October 13th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - After qualifying third and fifth for the Japanese Grand Prix, Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg can be quite disappointed with the outcome of today's race: Rosberg finished eighth while Hamilton retired after just seven laps.
Hamilton's drama happened right at the start of the race, as he explained:
"I got a fantastic start this afternoon, better than both Red Bulls for probably the first time this year. Mark moved right, so I had to move as well, which sandwiched Sebastian between me and Romain. Seb's front wing clipped my right rear, cut the tyre and that was that. It wasn't his fault at all, just one of those things that wasn't meant to be this afternoon.
"I feel most gutted for the team - the guys here at the track and in the factory - because they are doing an amazing job right now and we're just not getting the reward for it. Looking to the last four races, I will just be going out there to enjoy them and score as many points as I can for the team. I still believe that second in the Constructors' Championship is in our reach if our luck takes a turn for the better and that's what we will all be aiming for."
Hamilton's race was over due to overheating rear brakes, legacy of the damage done to the floor and brake duct by his flailing tyre on his slow crawl back to the pits on the first lap.
Rosberg suffered no such first-lap misfortunes, but was the victim of a mistake by the team at his first pit stop. He was released from his pit box as Sergio Perez was coming past in his McLaren and the two cars very nearly collided. For the misdemeanour, Rosberg received a drive-through penalty, which ruined his chances of fighting for the major points positions.
Rosberg was involved in another incident with Perez later in the race. While fighting his way back into the points, Rosberg had a run on Perez approaching the chicane. Perez defended to the inside, prompting Rosberg to position his car on the outside under braking, but Perez moved across as he braked and his left-rear tyre made contact with Rosberg's front wing, damaging the wing a bit and causing a puncture on Perez's tyre.
Perez had to pit for a new tyre, which cleared the way for Rosberg to continue moving forward through the field. In the closing stages of the Grand Prix, Rosberg was involved in an entertaining battle with Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez. Ultimately Gutierrez was able to stay ahead of Rosberg, and earned his first points in Formula One by finishing seventh.
Rosberg described his race:
"I made a good start today and was in a strong position until my first pit stop. Unfortunately we then had the incident as I left the pit box which ultimately cost me a top position. We will analyse internally with the team what went wrong but it was immediately clear that we would get a penalty.
"After that, we switched to a three-stop strategy and that worked out as well as it could for us. I was able to do some good overtaking manoeuvres, although I wasn't happy with Perez as the rules are clear; you can defend once and close the door but you can't switch sides again. Trying to overtake the Sauber at the end was very tough and while it's difficult to be satisfied with eighth place given our potential, at least we were able to salvage some points."