Jenson Button won the Japanese Grand Prix but it will be Sebastian Vettel who will be celebrating his second Drivers’ Championship as he finished third and ensured that he has an unassailable lead in the drivers’ tally. Fernando Alonso finished second in the race and managed to hold off Vettel behind him for the best part of the latter laps.
Mark Webber finished fourth ahead of Lewis Hamilton in fifth, Michael Schumacher in sixth & Felipe Massa in seventh. Sergio Perez finished eighth ahead of Vitaly Petrov in ninth and Nico Rosberg took the last point in tenth, having started from the back of the grid!
It was never in doubt coming into Suzuka that barring a DNF, Vettel would sew up the WDC and the question was that whether he would do that with a resounding win or a careful points finish. At the start it surely seemed like the former as, having made a slower start as compared to Button, Vettel gradually eased Button towards the right of the track and onto the grass whilst maintaining his lead. As Button was seemingly forced off-track, Hamilton eased into second place and starting to hustle Vettel. BTW, Vettel was not penalised for his actions!
Hamilton was soon passed by Button and he further slipped down the order as a right-rear puncture meant an early pit stop for the McLaren. The order remained the same as the first round of pit stops shook down but at the second window of stops, Button managed to leap frog Vettel into the lead and held it till the end.
Sebastian Vettel continued his pole position dominance as he set the fastest time in the Saturday Qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Jenson Button tried hard to match or better Vettel’s time but he could only manage second fastest for McLaren whilst Lewis Hamilton failed to set a time in his second running but his initial time was good enough for him to finish third fastest.
Felipe Massa was P4 ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. Michael Schumacher was P7 with Bruno Senna P8, Vitaly Petrov P9 and Kamui Kobayashi rounding off the top ten.
Pole position seemed going McLaren’s way as Hamilton had set the fastest time in the initial stages of Q1 and when the cars trundled out for their second stints on newer tyres, Hamilton dallied on his in-lap and couldn’t cross the start/finish line ahead of the chequered flag and hence could not better his initial time. That meant Vettel only had Button as a realistic competitor for the fastest time and as they finished their laps, the gap between them was only nine-thousandths of a second. Vettel had did it again…it was his fifteenth pole position this season.
Q1 had the local hero Kamui Kobayashi topping the timesheets for Sauber with Force India’s Adrian Sutil second – both of them on the faster soft tyre compound. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was third fastest ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Vitaly Petrov. Jenson Button was sixth fastest with Vettel just behind him. But the name of the game in Q1 is to make it to the next session and the biggest casualty of that was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who failed to notch a time due to a hydraulics problem and will start 23rd. Joining him at the tail end of the grid were the two Lotuses of Heikki Kovalainen & Jarno Trulli, the two Virgins of Timo Glock & Jerome d’Ambrosio and the two HRTs of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won the Japanese Grand Prix from pole position at the Suzuka circuit and kept himself in the mix, albeit very slightly, in the championship battle. Jarno Trulli was jumped at the start by Lewis Hamilton but regained second place after the second round of pit stops and matched Toyota’s best showing this season as Hamilton settled for third place.
The Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen finished in 4th place ahead of the Williams of Nico Rosberg and the BMW of Nick Heidfeld who finished 5th and 6th respectively. Rubens Barrichello led teammate Jenson Button for the 7th and 8th place finishes and that reduces Button’s lead in the Championship battle to 14 points with two races remaining. Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso rounded off the top ten.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in an incident filled Qualifying session which saw at least four drivers lose control of their cars and careened into the barriers. Toyota’s Jarno Trulli will start from P2 with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton P3. Force India had a resurgence of sorts with Adrian Sutil starting from P4 with the trailing Brawn of Rubens Barrichello beside him. Championship leader Jenson Button could only manage P7 with BMW’s Nick Heidfeld ahead of him. Kimi Raikkonen, Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastian Buemi round off the top ten.
The Qualifying was in Japan and it meant the telecast was early in the morning, as compared to in the evenings for European races; and the heavy sleeper that I was, missed it all! From the race reports, it seemed to be quite a tricky session as limited running on Friday meant most of the teams were still in the dark about race setups, car balance etc. The session was red flagged thrice as Timo Glock, Jaime Algersuari, Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastian Buemi all had spins and shunts. The most high-profile casualty was Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who crashed out in free practice and the team couldn’t complete the repairs on his car in time for him to participate in the Qualifying session. He will start from the pit lane for Sunday’s race.
You can go through the race reports at BBC Sport and Formula1.com websites as I go ahead and set the alarm clock for tomorrow’s race
Two in a Row!! Fernando Alonso notched up a second successive victory as he won an exciting Japanese Grand Prix at the Fuji speedway as Championship leaders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa fell away at the start of the race. BMW’s Robert Kubica held onto second place in front of a spirited Kimi Raikkonen who kept off a belligerent Nelson Piquet at bay. Jarno Trulli finished fifth at Toyota’s home grand prix ahead of the Toro Rossos of Sebastian Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel. Felipe Massa came in eighth to collect just the one point for his efforts. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile finished twelfth and out of the points.
Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso & Kimi Raikkonen - 2008 Japanese Grand Prix Podium
The race was effectively turned on its head at the start itself as Lewis ill-advised lunge into the first corner – as he was out-gunned by both Kimi and Kovalainen at the start – proved to be his undoing and causing a melee which saw the running order change dramatically. The Ferraris were pushed down, David Coulthard spun off into the wall, Kazuki Nakajima damaging his wing in the process and after the dust settled on the first and second corners, it was BMW’s Robert Kubica who emerged as the race leader in front of Renault’s Fernando Alonso! Kovalainen moved into third place in front of Kimi as Hamilton and Massa duelled further down the order and as Hamilton took advantage of a Massa mistake, the latter came back vehemently and touched and spun off Lewis who dropped down to 18th and last. Both of them had to serve a drive-through penalty which compromised their races though not their Championship fight. In other incidents of note, Toyota’s Timo Glock had to retire with a suspension damage & Force India’s Adrian Sutil was running as high as tenth but a rear-tyre puncture saw his race undone. McLaren had an off-day as Kovalainen’s race fell apart in the sixteenth lap & he was forced to retire with a mechanical problem.
Renault gambled on a short first pit-stop for Alonso and that worked out very well as he came ahead of Kubica and eked out a big enough lead over Kubica and when their second round of pit-stops came, it was Alonso who was still ahead. From thereon it was a matter of holding onto the lead and he did just that to notch up his 21st career victory and his second consecutive one this season. Down the order, Massa had a sort of mini-revival as he overtook a couple of cars to claw his way back into eighth position and thus salvage just one point. Hamilton finished out of the points but still maintains his lead in the Championship battle, now cut to just 6 points. Kovalainen’s non-finish meant that Ferrari leap back into the lead of the Constructors’ Championship over McLaren. Renault took home the biggest haul of points having finished first and fourth and consolidate their fourth position in the Constructors’ table. After them, Toro Rosso had the best race with Bourdais finishing 6th in front of teammate Vettel in 7th.
There remain just two more races in the season and time is running out for Felipe Massa to overhaul Lewis’ advantage in the championship. The next races are at Shanghai and at the Interlagos and assuming Massa is the favourite to clinch his home Grand Prix, Lewis just has to finish close to the top in each of the races to emerge Champion. But as last year showed, a couple of non-finishes could mar proceedings heavily. Hamilton must now keep his nerve and ensure a good enough result in China next week. Robert Kubica has cemented his third place position in the standings and still has a mathematical chance of winning it. Kimi, however is ruled out and thus ends his defense of the crown. The fact that he finished a race after four DNF’s and that too on the podium augurs well for his motivation levels.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix with title contender Felipe Massa down in P5. However, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen is in P2 and will look to stay close to Lewis at the start of the race. Heikki Kovalainen is in a perfect supporting role for McLaren in P3 with Renault’s Fernando Alonso in P4 and Massa P5. BMW’s Robert Kubica starts in P6 with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli in P7. Timo Glock, Sebastian Vettel and Sebastian Bourdais complete the top ten.
Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton & Kimi Raikkonen - P3, P1 and P2 respectively at the Japanese Grand Prix Saturday Qualifying
Q1 was startling in two aspects – Firstly, we had the fastest car in the Toyota of Timo Glock, who pulled off a 1m 17s right at the tail end of the session. Secondly, there was a BMW in the relegation zone at the end of it all! Nick Heidfeld’s bad qualifying form caught up with him at last, having eluded him for the past few races. Whilst many thought Glock’s performance was a bit of a show-putting by the Toyota team, Heidfeld’s showing was maybe due to a technical glitch or something. The dying moments of Q1 saw Singapore GP winner Fernando Alonso haul himself back into contention having dropped down to 16th. The ones who did not make it were Heidfeld alongwith the two Honda’s of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and the two Force India’s of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Parity was somewhat restored in Q2 as Ferrari’s Felipe Massa comfortably topped the timesheets with the two McLaren’s of Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton behind him. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen could only manage 7th fastest though. Once again, the two Toro Rossos made into the top 10 whereas the two Red Bulls did not. Those who were relegated: David Coulthard, Nelson Piquet, Kazuki Nakajima, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg.
Q3 was a straight shootout between the top two teams and the initial pace-setter was the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Massa was following closely but kinda dropped out on his second run. Hamilton’s second run was quickest of them all and he snatched pole position from Kimi Raikkonen. Quick runs from Alonso and Trulli had pushed down Kovalainen but with his last run, the Finn managed the third-fastest time. The race will be an intriguing one as Kimi would hope to keep in Lewis from streaking away into the distance and Heikki doing the same with Kimi. Massa, however, will have to play catch-up and with Alonso in front of him, won’t be an easy task. He has to have a perfect start and if he can get ahead of Alonso, Heikki and Kimi, he and Lewis can duel out in the front as Kimi keeps the field at bay. Gonna be a cracker of a race, for sure!
Image Courtesy: Getty Images/Telegraph.co.uk
A dramatic see-saw of a race at the Japanese Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton take victory as nearest championship rival and teammate Fernando Alonso crashed out in treacherous conditions. The race started off in torrential rain and mist as the conditions turned out to worse than they were on Saturday. Second place went to a belligerent Heikki Kovalainen as he managed to hold-off a charging Kimi Raikkonen in the last few laps of the race. David Coulthard finished 4th with Giancarlo Fisichella 5th and Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica and Vitantonio Liuzzi taking the 6th, 7th and 8th positions.
The race presented a stark contrast at the opening and closing stages which made it boring -at-first but damn-interesting-at-the-end! The first nineteen laps were yawn-inducing as the entire field went round behind the safety car as the conditions were still not race-friendly. And as if qualifying behind the two McLarens was not enough, Ferrari were dealt a further blow as they had to pit for extreme wet tyres as was stipulated before the start of the race (an announcement, which Ferrari claimed never came around to their ears!) Thus it happened that whilst Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were running 1st and 2nd, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa were 20th and 21st!!! The ring-a-ring-a-roses continued till the 19th lap and when proper racing resumed then, Hamilton had managed to pull ahead of Alonso by more than two seconds. By this time most teams had decided in favor of a one-stop pit strategy and it was Alonso who pitted first and then Hamilton did so in the next lap and came out with his lead intact. Alonso however was caught in traffic and also had few off-track moments – during which Kimi Raikkonen managed to pass him. The order in the mid-section of the race was pretty much of a mish-mash as the race lead saw change hands no fewer than 7 times!!! Apart from Hamilton; Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Heikki Kovalainen & Giancarlo Fisichella all held the race lead but all of that shook down after the pitstops and it then emerged that Hamilton was leading with (surprise surprise!) Mark Webber & Sebastian Vettel in 2nd and 3rd places with title contenders Alonso & Raikkonen wayy back in 8th and 11th positions. It was then that Alonso’s race went from bad to worse as he crashed heavily at turn six and forcing the deployment of the safety car yet again.
The second period behind the safety car happened to be the death-knell for podium contenders Webber and Vettel as the latter rammed into the former’s rear end thus taking both of them out! The safety car was called in at lap 47 and the reamining 20 laps were in stark contrast to the starting 20 laps! A frenzied race in wet and treacherous conditions saw many a brilliant moves – including Kimi Raikkonen’s overtaking maneouvre over David Coulthard into 4th position and after Massa (who was in 3rd then) pitted for the final time, Kimi continued to hound Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen for 2nd position. They two continued their tussle till right at the end but Kovalainen managed to hold on. Further down the track there was even more spectacular racing as Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica were at-it…passing and re-passing each other up until the finish-line! Massa managing to hold onto 6th position and Kubica had to be content with 7th. Vitantonio Liuzzi took the final point in 8th position.
The results mean that the drivers’ championship now sees Hamilton lead by a clear margin of 12 points – Hamilton on 107 and Alonso on 95 with Raikkonen on 90. Felipe Massa is out of it though. The next race is in Shanghai in a week’s time and if Hamilton manages to win that, he’s gonna be the champion! Kimi Raikkonen is not out of it altogether even though the gap is a hefty 17 points. A double-DNF for McLaren and a win for Raikkonen would surely turn the tables – totally!!!
Race Reports: Formula1.com | BBC Sport | Grandprix.com
It was like snatching away candy from a child as McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton wrenched off the pole position for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix from teammate Fernando Alonso…right at the end of the qualifying session! For almost 44 minutes and 50 seconds of the alloted 45 minutes of Qualifying session (across three quarters) it was Alonso who had the fastest time and the pole position but right at the end, in fact after the chequered flag was waved, Hamilton banged in a quicker lap to take the pole away from the spaniard. Alonso’s time had looked vulnerable even before Hamilton had started his final run as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen drove an impeccable last-gasp flying lap and was quicker than Alonso in the first two sectors but lost time in the final sector and had to be content with P2 – which became P3 after Lewis’ own last-gasp efforts. The entire qualifying session was completed under steady rain and that effectively put paid to the hopes that Ferrari would emerge tops coz the McLarens were oh-so-good in wet weather trim. Rains are also forecast for tomorrow’s race and given Alonso and Kimi’s experience in such conditions, it remains to be seen whether Hamilton can cling onto the lead. I expect a keen tussle going into the first corner and won’t be surprised if in the melee between Hamilton and Alonso, Kimi steals a march over them
It was yet again the BMWs which were best-of-the-rest with Nick Heidfeld taking 5th spot behind Felipe Massa. Williams’ Nico Rosberg qualified 6th but will drop to 16th as a result of an engine change. This elevates Jenson Button – in Honda’s best qualifying result this year – to 6th position with Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel (Surprise!), Robert Kubica and Giancarlo Fisichella completing the top ten. Toyota had an abysmal qualifying session on their home track with Jarno Trulli only managing 13th and Ralf Schumacher in 15th after a crash with Sakon Yamamoto in Q2. Most teams were caught out by the rain and it would be intriguing to see what set-up they will use for tomorrow’s race. In any case, the four-way-lead-battle will be the centre of attraction for everyone for the outcome of this race would eventually decide who emerges with a clearcut advantage to win the drivers’ title. Make-or-break for Lewis, Alonso and Kimi!!! Expect a cracker of a race…
Qualifying Reports: Formula1.com | Grandprix.com | BBC Sport