Is it just me that thinks there is something a bit special about setting that alarm to get up early, jump on the sofa with a duvet and watch the Grand Prix whilst most others are still asleep?

F1: Japanese Grand Prix Results & Review

F1: Japanese Grand Prix Results & Review

Qualifying

Nothing really huge had happened in qualifying, the Red Bulls were looking strong and it was the calm before the storm as all ten drivers were out on track in Q3 for the first time I can remember this season. Everyone was waiting for a fantastic showdown and suddenly the yellow flags were out as Raikkonen left the track more than once and couldn’t find a large enough gap to re-join. This meant that pretty much everyone’s final lap was ruined, the Red Bulls locked out the front row and including penalties it was a nightmare for McLaren lining up 8th and 9th. The best bit of all this was to come as Raikkonen was interviewed. When asked about ruining the lap for everyone else he replied simply with, “I don’t care about the others”. Classic Kimi I think we all can agree!

The Start

Suzuka is a narrow track with overtaking always a challenge; this meant that getting a good start was paramount. Vettel, as he often does converted pole position into a first corner lead but all hell was breaking loose behind him. First of all Alonso was trying to squeeze Raikkonen off the track expecting him to yield, when Kimi decided against it and pushed back onto the track, there was contact with Alonso which saw him heading backwards off the track and ultimately retiring. This one little incident had huge repercussions in the driver championship, especially with Vettel’s unrivalled ability in converting pole positions into victories.

Romain, Romain, Romain, in a separate incident, that man Grosjean inexplicably ran into the back of Mark Webber who had started second and sent him off the track. Webber was able to recover and limp back round to the pits while the safety car was out but it effectively ruined Mark’s race in which he was certain to be strong. And yet again Grosjean played the bad guy, and ended up with a 10 second stop-go penalty for his troubles.

All this action put the home driver, Kobayashi into an amazing second place, Jenson Button up into third from eighth and Massa up to fourth from tenth. Hamilton also made it up to sixth place shortly afterwards following an error from Perez.

The Rest

Unfortunately, not a great deal else really happened in the race. Vettel did what he does best, led from pole position with relative ease and worrying his race engineer by putting in fastest laps for fun when there was no need. Felipe Massa had his best drive in a long time, putting in some great laps towards the end of his first stint to allow his Ferrari to jump both Kobayashi and Button in the first round of pit stops. From there Massa was able to work out a comfortable gap and take his first podium in two years. The home driver and fan favourite didn’t disappoint and Kobayashi was able to hold off a late charge from Button to claim his first podium, it was great for him to achieve it at his home Grand Prix and couldn’t have come at a better time with his future at Sauber under question.

Perez had an interesting race, running wide when trying to overtake Kimi near the start and losing a place to Hamilton. Perez was then able to pass a lacklustre Lewis before later losing out to him in the pit stops. The new 2013 McLaren driver would then have one last attempt at passing Hamilton, running wide once again and eventually getting beached and forced to retire. Hamilton was also able to pass Kimi in the last set of pit stops to give him fifth place behind his team mate.

A special mention should go out to Webber, despite being last and well behind the pack when the safety car came in he basically one stopped after having to pit on lap one. Despite all this, Mark managed to get into the points with a ninth place finish and had some damage to contend with.
Result

  • 1st Sebastian Vettel
  • 2nd Felipe Massa
  • 3rd Kamui Kobayashi
  • 4th Jenson Button
  • 5th Lewis Hamilton
  • Fastest lap Sebastian Vettel

It looks like my hope and faith in predicting Lewis Hamilton to come first didn’t pay off although he did make the top five. I had Button in fifth which was pretty close and Vettel second although it was a toss-up between him and Lewis for who I predicted first. Only dreamers would have put Massa and Kobayashi on the podium so I don’t think you can blame me for not seeing that coming!

The Title Race

Suzuka was huge in terms of the driver title, with Fernando Alonso not finishing the race and Vettel winning, the gap between them is now just four points. All the momentum is with Vettel and he is in what now looks like the fastest car. Ferrari and Alonso will now be extremely worried and may have to hope for mechanical failures for Vettel if they want to win the championship. Massa looked good in the Ferrari which will both be encouraging and irritating for Alonso as he will feel that he could have been even more competitive had he not retired. The Ferrari was still dominated by Vettel and the Red Bull however and developments will need to be made.

Hamilton may have closed the gap on Alonso by finishing fifth but in all honesty he looks to be in a worse position than before the start of the weekend. It’s another race gone and ten points into Alonso’s lead is not enough with the pace Red Bull have shown. The McLaren looked to be slower than Red Bull, Ferrari and Sauber during the race when in possession of new tyres and that will be a real worry as their dominance has ended far too quickly. Lewis looked kind of half arsed, Perez breezed past him early in the race and he was often on the radio sounding very glum complaining about tyres. Unfortunately for Hamilton fans (which includes me) this could be a very common occurrence next season. If the Mercedes isn’t competitive we may see a depressed Hamilton which generally just isn’t as quick as a happy one.

Once again Grosjean has had a first lap incident which makes eight this season, and taken out a car which is in the championship hunt. There isn’t really an excuse for driving into the back of Webber who had some choice words to say about Grosjean after the race, branding him a “first-lap nutcase”.

Grosjean was given a ten second stop go penalty which is the harshest punishment available without disqualifying him from the race. I am sure the stewards are at a loss at the moment, banning him from a race hasn’t done the job and I think they just need to throw the maximum penalty at him from now on. Will he be in the Lotus seat next season? There must be some serious conversations around his future going on at the moment.

We are straight into Korea at the weekend so check back for my preview of what should be another crucial race in this year’s championship.

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