Ambient 27° Track 38° Humidity 52% Wind 2.8 m/s
In ripping contrast to the previous days, skies both clear and blue crowned fair Suzuka for the start of the Japanese Grand Prix. Danny Kvyat rocked a brand new car after his biggie from yesterday and would be starting from the pit lane. Quali showed that it was likely to be 2 races, one between the Mercs and the other between every one else for the scraps. With practice starts looking dead even between Nico and Lewis the field completed their formation lap and rolled up to the start
Immediately at the start of the race the F1 live timing app crashed, right before the lights went out. It went straight to the pits and spent nearly half the race being utterly useless to everyone who actually paid money for it.
After the lights went out it was a carbon copy of the last several starts. Both Mercedes had even starts but under the 2nd phase of acceleration, Lewis managed to get a bit of a jump and put himself on the inside and square on the apex for T1. On the exit of T2 this allowed Hamilton to introduce his teammate to the limits of the track and as he rocketed off into the distance, Rosberg slid back to P4, behind Vettel and Bottas.
Further back, Massa, Ricciardo and Perez decided to play bumper cars into T1. The end of that little episode saw Perez well off track and both the other cars limping back to the pits. The race quickly settled down and as Rosberg tried to whittle away at Bottas, he began to overheat his engine.
Kvyat was first into the pits, jumping onto the Hard tyre and kicking off the pit stop shuffle. As the midfield began to respond to Kvyat’s provocation, Vettel was radioed to stick to plan A, just as Bottas went for the undercut on lap 12. Turns out the lads at Williams had done their maths properly and Rosberg emerged rather behind Valterri when he pitted on lap 16, strapping on the Hard tyre for his 2nd stint. Having boxed the next lap, Lewis went onto the Medium tyre and retained the lead in the race.
Bottas didn’t last for long, though, as 2 laps later Nico caught him napping into the Casio triangle and ran right by him and back into P3. The middle stint was primarily enlivened by the struggle for the last scraps of the championship points, however. Verstappen continued to make friends by taking Alonso to the cleaners for P10 and then Alonso promptly took Honda to the cleaners by calling his engine a GP2 engine, one presumes for the benefit of the senior Honda management in attendance. Sainz added to the fun by destroying the pit entry bollard just as thoroughly as this season has destroyed McHonda’s reputation.
Lap 31 would prove pivotal as the clever boffins at Mercedes had copied Williams maths and promptly went for the undercut. Again it was successful as Vettel emerged from his tyre swap just in time to see Rosberg sweep past and claim P2, a position that wasn’t seriously challenged for the remainder of the race. Hamilton’s stop left him 9s up the road from Nico, a number that would only increase as the laps dripped away.
The last stint of the race featured Ericsson doing his scintillating Trulli impersonation, backing the traffic up from P12 to P15 all in DRS. Eventually Perez managed to get by for P11 and Kvyat followed suit for P12, but it was far too late to be chasing any points with only a couple of laps left by time the business was done. Vettel did manage to creep up to 2s of Rosberg, but never any closer. Stevens had a remarkable spin in 130R, which allowed Rossi by, but only just with Alex taking a neat avoidance maneuver to avoid hammering his teammate and suffering a double retirement for Manor.
Both Hulkenberg and Verstappen ran great races, with Max recovering to P9 from P17 and Hulkenberg very quietly driving to P6 after his lacklustre quali and penalty. Lotus finally had a decent race with Grosjean and Maldonado P7 and P8. Raikkonen managed to undercut Bottas for the final stint, which let him grab P4 and relegated Bottas to P5. Red Bull had a race to forget, so we shall and instead it’s onto Russia.
Have at it in the comments and stay tuned for the update!