Nico Rosberg has built on his lead at the top of the world championship after taking victory at the Japanese Grand Prix. Rosberg used team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s bad start to pull away to take his twenty third career win and build a 33 point lead on Hamilton.
Hamilton made a bad start falling down the field to eighth before beginning his fight back through the field to third. However, the Brit was unable to make the move on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the closing stages for second. Hamilton was unable to pass despite being on the fresher tyres.
Including on the penultimate lap, when Hamilton saw a chance to pass Verstappen down the inside going into the chicane, but had to pull left dramatically as Verstappen jinked right to slam the door. This meant Hamilton needing to run wide to avoid hitting the Dutchman.
Mercedes had launched a protest against the defencive driving Max Verstappen when he was fighting with Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes claim that the Red Bull drive was driving in a “erratically and in a dangerous manner” in contravention of rules in the move on the penultimate lap.
But Hamilton asked the appeal to be dropped by Mercedes.
Other results allowed Mercedes to take a third consecutive constructors championship. But as for Hamilton’s title defence it looks to be in tatters. If Hamilton wants to win this title now he would need to win all the remaining races and for Rosberg to retire from one and finish fifth or lower.
Rosberg said “What an awesome weekend. It’s beautiful to win here and congratulations to my colleagues and team for clinching constructors’ championship – let’s celebrate hard.”
But Hamilton appears not to be giving up either on his fourth champion saying “Congratulations to the team, I’m very proud to be part of it. I did the best I could from where I was in the race. I will give it everything I have got [for the rest of the season] and we will see what happens.”
For Rosberg to seal the title and repeat what Damon Hill achieved twenty years ago at this race, becoming the only son of a champion to become champion. Rosberg needs only three seconds and a third to clinch the title over the remaining four races – even if Hamilton wins all of them.
Hamilton was fractionally slower out the box which allowed Ricciardo and Verstappen to get ahead of him on the way down to turn one, then lost out to Sergio Perez in the corner to the Mexican. It appears that he may have been bogged down at the start.
Sebastian Vettel, who dropped back after qualifying, finished fourth after making a good start passing Sergio Perez early on followed by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. It was a frustrating afternoon for Vettel who complained about backmarkers holding him up through the race.
Ferrari tried to fight their way back after using a soft tyre for Vettel on the last snit as the leaders went for the hard tyres. But they were unable to make them last leaving Vettel well behind the Mercedes and well ahead of Raikkonen.
Both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finished ahead of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas’s Williams to build their lead in fourth place in the constructors championship.
McLaren dismal weekend at the home race of supplier Honda continued, with Fernando Alonso sixteenth and Jenson Button eighteenth.
Romain Grosjean was eleventh for Haas ahead of Jolyon Palmer, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Renault team mate Kevin Magnussen and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, as McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz battled throughout to finish 0.8s apart.
- Notebook – Japanese Qualifying
- Qualifying Result
- JAPANESE GP – Rosberg edges out Hamilton by a tenth for pole after closely fought qualifying
- NOTEBOOK – Japan Friday
- JAPANESE GP – Rosberg narrowly faster than Hamilton in second practice but clearly ahead of Ferrari
- JAPANESE GP – Mercedes comfortably ahead of Ferrari in first practice
- PREVIEW – Japanese Grand Prix