The sun rises for Hamilton in Suzuka | 2015 Japanese GP Report

Lewis Hamilton furthered his lead in the Drivers’ Championship on Sunday by taking yet another commanding victory in 2015. The Mercedes driver was forceful-but-fair with team mate Nico Rosberg at the start of the race heading into the first corner, forcing the German to the outside, and duly taking the lead, which he never let go of. His 41st career victory also means that he is now tied with his idol Aytron Senna for number of career victories.

Ferrari’s strong season was supplemented by a 3-4 for the team, with Vettel grabbing bottom step of the podium ahead of his team mate. As has become the theme for 2015, most of the action occurred further down the field; the mercurial Max Verstappen once again showing up his elders with daring overtakes.

Chronology

The race began with a great start from Rosberg who took Pole, due in part to Daniil Kvyat’s crash at the end of the session which brought out the red flag, and prevented anyone – including Hamilton, who was on a faster lap – from improving.

However, Hamilton lined up along side him, and took the inside line at the first corner, forcing Rosberg to submit. Unfortunately for Nico, he lifted too late and ended up on the grass, losing positions to Vettel and Bottas.

Meanwhile, Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo made miniscule contact, but it was enough for both cars to earna  puncture. Sergio Perez ran over some debris as well, and made it three drivers crawling back to the pits on three fully-inflated Pirellis and one shreded mass of rubber.

Alonso benefited most from the turn one troubles, and surged from 14th on the grid to ninth by the second lap. However, his Honda power couldn’t keep him ahead of the overwhelming advantage of the other Power units, and he had to relinquish ninth place to Carlos Sainz on lap four.

Further on in the race, after the first round of pit stops, Alonso found himself ahead of both Toro Rossos once more, but was overtaken by Carlos Sainz and Marcus Ericsson at the same time, at the start of Lap 26. A lap later, Max Verstappen passed him at the same corner, and the McLaren driver exclaimed “GP2 Engine! GP2!” before letting out an exasperated cry.

It’s not the first time in 2015 McLaren’s drivers have been vocal about the 160 horsepower deficit on the Honda power unit, most of which comes from the deployment of electrical energy. Still, the comments created a PR nightmare for McLaren after the race, with Alonso and McLaren CEO Ron Dennis criticising one another.

However, there was nothing that could be done during the race, and Alonso continued, eventually finishing 11th, just outside the points, although it still counts as the team’s fifth-best result of the season, after fifth and ninth for Alonso and Button respectively in Hungary, tenth in Britain for Alonso, and eighth for Button in Monaco.

Rosberg’s engine had been critical with temperature early in the race, but by the second round of stops he had managed the issue, and by lap 31 he had passed Bottas and then Vettel thanks to the ‘undercut’ pit strategy.

Red Bull’s junior drivers provided most of the excitement in the latter half of the race, although Carlos Sainz rued his ‘rookie mistake’ on Lap 28 when he smashed his front wing on the pit entry bollard. Later on, he and team mate Max Verstappen scrapped for ninth place, with Verstappen scything down his colleague’s inside at the chicane on Lap 45.

The other young Red Bull talent, Daniil Kvyat, was busy making headway of his own. He started in the pit lane and could not use his ‘overtake button’ (which allows the driver to change gears at a higher rev count, and therefore gives better acceleration) due to reliability worries, so was resigned to scrapping for no points. He tore past Sergio Perez for 14th place o lap 45, and then relieved Marcus Ericsson of 13th on lap 49.

With two laps to go, Felipe Nasr became the only retirement, but was still classified four laps down on race winner Lewis Hamiton, who took the flag nearly twenty seconds ahead of his nearest rival Nico Rosberg.

Classification

1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
3) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
4) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
5) Valtteri Bottas, Williams
6) Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
7) Romain Grosjean, Lotus
8) Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
9) Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso
10) Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso11) Fernando Alonso, McLaren
12) Sergio Perez, Force India
13) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
14) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
15) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
16) Jenson Button, McLaren
17) Felipe Massa, Williams
18) Alexander Rossi, Manor Marussia
19) Will Stevens, Manor Marussia
Felipe Nasr, Sauber (Mechanical issue, +4 Laps)

The next race will be in two weeks’ time on Sunday October 11, at the Sochi Autodrom, Russia.

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