjean 44
- Sergio Perez 39
- Nico Hulkenberg 38
- Max Verstappen 32
- Felipe Nasr 17
- Pastor Maldonado 16
- Carlos Sainz Jr. 12
- Fernando Alonso 11
- Marcus Ericsson 9
- Jenson Button 6
- Mercedes 506
- Ferrari 337
- Williams 208
- Red Bull 139
- Force India 77
- Lotus 60
- Toro Rosso 44
- Sauber 26
- McLaren 17
- Manor/Marussia 0