Hamilton wins shortened, grave Japanese Grand Prix

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Jules Bianchi

At the time of posting this review, there was limited news on the incident involving Jules Bianchi but there was a serious accident and several tweets stating that Jules Bianchi was unconscious and taken by ambulance and not by helicopter. According to Sky Sports F1, Bianchi went off the track at the same spot as Adrian Sutil and crashed into the tractor that was in the process of removing Sutil’s car. Our prayers are with Jules Bianchi, his family and friends.

Williams F1 driver Felipe Massa was very candid in telling Sky that the race started too soon as it was bad conditions and stopped too late when it was far too wet to continue and this accident happened because of it. It must be said that there was a massive pall in the paddock and the eyes of everyone interviewed post-race looked positively shocked.

The Race

The Japanese Grand Prix had a shaky start as bans of rain rolled into the area ahead of typhoon Phanfone. The FIA started the race under Safety Car conditions and ran for three laps—officially logged.

The complication was amplified by a red flag on lap three. It must be said that the second lap was actually completed as the Safety Car brought the grid back down pit lane and parked them for the red flag. The completion of two laps means that half-points would be awarded should the race not resume due to rain.

After 20 minutes or so, the race started again behind the safety car as the rain lifted. No matter how bad the conditions were, Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, told the team that the Safety Car was not going fast enough. Red Bull driver, Sebastian Vettel, said he was aquaplaning at 80kph.

As the cars restarted after a 20-minute delay, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso came to a halt at turn 4 and retires the car.

On lap nine, the race started in anger and McLaren’s Jenson Button made a cheeky call to immediately pit for intermediate rain tires. Button leaped ahead of nearly all the driver and settled into 3rd place just behind the Mercedes duo.

On lap 14, the Mercedes of Rosberg pit for inters and Hamilton a lap later but couldn’t manage to undercut Nico during the tire change.

Some great passing on laps 16 through 19 by the Red Bull duo as both drivers picked off both Williams drivers in fine fashion. The Williams suffering in the rain from a lack of downforce which would normally play right into their hands if the race were dry. At this point, the Red Bull’s had 14 seconds to make up in order to catch McLaren’s Jenson Button in third.

As the Red Bull’s charged forward, the Mercedes seemed to be losing pace and were slower than the Red Bull duo. By lap 25, Sebastian Vettel had taken five seconds out of the leaders, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

On lap 29, Lewis Hamilton took the lead from his teammate, Nico Rosberg, who was struggling with oversteer and worn rear tires. Hamilton, presumably, saved his rears and wasn’t suffering having hounded Nico for a handful of laps.

Hamilton pulled out a immediate three second lead over Rosberg and Button started reeling him in making you wonder why Mercedes didn’t pit Nico much earlier knowing he was struggling so much.

On lap 32, Jenson Button pit and the team had to change his steering wheel costing valuable time and third place to Sebastian Vettel. His teammate also had to change his steering wheel earlier in the race due to electrical issues. Vettel then started setting lap times that were two and three seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg respectively. Mercedes finally decided to pit Nico to cover Vettel’s pace.

Win

Win

The rain turned Red Bull into winners as the duo fought with the top runners. Vettel’s mistake on lap 39 was not a great moment but the Red Bull’s in the rain managed to neutralize the Williams duo and make a race of it.

Jenson Button’s choice decision to immediately change to inters at race start paid big dividends and allowed him to be a podium threat for most of the race. Unfortunately, Button started to lose grip and fell victim to a charging Ricciardo but managed to do an over/under at retain his place in fourth until lap 42 when he conceded the place.

Button pit for full-wet tires on lap 43 but the safety car released on lap 44 didn’t help his strategy.

Fail

Fail

When a driver is injured, we all lose.

Mercedes seemed to be missing the strategy calls by leaving Nico Rosberg out too long—although they were trying to get to the end on one more pit stop—and then left Lewis Hamilton out too long in traffic on tires that were off the pace of the Red Bulls. Having said that, it worked out in the end as Lewis and Nico finished 1,2 so my critique isn’t too accurate apparently.

Ferrari suffered another DNF for Fernando Alonso at the re-start at turn four and Kimi Raikkonen toiled around in midfield or worse. Alonso had qualified well but the car turned itself off.

WTH

The length behind the safety car at the start was a bit long, no? In hindsight, many pundits are questioning the start time of the race knowing there were heavy rains coming but the promoters decided not to change the start time. Had the race started slightly earlier, we may have made it to the end of the 53 laps.

Results

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1h51m43.021s
2Nico RosbergMercedes1h51m52.201s9.180s
3Sebastian VettelRed Bull/Renault1h52m12.143s29.122s
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault1h52m21.839s38.818s
5Jenson ButtonMcLaren/Mercedes1h52m50.571s1m07.550s
6Valtteri BottasWilliams/Mercedes1h53m36.794s1m53.773s
7Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes1h53m38.147s1m55.126s
8Nico HulkenbergForce India/Mercedes1h53m38.969s1m55.948s
9Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso/Renault1h53m50.659s2m07.638s
10Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes1 Lap
11Daniil KvyatToro Rosso/Renault1 Lap
12Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1 Lap
13Esteban GutierrezSauber/Ferrari1 Lap
14Kevin MagnussenMcLaren/Mercedes1 Lap
15Romain GrosjeanLotus/Renault1 Lap
16Pastor MaldonadoLotus/Renault1 Lap
17Marcus EricssonCaterham/Renault1 Lap
18Max ChiltonMarussia/Ferrari1 Lap
19Kamui KobayashiCaterham/Renault1 Lap
20Jules BianchiMarussia/FerrariSpun off
21Adrian SutilSauber/FerrariSpun off
Fernando AlonsoFerrariRetirement

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