Lewis Hamilton took victory at a shortened Japanese Grand Prix today, overtaking team-mate Nico Rosberg mid-way through the Grand Prix to extend his lead in the World Championship fight.
The race began behind the Safety Car as Typhoon Phanfone hit the circuit, as was expected, and made it too dangerous to complete a standing start. However, there were but a lap and a half completed before the race was red flagged due to the rain getting heavier. The FIA had twice asked Honda, the organisers, to start the race four hours earlier to avoid the rain, but Honda twice refused, hence the unnecessary problems in the race.
Finally the race restarted, albeit still behind the Safety Car. Race control left the Safety Car out until lap 9, although drivers were insisting that the track was completely driveable by lap 6. Hamilton, in second, was the main man trying to get the race underway, directly radioing Race Director Charlie Whiting to plead for the race start. Meanwhile, Alonso was trying to warm himself in the garage after retiring on lap three with a car electrics failure.
The Safety Car came in on lap nine and Rosberg led the pack across the start/finish line to begin lap 10, and start the race proper. Hamilton, who was so keen on getting the race started, looked at passing his team-mate, but was unsuccessful and slotted back behind into turn 1. Sebastian Vettel was also on the move and pulled an ambitious overtake on McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, which the Dane managed to fend off. Undeterred, Vettel tried again down the straight into 130R and was successful, moving up the order.
Button was the first man to come into the pits and take on the intermediate tyre compounds, returning to the track far down the order. Although he struggled in the conditions, he soon proved to be faster overall and when a cavalcade of drivers came into the pits at the same time, Button passed them all and moved himself up to third, behind the two Mercedes drivers.
It was Rosberg’s turn to box from the lead next, but as the team tweaked with his front wing, it cost him a small amount of time in the battle to rejoin ahead of Hamilton. It was up to Lewis then to optimise on the delay, but he himself went wide at Spoon corner and lost some time. When he rejoined the track after his pitstop, he was 2.4s behind Rosberg.
As Hamilton began to slowly close the gap to his team-mate in the lead, the two Red Bulls were battling the two Williams’. Vettel was the first to make a move, diving up the inside of Massa’s Williams into the hairpin and getting past. Ricciardo tried to follow his team-mate in the following corners, but the Brazilian was proving to be good competition. Instead, Ricciardo waited until the Dunlop curve, sliding past on the inside in one of the overtakes of the season. In fact, he mirrored it a lap later when he followed Vettel past Valtteri Bottas at the same spot. Impressive racing from all four drivers.
In the meantime, Hamilton had been closing the gap and finally made it within the DRS 1-second gap. His first few attempts at passing Rosberg on the start/finish straight were unsuccessful, but on lap 29 he had a powerful run from the final chicane and pulled an impressive move on the outside of turn 1 and took the lead of the Grand Prix.
Soon afterwards, the rain began to get heavier. Kevin Magnussen, for example, was caught out and spun an impressive 360 before continuing as if nothing had happened, albeit now a place down. Sebastian Vettel was also caught out through the S-curves, skipping across the run-off area before rejoining. Although the rain was coming down harder now, and the DRS was disabled, Ricciardo was still on the charge and moved up the order after a move past Button at the hairpin.
Yellow flags came out during the overtake, as the rain became increasingly heavy, and the threat of a red flag drew nearer. Adrian Sutil had aquaplaned off the track into the barriers at the Dunlop curve, but was unhurt in the collision. However, when the JCB came out to clear the Sauber, Jules Bianchi slid straight off the track and hit the JCB sideways. Bianchi had been hurt. He was unresponsive to the team’s calls on the radio, and the medical car was deployed.
An ambulance was called to the scene and Bianchi was taken to the medical centre before being forwarded to the hospital. He was unconscious leaving the track and was sent by road ambulance, as opposed to the medical helicopter which is kept on scene for this purpose. There are no further details as to his condition, but, of course, we all hope he’s okay.
The race was red flagged as a result and meant that Lewis Hamilton won the race, with 7 laps remaining. Nico Rosberg finished behind in second, meaning the Championship gap increases to second, while Sebastian Vettel finished in third. The subdued celebrations on the podium, on which no champagne was sprayed, showed the concern of drivers for Bianchi’s condition.
Japanese Grand Prix Race Results:
- Lewis Hamilton
- Nico Rosberg
- Sebastian Vettel
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Jenson Button
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Valtteri Bottas
- Felipe Massa
- Sergio Perez
- Jean-Eric Vergne
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Daniil Kvyat
- Esteban Gutierrez
- Romain Grosjean
- Pastor Maldonado
- Kevin Magnussen
- Jules Bianchi
- Marcus Ericsson
- Max Chilton
- Adrian Sutil
- Kamui Kobayashi
Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Team.