Tag Archives: Suzuka

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Results & aftermath

Hamilton holds off Verstappen for win at Suzuka consolidating championship lead; Ricciardo P3 but Vettel out early with engine problems

Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton had an essentially prefect race weekend in Japan. The English points leader shattered the track record at Suzuka on Saturday en route to his first pole at this fabled track. Then on Sunday he was not only the fastest car and driver on the circuit but his main rival for the Drivers’ Championship was out early and did not finish. Capping off a nightmare three-race run for Scuderia Ferrari, their title aspirant, 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, suffered another engine problem apparently due to a faulty spark plug of all things that saw him down on woefully power and forced the retirement of his car on Lap 5. After the team’s crash-induced double DNF in Singapore, persistent engine woes in Malaysia that saw Vettel forced to start from last and Kimi Raikkonen not make the race start at all and then this disaster for Vettel in Japan, Ferrari’s once-promising season appears to have completely unraveled. In the face of this year’s all but bulletproof Mercedes F1 W08 chassis the legendary team from Maranello are now too far behind in the Constructors’ chase to have a realistic shot and Vettel saw his deficit to Hamilton balloon to 59 points after Sunday’s latest non-scoring DNF. That leaves the victorious Hamilton on the brink of his fourth world title and he could conceivably wrap it up as soon as the US Grand Prix two weeks hence in Austin. So all-in-all it was another superb day for Hamilton and the Silver Arrows and another unmitigated disaster for Ferrari.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Red Bull’s wunderkind Max Verstappen tried his best to spoil Hamilton’s party. After being elevated to P4 on the grid due to penalties against Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen was even quicker in race trim, besting his teammate Daniel Ricciardo early and then taking advantage of Vettel’s misfortune to firmly secure second position for the majority of the race. Even though the Red Bull lacks a bit of horsepower when stacked up against Mercedes, Verstappen wrung every ounce of performance he could from his lithe RB13 chassis, almost having enough to close down Hamilton after a late Virtual Safety Car period precipitated by Lance Stroll’s off. But lapped traffic got in the way, particularly an obstinate Fernando Alonso, and the laps ran out on the Dutchman. The Malaysian GP winner had to be content with a very stout P2 podium result just 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton’s winning time. Ricciardo was a little bit further up the road and finished P3 for the second consecutive GP. That also makes it 4 podiums in the last 5 races for the smiling Aussie.

The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas wasn’t able to keep pace with the frontrunners but played a valuable role for the team by allowing Hamilton by him mid-race and then stacking up the pursuing Verstappen, costing the Red Bull some valuable laps in its quest for a possible victory. Bottas would come home off the podium in P4 but surely earned a lot of credit with the team and Hamilton as a valuable wingman with that unselfish effort. Vettel’s teammate Raikkonen also drove well to fight his way back from a penalty-effected P10 start, as well as getting pushed off track by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and falling even further back through the order on Lap 1. Raikkonen regrouped to will the lone surviving Ferrari up to a P5 finish. It was a strong drive by the Iceman but in the end small consolation on another terrible day for Ferrari.

The Force Indias ran well yet again, with Esteban Ocon besting his nemesis Sergio Perez, P6 to P7. Despite their mutual loathing and season-long on track skirmishes the Force India duo have nonetheless performed well enough to essentially guarantee the team fourth place in the Constructor’s Championship, a massively lucrative result for the little team from Silverstone. Both Haas cars also got good points in Japan with Kevin Magnussen staying ahead of his teammate long enough to make a forceful pass on the Williams of Felipe Massa late in the race for P8 and Romain Grosjean following close behind to finish ninth despite starting from P16 after a big shunt knocked him out of qualifying early on Saturday. Massa was able to hold on against the charging McLaren of Fernando Alonso to take the last points paying position for Williams in P10. After the race Alonso was given a 2-point penalty on his Super License for not obeying blue flags and letting Vertstappen by as the Red Bull man was making his late-race charge.

Top 10 finishers of the Japanese Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 53 1:27:31.194 25
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +1.211s 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +9.679s 15
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 53 +10.580s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 53 +32.622s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +67.788s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +71.424s 6
8 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 53 +88.953s 4
9 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 53 +89.883s 2
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 52 +1 lap 1

Complete race results alive via Formula1.com.

In other news, Carlos Sainz, who wiped out his Toro Rosso on Lap 1, will make the switch to Renault for the last remaining races of 2017, bouncing the star-crossed Jolyon Palmer from his seat and presumably from Forumla 1 entirely. The erratic Russian Daniil Kvyat will return to his Toro Rosso ride but his partner for Austin may or may not be Pierre Gasly, as the rookie sensation still has an opportunity to win the Super Formula title that weekend. And whether Toro Rosso keep on Kvyat in 2018 also remains an open question.

The next race is in two weeks time, the United States Grand Prix from the always fun Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Will Hamilton be able to wrap up the title there or can Ferrari get back on the beam and put up a fight? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Qualifying results

Hamilton blisters track record for pole at Suzuka, Bottas back on form in P2; Vettel third quickest as grid shuffled by penalties

Making emphatic amends for never having scored a pole at the legendary Suzuka circuit, Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton shattered Michael Schumacher’s 11-year-old lap record by over 1.6 seconds en route to the 71st pole of the Englishman’s sparkling career. Better yet for the Silver Arrows, Hamilton’s wingman Valtteri Bottas returned to form after a run of mediocre qualifying results and qualified P2. That stout effort by Bottas pipped the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton’s only real competition for the Drivers’ title, but the Mercedes #2 has a gearbox penalty to serve and so was pushed back to P6 with Vettel inheriting the second spot on the grid beside Hamilton. After Vettel’s wonder drive in Malaysia a week ago where he came from last to finish a remarkable fourth the German 4-time World Champion must be salivating at the prospect of starting from P2 and being able to go mano a mano with Hamilton right from then get go.

However, Vettel may have to go it alone, as his Scuderia teammate Kimi Raikkonen had another difficult day a week after his car failed to start the Malaysian GP due to turbo problems. The Finnish vet got it wrong in free practice 3, smashing into the armco at the Degner curves and damaging his suspension and gearbox in the process. His mechanics did yeoman’s work to get the car ready for qualifying but Raikkonen couldn’t find the speed and ended up a lowly P7. With his and others’ penalties factored in Raikkonen got pushed back to P10. He’ll just be hoping that his car can get to race after last week’s disaster at Sepang Circuit. But when you start mid-pack the chances of bad things happening on the opening lap increase exponentially so I think it’s even money whether the sometimes accident prone Raikkonen can make it to the finish.

The two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Vertstappen qualified P4 and P5 respectively but both will move up one spot and line up side by side on the second row. With their strong performance in Malaysia fresh in their minds where Verstappen got the win and Ricciardo was P3 they could once again be better in race trim. So watch out for at least one of the Red Bull duo to perhaps challenge the front runners for victory tomorrow. Esteban Ocon out-qualified his Force India teammate and arch rival Sergio Perez P7 to P8 and Ocon will start P5 come Sunday due to Bottas’ demotion. Williams Felipe Massa set the 9th fastest time and will move up to P8 on the grid, while Fernando Alonso got his McLaren into Q3 at Honda’shome track. But the Spaniard also faces a host of penalties for parts changes on his car that will drop him all the way to last position. That ironically benefitted his slower teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne, who could only muster the 11th fastest time in Q2 but will see himself elevated all the way up to P9 on the grid come race day.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Japanese GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:29.047 1:27.819 1:27.319 18
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:29.332 1:28.543 1:27.651 17
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:29.352 1:28.225 1:27.791 19
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:29.475 1:28.935 1:28.306 13
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:29.181 1:28.747 1:28.332 12
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:29.163 1:29.079 1:28.498 15
7 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:30.115 1:29.199 1:29.111 16
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:29.696 1:29.343 1:29.260 17
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:30.352 1:29.687 1:29.480 16
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:30.525 1:29.749 1:30.687 13

And the adjusted front grid after all penalties are factored in:

POS DRIVER CAR TIME GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.319s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m27.791s 0.472s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m28.306s 0.987s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m28.332s 1.013s
5 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m29.111s 1.792s
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m27.651s 0.332s
7 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m29.260s 1.941s
8 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m29.480s 2.161s
9 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda 1m29.778s 2.459s
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m28.498s 1.179s

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix airs live on NBC Sports starting at 1AM here in the States. So stay up late singing karaoke and then enjoy the race with a cold glass of sake to see if anyone has anything for Hamilton or if he will simply leave them all in his dust. Hope to see you then to find out!

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Results & aftermath

Rosberg sails to victory at Suzuka after another poor Hamilton start; Mercedes claim 3rd consecutive title; Verstappen powers his Red Bull to P2

A week after his engine blew up en route to a sure victory in Malaysia, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton went back to having only himself to blame for his on-track misfortunes. Starting alongside his pole-sitting teammate Nico Rosberg on the front row in P2, Hamilton once again got a very poor getaway from the line as the lights went out and saw himself swamped by nearly all of the rest of the top 10 starters before he could recover. Meanwhile, Rosberg swanned away and instantly began pulling out a gap on his nearest pursuer, Red  Bull’s Max Vertstappen. Starts have been Hamilton’s unexpected bête noir this season and as has often happened after the summer break, he found himself fighting back furiously to recover from his own unforced error. But fight back he did, scrapping with and passing Ferraris, Red Bulls, Williams & Force Indias to claw his way back from a seemingly perilous points deficit. In the end, Rosberg scored an easy maiden victory at Suzuka, his eighth victory of the 2016 season, while Hamilton was able to salvage a hard-fought P3 for some level of redemption for his poor getaway. The high finishing places also insured the Mercedes factory team’s impressive third Constructors’ Championship in succession, a remarkable feat for any F1 team.

But for their battling drivers, everything remains to be settled. With only four Grand Prix left, Rosberg stretched his points lead to 33 over his teammate and arch-nemesis. The German looks well-poised to take his first-ever title from current champion Hamilton but, as the old saying goes, anything can happen in motorsport. One thing’s for sure: Hamilton will never quit and if he is going to go down, he’ll go down swinging. So Rosberg had better be prepared for the four toughest races of his career if he’s going to grab that elusive first Drivers’ Championship.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Splitting the two Silver Arrows, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drove a superb race to come home P2. The Dutch phenom fought his way forward after Hamilton’s initial slow start and was able to use solid tire strategy and determined driving to outpace both Ferraris, fight his way through stubborn backmarkers and then hold off a charging Hamilton as the laps wound down. His superb effort culminated with making himself just wide enough to thwart Hamilton’s optimistic passing maneuver on then penultimate lap, sending the Englishman down an escape road when he overcooked the overtake. While Mercedes and Hamilton complained that Verstappen made an illegal block at the time, replays showed no such excess movement and eventually the team dropped their protest. It was another sweet podium for Verstappen, his 6th so far in this his breakout year, and an amazing 6 podiums out of only 13 starts with the big Red Bull team.

All was not as joyful for Verstappen’s senior teammate Daniel Ricciardo. A week after his lucky victory in Malaysia, the Aussie had an uncharacteristically poor start from the wetter side of the track and had to fight for the rest of the race just to stay in reach of the leaders. In the end, Ricciardo finished well back in P6, a sure disappointment to him on a day when his precocious teammate thoroughly outscored him. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel could never quite make his tire strategy work even after looking very quick and battling back from a 3-spot grid penalty that saw him start from P7 instead of P4. Try as he might he could never close down Hamilton late in the race and had to settle for P4. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who also was penalized for a gearbox change and had to start from P8 drove with controlled aggression to work his way up to P5, decent if unspectacular day at the office for the Scuderia.

Rounding out the Top 10, the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were P7 and P8 respectively. After the race rumors swirled that Hulkenberg would be jumping from Force India over to Renault, something of a surprise when it seemed his ride was already settled for next year. And both Williams managed to score points after neither made into the third round of qualifying on Saturday. Felipe Massa was P9 and Valtteri Bottas was P10, as Williams’ race pace proved superior to their nearest competitors, the American Hass F1 team, even after they were comprehensively out-qualified by them.

Top 10 finishers at the Japan GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 53 1:26:43.333 25
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +4.978s 18
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 53 +5.776s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 53 +20.269s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 53 +28.370s 10
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +33.941s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +57.495s 6
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +59.177s 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 53 +97.763s 2
10 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 53 +98.323s 1

Complete results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks — the United States Grand Prix from COTA in Austin, Texas. With the weather predicted to be much better than last year’s soggy affair, the beautiful purpose-built track should get back to delivering excellent racing and plenty of passing. It’s also a circuit that Hamilton loves, having taken victory in three out of the four GPs held there. With time running out on the season, he’ll be desperate to take the fight to Rosberg and salvage his aspirations of a championship 3-peat. Hope to see you then!

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Qualifying results

Rosberg pips Hamilton for pole at Suzuka; Raikkonen good enough for P3 for Ferrari

Nico Rosberg kept his recent positive momentum going by nabbing pole in Saturday qualifying at Suzuka in Japan. The Mercedes championship points leader pipped his nearest pursuer, teammate and archival Lewis Hamilton, by a mere .013 seconds as time wound down in Q3 and the checkered flag flew. That excellent performance capped off a terrific first two days in Japan that saw Rosberg fastest in every session and gave the German continued confidence in his quest to secure his first career F1 championship and take the title belt from his gifted English teammate. Despite his disappointment at being bested in quali all is not lost for Hamilton. The battling Briton was victorious the last two Grand Prix at Suzaka after starting from P2 and there is really nothing between the two Mercedes’ aces. But with the races running out and following a mechanical failure last week in Malaysia that cost him a sure victory and precious points Hamilton needs a good finish tomorrow and a sub-par performance or perhaps a reciprocal mechanical problem for Rosberg.

As he has so frequently in the second half of the season Kimi Raikkonen carried the fag for Ferrari with a lap good enough for P3. But while his much-vaunted teammate Sebastian Vettel was also quick with a P4 effort, the 4-time World Champion will be assessed a 3-spot grid penalty after last week’s first lap collision with Rosberg. An while the Red Bulls move up because of Vettel’s punishment, the team its drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo have to be puzzled at being out-paced by Ferrari after making such great strides in their battle against the Scuderia. A week after a 3-4 finish at Sepang, Verstappen qualified only P5 and Ricciardo was P6. Rounding out the Top 10, the Force India team was once again impressive, with Sergio Perez quick enough for P7 while Nico Hulkenberg nabbed P9. And Haas F1 got both their drivers into Q3 for the first time in this their inaugural season, with Romain Grosjean a solid P8 and Esteban Gutierrez over half a second behind but still starting from P10 on the grid tomorrow.

Despite high expectations and recent signs of improvement, McLaren was back to being  completely adrift only this time at their engine supplier Honda’s home track. Fernando Alonso could do not better than P15 and Jenson Button couldn’t make it out of Q1 and was way back in P17. It was a sobering reminder that the team still has a long way to go to get back to the Olympian heights of their storied past. Williams was also out to lunch and neither Valtteri Bottas (P11) or Felipe Massa (P12) could make it out of Q2.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Japanese Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:31.858 1:30.714 1:30.647 13
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:32.218 1:31.129 1:30.660 13
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:31.674 1:31.406 1:30.949 12
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:31.659 1:31.227 1:31.028 12
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:32.487 1:31.489 1:31.178 14
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:32.538 1:31.719 1:31.240 14
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.682 1:32.237 1:31.961 12
8 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:32.458 1:32.176 1:31.961 17
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.448 1:32.200 1:32.142 12
10 21 Esteban Gutierrez  HAAS FERRARI 1:32.620 1:32.155 1:32.547 15

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix airs live in the wee hours here in the States — coverage starts at 1AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network. Hope to see you then for all the action from Suzuka!