October 13th, 2013 (F1plus/R. Baillie).- A blinding start from Romain Grosjean saw him jump both Red Bulls going into the first corner. An interesting race unfolded with strategy playing a big part in the Red Bulls race and ultimately allowed Sebastian Vettel to take the win.
Grosjean showed how far he’s come since his days of being labelled a ‘first lap nutcase’ after leading half of the race before the Red Bulls upped their pace to take the lead from him.
Plenty of action up and down the field, brilliant driving and a couple of drive through penalties really shook the race up, notably Esteban Gutierrez picked up his first points of the season to help Sauber move ahead of Toro Rosso in the constructors championship.
Let’s take a look at how each drivers Japanese Grand Prix went.
1. Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull Racing - 25 Points
A surprisingly slow start for the triple world champion meant Romain Grosjean was able to pass him going into the first corner and meant he finished lap one third behind teammate Mark Webber.
Good strategy, which saw the German bide his time, and tyre management meant Vettel was able to come back at Grosjean towards the end of the race to take the win.
‘A very rewarding win today; it’s a great feeling. I love this track and it’s just fantastic to win here. It was a horrible start to be honest; we found ourselves sitting in third place and then tried to go longer in the first stint.’ Vettel said.
2. Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing - 18 Points
The Australian also lost out to Grosjean at the start but was second at the end of the first lap.
While the team chose to split Webber and teammate Vettel on strategy Webber was able to finish in second place and looked as if he could have challenged Vettel for the win had he been able to pass Grosjean earlier.
‘It’s hard to know which was right [a two or three-stop strategy], as we were trying to cover off Romain. I did my best and in the end it was a good result.’ Said Webber.
3. Romain Grosjean - Lotus - 15 Points
A fantastic start from the Frenchman saw him steal the lead from both Red Bulls and went on to lead half the race.
He looked set for the win until the Red Bulls picked up their pace just after the halfway point. Grosjean, 27, defended well against Webber towards the end of the race but was unable to hold him off.
Grosjean was delighted with his race and praised the car.
“What a start! It was superb to go past both the Red Bulls like that and it’ll be one of my best memories of the year.” Grosjean said.
“The car was fantastic on the first set of tyres and we managed to pull away, but then the Red Bulls were able to reel us in later on.”
4. Fernando Alonso - Ferrari - 12 Points
A brilliant start from the Spaniard saw him move up from eighth on the grid to sixth by the end of the opening lap.
Alonso managed to make up two more places throughout the race to bring his Ferrari home in fourth place, but was unable to challenge for a podium finish.
‘ Fourth place was the most I could do today, as the three ahead of me were really out of reach and so, given our starting position and how practice went in general, I am happy.’ Alonso said.
Alonso felt the result was good for the constructors championship as both Ferrari’s picked up points while main title rivals Mercedes struggled.
‘ Today, Mercedes had a few problems and we made up some important points, but we must give it our all, if we want to stay second in the Constructors’ classification, because they are not far behind.’
5. Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus - 10 Points
The Finn, who started in ninth, lost places as the lights went out and then had to work his way back up the field.
“I had a very poor start. I left the line with wheelspin and lost a few places which wasn’t ideal, but I managed to gain places back later on in the race.” Raikkonen said.
The car performed better during the last part of the race meaning he was able to bring the E21 home in fifth place.
‘It was a pretty normal race I would say. It’s difficult to overtake here so it’s good that we got some points. We did what we could.’
6. Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber - 8 Points
Another great race from the German following a fourth place finish at last weekends Korean Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg did a good job of defending against faster drivers and made things difficult for the likes of Alonso who had to work hard to find their way past him.
“I was already surprised by the pace of the car going to the grid as it felt really good. Again I managed to keep both Ferraris behind me for a long time,” Hulkenberg said.
The German said he felt it would be a great present for x Peter Sauber who is celebrating his 70th birthday and is hopeful that the team can pick up points again in India.
“It was a great team result with P6 and P7, and hopefully a nice present for Peter Sauber. I’m fairly confident we can fight for points again in India.”
7. Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber - 6 Points
The Mexican really upped his performance in Japan to pick up his first points of the season and provided the team with their first double points finish of the year.
“Finally I can feel great satisfaction after the race. It has been a lot of work to get up to this point and, while it has not been an easy path, I think it has been a very solid one.” Gutierrez said.
Strong finishes from both Sauber drivers meant the Hinwil based team finished above both Toro Rosso drivers to take seventh in the constructor’s championship.
8. Nico Rosberg - Mercedes - 6 Points
The German had a great start and climbed his way to fourth place by the end of lap one, but felt his hard work was all undone by a drive through penalty handed to him for an unsafe release which saw him nearly collide with Sergio Perez.
‘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.’ Rosberg said.
Towards the end of the race his engineer told him he needed to get past the Sauber of Gutierrez as soon as possible as they were low on fuel. He was unable to and finished in eighth place picking up six points for the team.
‘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’ Said the Mercedes driver.
9. Jenson Button - McLaren - 2 Points
The Brit admitted that he struggled during the first two stints of the Japanese Grand Prix due to a mistake he’d made going onto the grid.
‘The first two stints of the race were pretty difficult as I had massive understeer. That was my fault: on the lap-to-grid, it felt like I had too much front-end, so I took some wing out of the car. It was the wrong thing to do – it left me with too much understeer, and I kept locking up the fronts, which destroyed the front tyres.’ Button said.
For the third stint the team added some front wing which helped with the cars balance and meant Button could now begin to chase drivers down and make up positions.
‘In the closing laps, I made a great move on Paul [di Resta] around the outside of the chicane. I made the same move on Felipe [Massa] too, but he forced me over the kerb, so I ended up getting him on the straight.’ The McLaren driver explained.
‘So it was an enjoyable end to the race, but a disappointing beginning.”
10. Felipe Massa - Ferrari - 1 Point
A good start from the Brazilian saw him keep fifth place amid the first corner hustle and bustle, unfortunately a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane undid all his hard work.
‘ That was a really difficult day, with the drive-through wiping out any chance of having a good race or bringing home more points’ Massa said.
‘ When I came down pit lane, I didn’t realise I was going too fast. It’s the first time it’s happened to me and it’s a real shame, because in the first stint of the race, I had a good pace.’
11. Paul di Resta - Force India
The Scot didn’t have quite the start he hoped for and lost a couple of places as the lights went out in Suzuka.
‘I didn’t get a good launch and a few cars came by me, and then we lost out at the first pit stop because the Williams of Bottas jumped us. That compromised the second stint, which is why we went very aggressive with an early second stop to get track position and move ahead of the Williams.’ di Resta said.
The Force India driver felt he was on for a points finish but was unable to defend against McLaren driver Button.
‘In the end we were about five laps too short with the tyre life because I couldn’t defend from Jenson [Button].’
12. Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso
The Frenchman felt the car worked well but felt he was let down the by the pit stops.
‘There are some positive elements from today, because the car worked very well in this afternoon, However, our pit stops were not the best and cost us some time.’ Vergne said.
‘After the start I found myself in traffic, so the team decided to call me in a bit early for the switch from the Option to the Prime, but the pit stop was slow and just put me back in the traffic.’
13. Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso
The Australian, who is heading to Red Bull next year, was disappointed with his result as he felt a points finish was on the cards.
‘I am disappointed not to have scored some points today, because I am convinced I was heading for the top ten,’ Ricciardo said.
Throughout the race we saw some good overtaking maneuvers from Ricciardo. While trying to overtake Sutil on lap 27 he ran wide and was given a drive through penalty by the stewards, as they felt he’d gained an advantage by leaving the track, which he says ruined his race.
‘I ran wide onto the grass, which lost me a bit of time. Sadly, the Stewards decided I had gained an advantage by going off the track and had to take a drive-through penalty, which of course ruined my race. I was ninth when I came in for the penalty and it dropped me down outside the points.’
14. Adrian Sutil - Force India
A five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change before qualifying on Saturday meant Sutil started the Japanese Grand Prix in 21st place.
The German had a good start and was able to work his way through the pack to finish in 14th place. Sutil felt the car lacked the pace necessary and he couldn’t get the performance he needed from the tyres to finish higher.
‘It’s been a very tough weekend and starting from the back of the grid made it difficult to get close to the points. In the end I finished P14 and had some good battles, but there was a lot of oversteer in the car and it was not easy to be consistent.’ Sutil said.
‘The best part of the race was the start because I moved up to P16, but we just didn’t have the race pace we needed today and couldn’t get the performance from the tyres.’
15. Sergio Perez - McLaren
After starting the race in 11th place the Mexican spent most of the race challenging for points, and was even in the points at one point, but was unable to hold on towards the end of the race and dropped back.
Perez felt that he had terrible bad luck and that everything that could go wrong, did.
‘I had such bad luck – things just didn’t go our way today. In fact, I think you could say that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong’ Perez explained.
‘We had an incident with Nico [Rosberg] in the pitlane, some of slow pit stops, and then another incident with Nico, which caused me to suffer a puncture – luckily, however, right at the entrance of the pitlane.’
The Mexican is hoping that he will have better luck at the Indian Grand Prix in two weeks time.
16. Pastor Maldonado - Williams
The Venezuelan, who started the race in 15th place, felt the team had made the wrong decision in terms of strategy but felt the car had performed well.
‘ I felt we got the strategy slightly wrong today and we were struggling with the pace a bit, but we did manage to get 100% out of the car.’ Maldonado said.
Towards the end of the race he was able to overtake teammate Bottas to finish 16th.
‘It was pleasing to be able to make a move on the last lap to gain a position over my teammate.’
17. Valtteri Bottas - Williams
The Finn began the race in 13th place but was unable to hold on to it and dropped back to to lack of pace.
Towards the end of the race Bottas was struggling on worn tyres, which allowed teammate Maldonado to pass him.
‘At the end of the second stint and into the third stint our pace seemed to drop off and we weren’t able to keep our positions. As the tyres wore out at the end we did struggle a bit, so unfortunately we couldn’t fight anymore.’ Bottas said.
18. Charles Pic - Caterham
The Frenchman was handed a drive through penalty after qualifying for going through a red light at the end of the pitlane. Pic, 23, also had a 10-place grid penalty carried over from Korea after gaining three reprimands.
Due to penalties given to Jules Bianchi and Sutil he started 20th and was able to finish above Marussia’s Max Chilton and said he felt it was a ‘fair result’.
19. Max Chilton - Marussia
The Brit felt the weekend had been ‘positive’ after qualifying ahead of his teammate and both Caterham drivers and managed to stay ahead of Pic for the majority of the race.
‘It was great to qualify ahead of my three nearest competitors for the first time yesterday and today I held position for most of the race, so it was pretty disappointing to lose out just a few laps from the end.’ Chilton said.
DNF - Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes
Going into Turn 1 the Brit made contact with Vettel’s front wing, which instantly punctured his right rear tyre.
Hamilton limped back to the pit lane for fresh tyres and returned to the race. On lap nine the team were forced to retire him due to damage to the cars floor caused by the lpuncture that was affecting the cars aerodynamics.
The Mercedes driver said he felt ‘gutted’ for the team and said he was looking forward to enjoying the remaining four races and said he was still aiming for second in the constructors championship.
‘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 said.
DNF - Giedo van der Garde - Marussia & Jules Bianchi - Marussia
Both drivers races were over before they’d even started. Contact going into the first corner saw both drivers leave the track, with van der Garde hitting the barriers and Bianchi stopping in the gravel.
‘All in all I think this is a weekend that was destined not to come my way, which is a shame as I love the Suzuka Circuit.’ Bianchi said.
‘Unfortunately, as I turned into the first corner on the opening lap, van der Garde hit my rear wing which pushed me off track and into the gravel.’
‘My start was ok but going into turn one I was squeezed between both the Marussia cars and had nowhere to go. I lost my front wing in contact with Bianchi and then the car went straight off and into the wall.’ Said van der Garde.
‘Obviously that’s disappointing, but it was a racing incident and sometimes these things happen’.