I believe the line “they think it’s all over, it is now” springs to mind after the latest Ferrari disaster and yet another Lewis Hamilton win, meanwhile the Red Bulls are still surging forward for a double podium.
Sebastian Vettel started alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row of the grid, but was immediately losing time to the chasing pack, Max Verstappen who had already slipped down the inside of team mate Daniel Ricciardo through turn 1 for third place, dived down the inside of Vettel for second place at the hairpin. Vettel only went backwards from there and eventually retired his Ferrari at the end of lap 4.
It got worse for Ferrari through the Spoon curve on lap 1, Kimi Raikkonen was pushed wide onto the AstroTurf by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, losing half dozen places, dropping back as far as 14th. The Finnish driver did recover to fifth place, which is not terrible given his starting position of 10th after serving a five place grid drop for a gearbox change while his team mate skipped out the circuit back door.
Carlos Sainz Jr crashed out through the Esses on lap 1 in what is his final race for Toro Rosso before moving to Renault for the final four races of the season starting from the US Grand Prix. The Spaniard replaces the much maligned Jolyon Palmer, who was paid off by the French team to walk away early.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon made a fantastic start to leapfrog from fifth to third, getting the better of Ricciardo through turn 1 and later on lap 2 passing the ailing Ferrari of Vettel. But ultimately the Frenchman could not match the pace of Red Bull, Mercedes and the sole remaining Ferrari of Raikkonen, finishing the race in sixth place ahead of his more experienced team mate, Sergio Perez.
There were two virtual safety car periods, in which, Hamilton pulled out time on second placed, Verstappen. My question is; was Verstappen slower than the delta or was Hamilton exceeding the lap delta to pull out a gap? No FIA investigation was instigated, so I guess this question will go unanswered.
As the race came to it’s conclusion, HAAS’ Kevin Magnussen made a robust move on Felipe Massa for 8th place going into turn 1 making contact with Massa’s front wing end plate. Pushing the Brazilian wide also allowing HAAS team mate, Romain Grosjean to slip down the inside, demoting Massa to 10th a few laps before Williams team mate, Lance Stroll had a right front tire failure sending him into the gravel and out of the race. This brought out the second VSC, in which Hamilton pulled out 3 seconds on Verstappen.
Those three seconds were crucial for Hamilton in the final 2 laps, Verstappen was closing on the Briton fast as Hamilton struggled with a power unit vibration. Hamilton was helped by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who both balked Verstappen after letting Hamilton pass, costing the Dutchman valuable time in his pursuit of the win. Verstappen took the chequered flag just 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton.
After the Japanese GP, the title is Hamilton’s barring the Briton having 2 DNF’s in the final four races with Vettel winning those races. The last three races have been disastrous for Ferrari, multiple power unit issues for both drivers and the inexplicable crash, which I believe Vettel himself instigated in Singapore.
Hamilton can wrap up the title at COTA (US Grand Prix) in two weeks time with another win and Vettel finishes sixth or lower. Hamilton has won four of the five races held at the Circuit of the Americas, you have to believe that he is heading for a fifth victory in Austin given the current state of play in Formula 1.
Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Results
|1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27:31.194
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.211s
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +9.679s
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +10.580s
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +32.622s
|6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +67.788s
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +71.424s
8. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +88.953s
9. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +89.883s
10. Felipe Massa (Williams) +1 LAP