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!!!