Lewis Hamilton won a rain-affected Japanese Grand Prix yesterday, his third win on end and eighth for the year. But the day will be remembered more for its wet weather and the race-ending crash involving Jules Bianchi.
With heavy rain falling at the scheduled start time the race began behind the Safety Car. With no immediate sign of relief the cars were brought into pit lane on Lap 2 and the race was red flagged. Following a 25 minute delay the race restarted behind the Safety Car, which stayed out until Lap 9. Conditions had improved quite a lot and Rosberg was finally able to lead the field under green flag conditions from pole.
Jenson Button followed the Safety Car into the pits to take a risk by being the first driver to switch from full wets to intermediate tyres. That move paid immediate dividends as the inters proved to be the quicker tyre and all drivers came in for new rubber. This allowed Button to elevate himself up the field to P3 after starting eighth.
The race settled into a rhythm and the Mercedes AMG pair set off building a gap on the rest of the field. Hamilton had better race pace than Rosberg and after almost 20 laps behind his championship rival he was able to maintain grip on his tyres for longer and find his way into the lead.
Red Bull’s decision to sacrifice straight line pace during the sunny qualifying conditions was paying off as both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were able to use their increased downforce and subsequent grip to manufacture some entertaining overtaking moves.
As the race passed Lap 40, the mark needed to be considered for full championship points, rain had been falling for a few minutes and Kevin Magnussen came in for extreme wet tyres. Although, most drivers who did come in for new tyres remained on inters.
Adrian Sutil crashed out at turn 7, which became the precursor for Bianchi’s incident. The race finished four laps later behind the Safety Car with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg heading the field. Ricciardo had moved into P3 ahead of Vettel on track by choosing not to pit for new tyres, but once the race was stopped and positions were taken from the previous full lap Vettel reinherited the final podium position.
Celebrations were understandably subdued on the podium as word of Bianchi’s injury filtered through the paddock. Our thoughts remain with the young Frenchman and the Marussia team. It’s the worst possible build up they could have imagined as F1 prepares for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in Sochi next weekend.
2014 Japanese Grand Prix final placings
- Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG â€“ 44 Laps; 1:51:43.021 (25 pts)
- Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG â€“ +9.1 secs (18 pts)
- Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing â€“ +29.1 secs (15 pts)
- Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing â€“ +38.8 secs (12 pts)
- Jenson Button McLaren â€“ +67.5 secs (10 pts)
- Valtteri Bottas Williams â€“ +113.7 secs (8 pts)
- Felipe Massa Williams â€“ +115.1 secs (6 pts)
- Nico Hulkenberg Force India â€“ +115.9 secs (4 pts)
- Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso â€“ +127.6 secs (2 pts)
- Sergio Perez Force India â€“ +1 Lap (1 pt)
- Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso â€“ +1 Lap
- Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen Ferrari â€“ +1 Lap
- Esteban Gutierrez Sauber â€“ +1 Lap
- Kevin Magnussen McLaren â€“ +1 Lap
- Romain Grosjean Lotus â€“ +1 Lap
- Pastor Maldonado Lotus â€“ +1 Lap
- Marcus Ericsson Caterham â€“ +1 Lap
- Max Chilton Marussia â€“ +1 Lap
- Kamui Kobayashi Caterham â€“ +1 Lap
Jules Bianchi Marussia â€“ Lap 41 (Accident)
Adrian Sutil Sauber â€“ Lap 40 (Accident)
Fernando Alonso Ferrari â€“ Lap 2 (Electronics)
Note: Vergne qualified P11, Maldonado P17; both dropped 10 grid places for engine change. Maldonado had 20s added to race time for pit-lane speeding
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG â€“ 1:51.600 (Lap 39)
2014 F1 world championship â€“ Drivers (Top 10)
- Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG â€“ 266
- Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG â€“ 256
- Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull â€“ 193
- Sebastian Vettel Red Bull â€“ 139
- Fernando Alonso Ferrari â€“ 133
- Valtteri Bottas Williams â€“ 130
- Jenson Button McLaren â€“ 82
- Nico Hulkenberg Force India â€“ 76
- Felipe Massa Williams â€“ 71
- Sergio Perez Force India â€“ 46
2014 F1 world championship â€“ Constructors
- Mercedes â€“ 522
- Red Bull Racing â€“ 332
- Williams-Mercedes â€“ 201
- Ferrari â€“ 178
- Force India-Mercedes â€“ 122
- McLaren-Mercedes â€“ 121
- STR-Renault â€“ 29
- Lotus-Renault â€“ 8
- Marussia-Ferrari â€“ 2
- Sauber-Ferrari â€“ 0
- Caterham-Renault â€“ 0