Hamilton Eases To Victory At Japanese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton eased to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix, overtaking his team-mate on the start and commanding the race for the remaining 53 laps. After falling several places into the first corners, Rosberg fought back to bring Mercedes a 1-2 finish, but has still lost another crucial 7 points on his team-mate, extending Hamilton’s lead in the Championship to 48 points.

Rosberg had clinched pole on Saturday with Hamilton slotting in behind him to keep the pressure on. But at lights out, Hamilton had a slightly stronger start than the sister Silver Arrows which allowed him to pull alongside into T1. Rosberg’s efforts to snuff the overtake failed miserably as he spilled over the track limits and allowed the Ferrari of Vettel and the Williams of Bottas to slip past him and demote him from first to fourth in the first two corners. Behind them, Ricciardo had been squeezed and knocked into Felipe Massa’s front wing. The ensuing traffic saw Perez get hit and slide into the gravel at a vast rate of knots. Subsequently Massa and Ricciardo had to pit to repair their respective punctures, with Massa also taking on a new front wing.

As Hamilton secured his lead with a new fastest lap helping extend the gap to second placed Vettel, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz began the first of many mid-field squabbles when he slipped past his countryman Alonso, while Button seemed to be reversing as Nasr and Verstappen breezed past him on both sides into T1. Alonso made sure to radio his frustration at the “embarrassing, very embarrassing” ease with which he was passed – at engine developer Honda’s home race.

Nevertheless he managed to fight off the challenge presented by Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull for ten laps. The young Russian himself had to fend off Verstappen at the same time and eventually dove into the pits, leaving the feisty Verstappen to challenge for Alonso’s tenth place. He, again, managed to hold the Toro Rosso off for several laps until a small error on the exit of the final corner allowed the 17-year-old to use DRS to pass the 34-year-old double World Champion.

Ericsson repeated his practice spin at Spoon curve which allowed Grosjean and Nasr to get past him, while Vettel maintained his position over Bottas after the two had completed their first stops. Following his own pit stop Rosberg began to charge after the cars in front of him. His first target was Bottas who he caught with remarkable speed and made short work of the into the final chicane, diving down the inside of the Finn, who didn’t seem to be particularly expecting the move from far behind.

At the same time, Verstappen was trying to make ballsy moves of his own and attempted a pass around the outside of Kvyat on the outside of 130R, although sensibly backed out of it when the Red Bull closed the door. Will Stevens showed the perils of taking 130R for granted later on in the race when he spun through the corner and narrowly avoided a huge impact with team-mate Alexander Rossi.

Vettel ducked into the pits on lap 31, avoiding debris left by Sainz who hit a pitlane bollard and broke his front wing. The German was stationary for less than three seconds as he changed his Pirellis, but when he emerged the much faster Rosberg had successfully utilised the undercut to sweep past him and into second. With Hamilton over ten seconds away, and pulling out half-a-second per lap, Rosberg settled in to maintain his second place from Vettel.

Further down the grid was less settled with everything left to fight for. Sainz scooped past Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso (to another angry radio outburst and scream from the Spaniard) and then Jenson Button into 130R to grab the final spot. Verstappen followed his team-mate through the field and pulled a nice move on Sainz at the final chicane. Kvyat made a similar move, despite running with front-end issues which made his car unstable, on Ericsson on the penultimate lap. The penultimate lap also saw Felipe Nasr pull into the pits and clamber from his cockpit.

With nearly twenty seconds in his pocket Hamilton proved unstoppable as he cruised flawlessly to his 41st Grand Prix victory. The tally puts him on par with his idol, Ayrton Senna, who ironically won his three World Championship titles at the same circuit. He has pushed his title lead to 48 points over Rosberg and with both drivers ringing up 43 points for Mercedes, a 1-2 at the next Grand Prix would seal another Constructor’s Championship for the team.

Provisional Race Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Kimi Raikkonen
  5. Valtteri Bottas
  6. Nico Hulkenberg
  7. Romain Grosjean
  8. Pastor Maldonado
  9. Max Verstappen
  10. Carlos Sainz
  11. Fernando Alonso
  12. Sergio Perez
  13. Marcus Ericsson
  14. Daniil Kvyat
  15. Daniel Ricciardo
  16. Jenson Button
  17. Felipe Nasr
  18. Felipe Massa
  19. Alexander Rossi
  20. Will Stevens

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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