#F1 Race Review: #JapaneseGP – Vettel is big in Japan

Brought to you by TheJudge13  contributor James Parker

Sebastian Vettel took his 35th career win and his 4th victory in 5 years at Suzuka after a race long 3 way tactical battle.  Second was his team-mate and pole sitter Mark Webber, who succumbed to greater tyre wear during the Grand Prix and forced to make an extra pit stop, whilst a battling Romain Grosjean claimed his 2nd consecutive podium by coming home in third place after a leader like drive for Lotus.

Suzuka Podium 2013

The Race

Off the start, both Grosjean and Hamilton made fantastic getaways off the second row. Whilst Grosjean managed to jump all three off the line by going round the outside of Vettel, Hamilton was not so fortunate. Trying to squeeze into an ever decreasing wedge between the two Red Bulls, his right rear tyre touched Vettel’s front end fence which resulted in a puncture for the Mercedes man. It was Grosjean, Webber, Vettel and Rosberg as your top 4 after the drama had settled.

Further back, going into turn 1, the Caterham of Van Der Garde and the Marussia of Jules Bianchi touched, which sent them both spearing off into the gravel and therefore out of the race. Alonso had jumped up to 6th behind his team-mate Massa, whilst Raikkonen had a poor start and was back to 11th.  Hamilton was forced into the pits due to his puncture and was sent out on a 19 lap stint on the harder compound tyres. This was short lived however as by lap 8 Hamilton retired from the damage sustained from the puncture.

Due to Charles Pic receiving a drive through penalty, post qualifying for leaving the pits under a red light, he too came in to serve his punishment at the end of lap 1.

By lap 6, Raikkonen was looking at starting to recover from his poor start, and immediately set about hunting down 10th place man Button. After 1 lap of high pressure, he finally made a move stick going into turn 1 utilising the benefit of DRS.

At this point, there were also very interesting radio communications over at Ferrari, unsurprisingly, with Massa told “strategy function A” over the radio. At first thought it sounded ominously like Rob Smedley had come up with a new codename for “Felipe, Fernando is faster than you” but nothing came from it.

Jenson Button was the first man to trigger the first stops, pitting on lap 9 for the harder compound tyres. But it wasn’t until lap 12 that the top 3 started to blink. Webber pitted from 2nd, bolting on a set of hard compound tyres and rejoined in 6th as he looked for the undercut to Grosjean.

Grosjean immediately responded on lap 13 and rejoined ahead of Webber to gain track position, whilst Alonso, who was looking at jumping his team-mate during the first pit stop phase emerged on lap 14 not only behind Massa again, but the pair had also been jumped by Hulkenberg who had moved up to 5th. Race leader at this point, Vettel then came in on lap 15 to bolt on a set of hard tyres, rejoining back behind both Grosjean and Webber.

There was further drama, as Rosberg seemingly exited his box after his first stop and directly fed into the path of the McLaren of Perez, who did well to avoid contact. On lap 15 this was confirmed as an unsafe release by the stewards who handed the Mercedes driver a drive through penalty for his troubles – releasing Hulk up to 4th.

After the first stops had been completed, Daniel Ricciardo, one of the men to start on the harder tyre was looking at doing a longer first stint and found himself compressing the following pack headed by provisional 4th place man Hulkenberg.

Hulkenberg had a great run out of spoon corner on lap 20 however, and decided to pull off a bold move going up the inside of the Torro Rosso at 130R. In the chaos, Alonso jumped on a mistake from his team-mate into the final chicane, and made a move stick going into turn 1 utilising DRS on Massa.

Massa was on the backfoot following that move, and the following lap was attacked by 8th place man Gutierrez into the hairpin. Running side by side for the entire corner, the pair banged wheels before the Sauber driver gave up the attack going into spoon. This then allowed Raikkonen who was stalking behind to get a great run going into 130R and he pulled off a great move round the outside.

Up front, Webber was looking to apply the pressure, and when he stopped for a second time on lap 25, had got the gap down to under 1 second to Grosjean. The Lotus driver stayed out with Vettel, whilst Webber started to gain huge chunks of time on the pair – going 1.4 seconds faster on fresh harder compound tyres – Vettel then told by Rocky to push hard.

It wasn’t until lap 30 that Grosjean came in for his second stop. Due to the undercut, Webber managed to easily jump the Frenchman when he remerged from the pitlane, however would the Lotus man need to stop again? A 23 lap stint from there was the target.

At this point, Vettel inherited the lead, and was looking to go a fair bit longer on his harder compound tyres to minimise the length of his final stint. Finally pitting on lap 38, he too bolted on a set of harder compound tyres again and rejoined behind both Webber and Grosjean.

Felipe Massa’s day was going from bad to worse, as the Ferrari man was handed a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane on lap 33. After a solid day it looked like the only place the Brazilian would be going is backwards.

Vettel after his final stop was looking hugely racy on lower fuel. By lap 41 he had stalked the back of Grosjean for 2 laps and decided to make his move into turn 1 using DRS – making it stick for provisional 1st place.

Due to Webber pitting much earlier for his first two stints thanks to higher tyre wear, a final 3rd stop was needed to complete the race. Coming in on lap 43, he was then told to hunt down 2nd place man Grosjean ahead of him and overtake him if he wanted a chance at Vettel. For the next 5 laps the Lotus man defended stoutly from a couple of attacks going into turn 1 from Webber and he looked comfortable.

However traffic was fast approaching the pair, a train of 5 cars who were all fighting for minor positions outside the points including the two Williams cars, Sutil and Perez. By lap 51, both Webber and Grosjean were squabbling hard, and the Australian made a half lunge going into Spoon – unsuccessfully.

But at the start of lap 52, Webber’s superior tyre advantage made itself known as he got a great exit out of the final chicane and made a bold move stick going into turn 1 on Grosjean.

Further back, after getting passed by Alonso earlier on due to fresher tyres, Hulk was defending his 5th place hard from Kimi Raikkonen. But on lap 52, after 3 laps of hard pressure, the Finn decided to try an optimistic move going round the outside into the final chicane – hanging it all out; he managed to squeeze his Lotus past to get 5th. Putting huge faith in Hulk, he was rewarded.

But up front it was all about Vettel, who after playing a race long chess game with Grosjean and Webber, made superior tyre life pay over his team-mate. Putting in the laps immediately after his second stop to pass Grosjean, it released him to build a comfortable cushion.

It was the German’s 35th career victory, his 5th on the trot and his 4th win in 5 years at Suzuka. Whilst Fernando Alonso halted title winning proceedings with his 4th place, the Ferrari man is simply delaying the inevitable. For Grosjean, the Red Bull ‘s were just too fast on lower fuel. But the star of the day surely had to be Gutierrez, who finished just 1 place behind his more experienced team-mate in 7th and achieved his first points of the year – the first points for any rookie on the grid in 2013.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said:This was always going to be a very close race, with
little difference in lap times between the two nominated compounds. As a result we saw varied approaches
to strategy, with both the medium and the hard tyre being used at different points for the second and third
stints.

The majority of drivers stopped twice as we expected: wear is quite low at Suzuka due to the flowing
nature of the circuit – which means that traction demands are low – but the high lateral energy loads mean
that the limiting factor is degradation.

This of course is exacerbated when you have a close race with the cars following behind each other, as aerodynamic efficiency is compromised and the cars slide more. Vettel was able to use a two-stop strategy to make the difference here, but it was extremely close with Webber and Grosjean. Once more we received a great welcome in Japan: one of the most difficult circuits in the world for drivers, cars and tyres, with an absolutely amazing atmosphere thanks to some fantastic fans.

Fastest times of the day by compound

  Medium Hard
First WEB 1.34.587 ROS 1.34.650
Second RIC 1.35.020 VET 1.35.317
Third BUT 1.35.549 RAI 1.35.516

Longest stint of the race
Medium: 18 laps – C. Pic
Hard: 27 laps – P. Di Resta

Final Results

Pos. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired
1  Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 53 1:26:49.301
2  Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 53 +7.129
3  Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 53 +9.91
4  Fernando Alonso Ferrari 53 +45.605
5  Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 53 +47.325
6  Nico Hülkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 53 +51.615
7  Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber-Ferrari 53 +1:11.630
8  Nico Rosberg Mercedes 53 +1:12.023
9  Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 53 +1:20.821
10  Felipe Massa Ferrari 53 +1:29.263
11  Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 53 +1:38.572
12  Jean-Éric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 52 +1 lap
13  Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 52 +1 lap
14  Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 52 +1 lap
15  Sergio Pérez McLaren-Mercedes 52 +1 lap
16  Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 52 +1 lap
17  Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 52 +1 lap
18  Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 52 +1 lap
19  Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 52 +1 lap
Ret  Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 7 Collision damage
Ret  Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 0 Collision
Ret  Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 0 Collision

World Drivers Championship

2013 Drivers' Championship post-Japan

World Constructors Championship

2013 Constructors' Championship post-Japan

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14 responses to “#F1 Race Review: #JapaneseGP – Vettel is big in Japan

  1. First poster to say Webber was screwed over deliberately in 3…2…1

    Joke aside, It was pretty much a game of highspeed chess, but it sure was more entertaining for those, who want a fight for 1st. Also great to see how far RoGro has come from the man, who nearly beheaded Alonso in Spa last year to keep the RB’s on their toes. Great job there Romain…

    • LOL, I suppose that was me! I will not say “screwed over deliberately” but “sacrificed”, which is more pertinent to chess if we are to follow your analogy.

      Anyway, Lobato (the Spanish head journalist in charge of the TV comments) was very upset today with Webber being screwed, even if 10 laps before the very same journalist was asking for Felipe to make space for his beloved Alonso.

    • I can only say Mark had his opportunity and messed it up. I am seeing stuff on the internet where Mark is questioning why RB put him on a three stop.

      For me that is the difference between a champ and a want to be champ. Vettel made small meat of Grosjean whereas Mark took ages to get past… He could have had a real scrap with Vettel if he got past Geosjean…

      • Webber’s race was over when they stopped him short in his 2nd stint. AS I saw elsewhere on the internetz “if part of your strategy is pass the 2 fastest cars on track with less than 10 laps to go, then maybe your strategy isn’t optimal”. LOL

        That said, strategy was optimal for RB and worked exactly as intended.

        Lastly, Webber swerved at Hamilton rather hard going into T1. Hamilton and Vettel both had nowhere to go, as Grosjean was squeezing Vettel on his other side. Would not put that on Lewis for sure, though I wouldn’t penalize Webber either. Sometimes it’s just racing.

        Oh, and according to NBCSN, the light was still red when Rosberg exited into Perez, so not a team fault but driver error.

      • Well, Don_Quixote, let me disagree. Today there was one optimal ex-ante strategy and one sub-optimal one. The RB car in the front played the sub-optimal one while the one in the back had the optimal one. Guess who won the race.

        BTW, Seb did a great race today (even with a few brake locks). I disagree with the comment that his followers would be bored. If I was a fan of Vettel I would be delighted today.

        • Feel free to disagree. I just think Webber messed up trying to pass Grosjean on tyres that was much faster. Vettel nailed him quickly so although Webber may not have been able to get Vettel in 10 laps he may have been able to have a go at least (take him out) if he passed Grosjean quicker…

          • Webber’s car was set up with a skinny wing, he couldn’t get close enough through the last chicane to deliver what Vettel did on RG.

          • With Webber’s history of poor starts he should have thought about setting his car up for overtaking. IF he could not get past Grosjean he would never have gotten past Vettel..

          • “With Webber’s history of poor starts he should have thought about setting his car up for overtaking. IF he could not get past Grosjean he would never have gotten past Vettel.”

            Come on. If it is true that his car was not setup for overtaking, then a 3 stop strategy makes even less sense. Unless the strategy is aimed to…. well, that’s it.

            This should be easier if RB openly said “our target is to bring the two Championships home as soon and safe as possible, and this strategy is the best one to do that. We feel sorry for Mark, who drove a great race today”.

  2. I must have watched an entirely different race. Me thinks Webber was used as a bait, trying to get Grosjean in very much the same fashion Alonso was stuck behind Petrov a few years ago.

    Only that this time Grosjean did not bite. Unfortunately, it seems that Grosjean wanted to make his 2nd tyre change before Vettel but Vettel still had enough rubber to go to lap 38.

    Summary: RedBull is still a better car than the Lotus and they deserve the 1-2 today. The finishing order of the two teammates, on the other hand…

  3. re. ” …very interesting radio communications over at Ferrari, unsurprisingly, with Massa told “strategy function A” over the radio. At first thought it sounded ominously like Rob Smedley had come up with a new codename for “Felipe, Fernando is faster than you” but nothing came from it. … ”

    It was just that. See http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/110624
    “Fernando Alonso downplays Felipe Massa team orders row”

  4. Credit where credit is due. Seb was fantastic today.

    Starting to come around to Danilo’s PR offensive on how good he is 😉

    Honorable mention for Roman too.

    Some seriously good driving today from quite few drivers.

    Bernard, this is why we want the ‘proper’ tracks kept. I love the Japanese gp, the best of the ‘monuments’ for me. Excluding mount Fuji obviously!

  5. One more race, one more race and we can start talking about next year, gosh almost can’t be bothered. Didn’t even get up early to watch it. Knew the result already. Even for Vettel supporters this must be boring

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