On Saturday, we saw Nico Rosberg taking Pole Position for the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen.
The Japanese GP is underway. Nico Rosberg gets a great start as does Daniel Ricciardo. Lewis Hamilton has yet another bad start and loses six places as a result of this. Sergio Perez has a blistering start and is now in third place. Into 130R, Ricciardo tries a move on Vettel for position but cannot do so.
Lap 2 sees Rosberg leading Verstappen by 1.5 seconds. The next lap sees Vettel in a great move into Turn 1 pass Perez for position and is now in third place. There is a battle for fourth between Perez and Ricciardo; with Ricciardo catching the Mexican all the time. There is also a battle for sixth between Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Hamilton, with Hamilton trying everything to pass the German driver.
However on Lap 7, Hamilton passes Hulkenberg into the first corner for track position. Seven laps later, Rosberg still leads Vettel by 7.2 seconds as Perez, Raikkonen and Hamilton battle for third place on the circuit. Lap 13 sees Ricciardo trying to pass Palmer. But at his first attempt, Ricciardo runs wide but a lap later manages to get past the Renault driver.
Lap 14 sees Raikkonen in a brilliant move into Turn 1 passes Perez for track position as Palmer also is running closely amongst them. The next lap sees Hamilton heading up to the final chicane passing Ricciardo for sixth place with a brilliant move and catching Felipe Massa in the process.
There were battles throughout the grid for the midfield and it was great to see some of the best drivers in the world battling with each other for point scoring positions from fifth to tenth; with positions changing all the time as Rosberg extended his lead to Verstappen in the process.
Lap 19 sees Rosberg leading Verstappen by 3.5 seconds as Perez passes Bottas into Turn 1 for seventh place. There are even battles further down the field between the McLaren’s, Toro Rossos and Saubers with Nasr leading the battle for fourteenth place and keeping a faster Alonso at bay.
With Rosberg making his pitstop at the end of Lap 30, he handed the lead of the race to Vettel and rejoins the race in third place. At the end of Lap 35, Vettel pits and hands the lead of the race to Rosberg who leads Verstappen by four seconds.
Ten laps later sees Rosberg extending his lead to Verstappen. Over the final laps of the race, Hamilton set about closing the gap to Verstappen. With seven laps remaining, he managed to get into the DRS range. Verstappen defended well and got a better exit from the final chicane lap after lap to stop Hamilton from getting past going into Turn 1.
However, Hamilton knew he had an advantage going into the Spoon corner and Hamilton attempted to try and line up Verstappen on the back straight and through 130R. On the penultimate lap, he got the first two parts right but Verstappen knew what was coming and blocked the inside line as Hamilton made his attempt under braking.
With the door firmly closed, Hamilton had to take the run off and the chance of gaining second place were gone.
But Rosberg leads Verstappen on the final lap of the race by 1 second and wins the Japanese GP which is his first win at the circuit. This result gives Rosberg a significant advantage in the championship and means he can finish second to Hamilton in the remaining four races (even affording one third place finish) and still win the title. This result also secured Mercedes’ third consecutive Constructors Championship.
Verstappen is a credible second 4.9 seconds behind Rosberg, Hamilton finished in a brilliant third place 5.7 seconds behind Rosberg, Vettel was a credible fourth 20.2 seconds behind Ricciardo and Raikkonen finished fifth 28.3 seconds behind Rosberg.
Ricciardo was sixth 33.9 seconds behind Rosberg, Perez was a brilliant seventh 57.9 seconds behind Rosberg, Hulkenberg was eighth 59.1 seconds behind Rosberg, Massa was ninth 1.37.7 seconds lap behind Rosberg and Bottas was tenth 1.38.3 seconds behind Rosberg.
Nico Rosberg leads the Driver’s Championship with 313 points, Lewis Hamilton is in second place with 280 points, Daniel Ricciardo in third place with 212 points, Kimi Raikkonen is in fourth place with 170 points, Max Verstappen is in fifth place with 145 points, Sebastian Vettel is in sixth place with 145 points, Valtteri Bottas is in seventh place with 81 points, Sergio Perez is in eighth place with 80 points, Nico Hulkenberg is in ninth place with 54 points and Felipe Massa is in tenth place with 43 points.
Mercedes are the Constructors Champions with 593 points, Red Bull is in second place with 385 points, Ferrari is in third place with 335 points, Force India is in fourth place with 134 points, Williams is in fifth place with 124 points, McLaren is in sixth place with 62 points, Toro Rosso is in seventh place with 47 points, Haas is in eighth place with 28 points, Renault is in ninth place with 8 points and Manor is in tenth with 1 point.
I feel that McLaren have had an disappointing weekend with both Alonso and Button as they just did not have the pace and performance needed to score some points at Honda’s home race. This is the best the team could have hoped for from Sepang but I am happy with their performance this weekend. But McLaren have shown that despite their best efforts that the McLaren team have a lot of work to do in order to try and extract performance from their car but they are making small gains that are paying off for them in the last few races and they need to use this as inspiration for Austin in a few weeks time.
Bottas and Massa had some battles to finish in tenth and ninth places. They both battled with Hulkenberg and Perez for most of the race and they both deserved to get a point for their efforts on Sunday and it will help his confidence and also Williams’ for the next few races as a result.
Hulkenberg had another solid drive to eighth place on Sunday and bringing home much needed points. He has a solid run of form recently and this will help his confidence to end his season on a high.
Perez had a bit of an action packed yet defensive race to finish seventh, but he scored more points for the Force India team who seem to be extracting a little bit more pace and performance out of their package. But there is still a lot of work to be done but the fact that Perez scored points again shows that he can deliver on the track.
Ricciardo did a good job to get sixth place and had a battle to get there. He drove a solid race despite starting in eleventh place and 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. This will only help him prepare for the rest of the 2016 season.
Raikkonen did a good job to get fifth place. He drove a solid race despite starting in eleventh place and 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. This will only help him prepare for the rest of the 2016 season.
Vettel had a credible race to finish in fourth. It is a result that Vettel needed after a tough few races and he should be happy; especially gaining the position during the race. He drove superbly but in a race where many expected him to finish and to maintain the momentum he has so far, he has managed to gain some points for the team and put himself in good stead for the rest of the 2016 season.
Hamilton deserves a mention and has to be my driver of the day. He drove a solid race to third place and battled his way through to get these points. Just a damage limitation performance and the Mercedes team and showing that he cannot be discounted on putting in the best performance on the track, even when the odds are against him.
Verstappen drove a solid race to finish second today. He may not have had the race he wanted; and didn’t have a chance to try and get past but he did a great job to secure a podium yesterday. And once again, luck helped him achieve this but he was in the position to make hey. But what a fantastic job from him all weekend and this will only give him a slight satisfaction heading into the next race in Austin.
All that is left to say about this race is that Ricciardo deserved to win at Suzuka and he needed to in order to show that he cannot be discounted as a driver. His driving was brilliant and controlled throughout the race and now is in a better position to win the title. All credit to Nico for doing a superb job this weekend and winning his first race in Japan.
With the US GP in a weeks time, if this season will be Rosberg’s at last or can Hamilton, Ricciardo or Vettel challenge him for wins along the way. But what is for certain is that Formula One is building up rather nicely.