Japanese Grand Prix – Lewis Hamilton has won the race in Suzuka ahead of Nico Rosberg. The Championship leader squeezed past Rosberg at Turn 2 on the opening lap and never looked back. Third place went to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The story of the race was decided almost immediately at the start when Lewis Hamilton got his Mercedes off the line marginally better than Nico Rosberg did. The pair went side by side into Turn 1, but Nico Rosberg ran a little wide at Turn 2. Losing position to Hamilton, Rosberg’s loss of momentum allowed Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas to pass. Vettel had jumped Bottas off the line and moved up to P2 behind Hamilton, with Bottas & Rosberg settling into P3 & P4.
There was trouble behind as Felipe Massa & Daniel Ricciardo made the smallest of contacts as Ricciardo squeezed between Massa & Raikkonen. The contact gave both of them punctures, with Ricciardo struggling back to the pits with a shredded left rear and Felipe Massa with a deflated front right. Sergio Perez flew off the road at Turn 1 after getting a bump but was able to continue without damage.
Strategy played the biggest part of the race. Lewis Hamilton was able to stretch his legs over Sebastian Vettel throughout the first two stints by running the Medium tyre. Vettel switched to the Hard tyres for the second stint when he came in on Lap 14, but started to come under pressure from Nico Rosberg. The German driver had managed to clear Valtteri Bottas through the first pitstop phase by pitting a lap earlier, and closed the gap to Vettel down to 1.7 seconds. He then managed to undercut his way past the Ferrari to make the order a Mercedes 1-2 with 25 laps to go. However, Hamilton was still 10 seconds clear at this point. Behind the top three, Raikkonen also managed to jump Valtteri Bottas by using the undercut to make it a Ferrari 3-4.
Vettel kept the pressure on Rosberg until the chequered flag but wasn’t able to clear the German driver. Valtteri Bottas took P5 for Williams while Nico Hulkenberg drove a very strong race for Force India to take P6. Lotus also enjoyed a good day, capitalising on the misfortunes of Perez, Ricciardo & Massa, to claim P7 with Grosjean and Maldonado in P8.
Max Verstappen recovered from his grid penalty to take P9 ahead of Carlos Sainz. Sainz had enjoyed the advantage throughout the race, but damaged his front wing at his second pit stop when he clouted a cone entering the pitlane. The resulting delay of 19 seconds ended up allowing Verstappen to get within DRS range in the closing stages, and the Dutch driver dived past Sainz into the chicane on Lap 47. Verstappen put in some impressive moves during the race, including a great sweep around the outside past Fernando Alonso. The Spanish driver took P11 but didn’t seem a happy man during the race. He took to the radio to exclaim “embarrassing” and “GP2 engine. GP2. Argh” while being overtaken by Saubers and Verstappen.
Red Bull failed to take home any points and ended the race P13 & P15 with Kvyat & Ricciardo respectively. Neither driver managed to make significant progress after their problems over the weekend.