Formula 1: Two In A Row For Red Bull at the Japanese Grand Prix

Sebastian is the only driver this season to win back to back races.  That shows you how good a season...

James Bale

Contributor

Sebastian is the only driver this season to win back to back races.  That shows you how good a season this one is.  Seven different drivers have won a race compared to last year’s five.  Vettel also managed to win back to back races on four separate occasions last year, whereas this year he is the only driver to manage that feat.  This shows how much more competitive Formula 1 has become.

In other news…

Hamilton is moving to Mercedes next season when they bring back the Turbo engines.  McLaren offered him more money but he still decided to leave.  Lewis will be stepping into the shoes of Michael Schumacher as he announced his retirement from F1.  Will Michael be retiring for good this time?  The young Mexican Sergio Perez will be moving from Sauber to take Lewis’s old seat at McLaren.  I think the partnering of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez will be excellent, as Perez can act as Button’s understudy and hopefully gain success from it.

 

Qualifying

Q1 saw the usual culprits exit in the first qualifying stage.  Marussia, Caterham and HRT were joined by Bruno Senna’s Williams who qualified 18th.  Q2 saw the Toro Rossos of Ricciardo and Vergne end up 16th and 17th respectively.  Pastor Maldonado was caught in a Mercedes sandwich as he qualified 14th with Schumacher in 13th and Rosberg in 15th.  However due to Schumacher’s incident in Singapore, he received a 10 place grid penalty leaving him on the back row of the gird in 23rd.  Paul Di Resta managed to get 12th just behind Massa who rounded off Q2 in 11th.  Nico Hulkenberg who beat Massa by 0.02 seconds to get into the top 10 had a gearbox change which incurred him a 5 place grid drop to 15th.  Q3 was commanded by Red Bull as Vettel and Webber qualified on the front of the grid.  Jenson managed to get 3rd, but with a gearbox change saw him start the race from 8th.  Sauber put in a fantastic performance to qualify in 4th and 6th.  The Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi qualified 4th in front of an ecstatic home crowd, while his teammate Perez got 6th ahead of championship leader Alonso in 7th.  The Lotus’s of Grosjean and Raikkonen achieved 5th and 8th and a slightly off pace Hamilton only managed 9th as Hulkenberg didn’t set a time in qualifying.

The Race

First corner dramas seem to have become a regular occurrence this season.  Mostly featuring a certain Lotus driver, Romain Grosjean.  Suzuka was no exception.  Except Grosjean was beaten by his teammate Kimi Raikkonen who clipped Alonso’s rear wheel causing a puncture and subsequently causing him to spin out on the gravel at turn 1.  Almost simultaneously further round turn 1, Grosjean tapped the rear of Webber causing him to spin and break Grosjean’s front wing.  Grosjean was penalised for this with a 10 second stop and go penalty.  This sent Webber right to the back of the pack but he still managed to finish 9th overall.  Rounding things off Bruno Senna also made contact with Rosberg forcing him to retire as well.  Two drivers out before turn 2 had even been completed.  Senna was later given a drive through penalty for causing Rosberg’s early exit.  From the start line Webber was very slow getting off the grid and the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi rocketed past him in pursuit of Vettel who started from pole.  With any medium sized debris scatter on the track the safety car was summoned and after the cars of Rosberg and Alonso had been removed, Vettel caught the rest of the pack napping and flew away making sure he didn’t lose the lead to Kobayashi.  Perez looked incredibly racy trying to get a move on Raikkonen but was pushed wide onto the extra tarmac.  This sent him back behind Hamilton who he later passed with what can only be described as a dive bomb on lap 6.  The commentators seemed to think that Lewis saw the move coming, but I’m not so convinced.  Hamilton was clearly taking the usual wide line around the hairpin and only noticed Perez when he came flying down the inside at the last minute.  Gutsy move and it certainly paid off.  Ferrari have always been tactical masterminds and somehow they managed to get Massa out in front of Kobayashi after the first round of pit stops giving him 2nd place.  Perez’s overtaking luck was short lived as on lap 18 at the same hairpin, turn 11, he went far too wide trying another overtaking manoeuvre on Hamilton and Perez was caught in the gravel trap.  Again another interesting move from the young Mexican.  A slight rookie mistake as he tried to carry too much power round the outside of the corner, but with time he is surely one to watch for the future.

After 53 laps the chequered flag was waved to an almost untouchable Vettel.  He lead from start to finish and was unchallenged the whole race.  Massa put in a fantastic performance to end up 2nd and his first steps onto the podium for nearly two years.  The Sauber of Kobayashi was able to fend off McLaren’s Jenson Button to secure 3rd place and the Japanese driver’s first ever podium finish to an extremely receptive and jubilant home crowd.  Hamilton managed to finish in 5th place after a fairly subdued race from him.  Pastor Maldonado picked up his first points since his victory earlier this year finishing 8th while Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg managed 7th out finishing his teammate Paul Di Resta who ended up in 12th.  The two Australians rounded off the top ten with Webber gaining 9th place after his first corner spin and Ricciardo earned 10th place ahead of Schumacher.

 

The Awards
The best bit really!

Most Consistent Award
Sebastian Vettel

Untouched and unchallenged all day left him easily out in front.  An easy victory for the German.

Driver of the Day
Felipe Massa

Some great tactics and great driving got him into 2nd and he stayed there.  If Alonso was still in the race I wonder where the pair of them could have been…

Team of the Day
Sauber

Their pace was excellent throughout both qualifying and the race.  If only Perez hadn’t have been too ambitious in a pass, we could have easily had the pair of Saubers in the top five.

Not so Team of the Day
Lotus

If it’s not one, it’s both of them causing incidences.  Raikkonen clipping Alonso and ending his race while Grosjean tapping and pushing Webber off the road.

Driver Comment of the Day
Webber about Grosjean

“I haven’t seen what happened at the start but the guys confirmed that it was the first-lap nutcase again Grosjean”
Watching the replay of the incident, Grosjean had nowhere to go as he was blocked in by Perez on the outside and Webber straight ahead.  Webber was further back than he should have been due to a slow start off the grid, and if Grosjean would have eased off, he would have been punted from the rear and blamed for a different accident.  I think it is bad luck rather than driver error which caused this crash.

Best Overtake
Perez on Hamilton, lap 6

Gutsy dive bomb which really paid off for the Mexican.  Had to lock the front wheels to make it round the corner, but Hamilton gave him just enough room to give the Mexican the edge.

 

So that leaves Vettel only four points behind Alonso in the championship, as we head over to South Korea next weekend.  Vettel won there last year, but can he repeat his fortune of late?  Tune into the BBC on Sunday 14th October to watch the race live.

For Full Race Results Click Here
For Full Championship Standings Click Here