2015 Japanese Grand Prix Race Review

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On Saturday, we saw Nico Rosberg taking Pole Position for the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

The start of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

The start of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

The Japanese Grand Prix is underway! Intitially Nico Rosberg had a good start heading into the first corner as did Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo. But Hamilton manages to close up on his team mate and leads into the first corner with Rosberg losing places to Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.

Felipe Massa limping back to the pits after bashing wheels with Daniel Ricciardo at the start of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

Felipe Massa limping back to the pits after bashing wheels with Daniel Ricciardo at the start of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

As this is going on, Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa bang wheels together; this then leads to both drivers dropping to nineteenth and twentieth as both may have suspected punctures. The Lotus drivers of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado are already up to sixth and seventh, Nico Hulkenberg is up to eighth and Fernando Alonso is also in the top ten. At the end of the lap, Sergio Perez pits who went into the gravel and also has a puncture as well from making contact with Carlos Sainz Jr as Ricciardo and Massa.

Lewis Hamilton leads the Japanese GP on Lap 2. All rights reserved to Octane Photos.

Lewis Hamilton leads the Japanese GP on Lap 2. All rights reserved to Octane Photos.

Lap 2 and Hamilton leads ahead of Vettel by 1.6 seconds. Two laps later and there is a battle for ninth between Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz Jr and Marcus Ericsson. Sainz is slowly gaining on Alonso and is trying to find a way past. But he is able to pass Alonso on the first corner of the fifth lap with a great move heading into Turn 1. And on the next lap, Ericsson passes Alonso at the same corner and takes track position.

There was also a battle between Felipe Nasr and Max Verstappen for twelfth place; with Verstappen slowly gaining on the Sauber driver very quickly indeed. By Lap 8, Hamilton extends his lead to 4.2 seconds. Lap 10 sees Marcus Ericsson going off the track at Spoon Curve and this allows his team mate to pass him for position and Button slowly gaining on Ericsson himself until he is forced to pit at the end of the lap.

Lewis Hamilton leading the early stages of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Octane Photos.

Lewis Hamilton leading the early stages of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Octane Photos.

By Lap 12, Hamilton extends his lead over Vettel to 7.2 seconds. Meanwhile, Ericsson finds himself in another battle for eighth place with Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean. The next lap sees Hulkenberg into Turn 1 making a move on Ericsson and is now in eighth place. A few corners later into Degner 1, Grosjean makes a crisp move on Nasr and demotes him a place to tenth place.

Hamilton now leads Rosberg on Lap 15 of the Japanese GP by 12.9 seconds after Vettel has made his first pit stop. There is a battle for eleventh between Alonso, Kvyat and Verstappen on track and Alonso will be under pressure as the Renault powered drivers close up on him; especially on the straights. At the end of Lap 15, Rosberg pits and on Lap 16, Hamilton pits.

Sebastian Vettel running in second place

Sebastian Vettel running in second place on Lap 18 of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Octane Photos.

Hamilton retains his lead of the race ahead of Vettel in front as the battle between Bottas and Rosberg for third place intensifies on the track. At the end of the lap, Rosberg squeezes past Bottas with a great move and now moves up to third place. Lap 21 sees Kimi Raikkonen gaining on his fellow Finn Bottas for fourth place.

There is a battle with the McLaren-Honda drivers with Alonso battling Verstappen for the final point of the race and Button battling to keep Ericsson behind him for twelfth place. Further down the grid, Sergio Perez passes Nasr into Turn 1 with a great move to take track position. Max Verstappen finally gets past the McLaren-Honda of Fernando Alonso on Lap 26 with a great move into Turn 1 after trying for many laps to get past and is now in tenth place.

Publically on the team radio, Alonso says to the McLaren-Honda team that the Honda engine is of a “GP2 standard” and this will certainly raise a few eyebrows especially at the manufacturer’s home race.

Kimi Raikkonen running in fifth place at the Japanese GP on Lap 31. All rights reserved to Octane Photos

Kimi Raikkonen running in fifth place at the Japanese GP on Lap 31. All rights reserved to Octane Photos.

Four laps later, Raikkonen has now been able to perform the undercut and is now ahead of Bottas and the battle for sixth is ongoing. But at the hairpin, Bottas passes Pastor Maldonado and continues to chase down Raikkonen as Vettel pits at the end of the lap. But on Lap 31, Rosberg manages to pass Vettel out of the pitlane and is now in second place.

The next lap sees Bottas gaining another place and passes Grosjean for sixth place and still continues to catch Raikkonen for fifth place. After making his pitstop, Hamilton still leads the race ahead of his team mate Rosberg by 9.1 seconds as Perez and Sainz Jr battle on track for ninth place.

Jenson Button running in fifteenth place on Lap 40 of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Octane Photos.

Jenson Button running in fifteenth place on Lap 40 of the Japanese GP. All rights reserved to Octane Photos.

Lap 36 sees the stewards announcing that they will be an investigation into Will Stevens for speeding in the pitlane. Three laps later, Ericsson, Button, Perez and Kvyat are in a close battle on the circuit for twelfth place. Perez is then able to pass Button for thirteenth place. It is then announced on Lap 40 that Will Stevens will get a five second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

On Lap 44, Perez tries to pass Ericsson in the battle for twelfth place and tries with a great move into Turn 1 to get past but Ericsson brilliantly defends his position and holds on just. On the radio, Kvyat informs his team that he is losing the brakes. The next lap sees Verstappen and Sainz Jr battling each other for position on the track and Verstappen manages to get through and is now ninth place as a result.

Lewis Hamilton wins the Japanese GP ahead of Nico Rosberg in second place and Sebastian Vettel in third place. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

Lewis Hamilton wins the Japanese GP ahead of Nico Rosberg in second place and Sebastian Vettel in third place. All rights reserved to Sutton Images.

Hamilton leads Rosberg on the final lap of the race by 18 seconds and wins the Japanese Grand Prix and his 41st victory of the season and thoughts of Singapore have long gone now; especially seeing as he has now extended his championship lead.

Rosberg is a credible second 18.9 seconds behind Hamilton, Vettel finished in third place 20.8 seconds seconds behind Hamilton, Raikkonen was a credible fourth 33.7 seconds behind Hamilton and Bottas finished fifth 36.7 seconds behind Hamilton.

Hulkenberg was a credible sixth 55.5 seconds behind Hamilton, Grosjean finishes seventh 1.12.2 seconds behind Hamilton, Maldonado finished in eighth place 1.13.5 seconds behind Hamilton, Verstappen finished in ninth place 1.33.3 seconds behind Hamilton and Sainz Jr picked up the final point in tenth 1 lap behind Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton leads the Drivers’ Championship with 277 points, Rosberg is second with 229 points, Vettel is third with 218 points, Raikkonen is fourth with 119 points, Bottas is fifth with 111 points, Massa is sixth with 97 points, Ricciardo is seventh with 73 points, Kvyat is eighth with 66 points, Grosjean is ninth with 44 points and Perez is tenth with 39 points.

Mercedes lead the Constructors Championship with 506 points, Ferrari is second with 337 points, Williams are third with 208 points, Red Bull are fourth with 139 points, Force India are fifth with 77 points, Lotus are sixth with 60 points, Toro Rosso are seventh with 44 points, Sauber are eighth with 26 points and McLaren-Honda are ninth with 17 points.

Conclusion

I feel that McLaren have had an awful weekend after all their problems. But the McLaren team have a lot of work to do in order to try and extract performance from their car that they need in order to get back to competitive ways once again as quickly as possible. And this has been brought to light this weekend despite Honda saying that the car as improved.

The biggest surprise this weekend for me was Hulkenberg getting sixth place in the race today. I do feel that Nico drove a superb race to gain eighth today and it is very well deserved after taking a grid penalty from Singapore into the weekend with him. He did a brilliant job today and has shown that despite not having the outright pace to challenge their rivals; he drove a great race to claim this result today and showed why he is a future world champion of the sport.

Bottas, Sainz Jr, Verstappen, Grosjean, Maldonado and Raikkonen do deserve mentions. Bottas did a credible job to finish fifth today. Bottas this weekend has managed to struggle to extract pace and performance from the car this weekend; and I feel that the results that Bottas achieved today will only spur on the Williams team to try and keep this momentum going further into the 2015 season and try to catch the Ferrari team for third in the Constructors Championship.

Sainz Jr battled his way through today to get tenth place today. He battled his way through the field and created some great overtaking moves to get there. Sainz Jr may not have had the weekend that he wanted with Toro Rosso this weekend, but he did the best that he could do and picked up some more points for the team who have extended their lead over their rivals in the Constructors today.

Verstappen did a credible job to finish in ninth place today. His race may have been a challenging one but he battled through to get some points after showing form throughout the weekend and this will only motivate the team and himself further to keep this up as the season moves to Sochi in a weeks time.

Grosjean had a bit of a lonely race to finish seventh. But in a race where many did not expect Lotus not to finish, he has managed to gain some points for the team in a challenging time and will want to carry this momentum through to Russia. However, his team mate Maldonado also did a good job to get eighth and bringing home more points that will help them close the gap to Force India in the Constructors Championship.

Raikkonen did a great job to get fourth place today and deserves a mention. He drove a solid race today and had to battle his way through but he did a great job to secure some much needed points for his team after a good performance this weekend and it is clear that the car was working well for them as a result.

Vettel drove a solid race to get third place today. Even though he didn’t have the pace to challenge the Mercedes drivers but we have seen him showing why he went to Ferrari in the first place and that he is without a doubt a potential winner in the near future again if he can get everything together in a weekend.

Rosberg deserves a mention. He drove a solid race today to second place. He may not have won the battle with his former team mate; and had a chance to try and get past but he did a great job to secure a podium today. What a fantastic job from him and this will only give him more confidence as he goes on into the season as he tries to close the gap down to Lewis.

All that is left to say about this race is that Hamilton deserved to win today and he needed to in order to keep the battle going in the championship.  His driving was brilliant and controlled throughout the race. Mercedes has built on the results that they have gained so far this season with him and have shown that they are just the  best team on the grid at the moment. All credit to Lewis for doing a superb job this weekend.

Will Sochi in a few weeks time be yet another race Mercedes will win? Or can their rivals catch up to them? And who will be leading the championship, will it be Rosberg or will it be Hamilton? Only time will tell.

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