F1 – Japanese GP – Race
It has been a strange weekend so far, but the Honda-owned Suzuka International Racing Course hosts the 17th round of the 2019 FIA F1 World Championship, despite the scare of Typhoon Hagibis, which now seems to have fully passed the Suzuka area. This circuit, although a classic, will always have sadness attached to it following the events of the 2014 race. Everyone in the paddock misses Jules Bianchi dearly. I still think about him daily.
In the extremely rare Sunday qualifying session, Ferrari shocked the paddock by taking a 1-2 with Sebastian Vettel ahead of Charles Leclerc. Everyone thought Mercedes would lock out the front row given their pace on Friday, but it turns out Ferrari were seemingly sandbagging. Mercedes could actually wrap up the constructors championship this weekend if they can outscore Ferrari by 14 points. Even if this is not achieved, it’s only a matter of time realistically.
As the drivers got underway, Valtteri Bottas made a superb start to lead into turn one from 3rd on the grid. Meanwhile, the major action was just behind with Leclerc understeering into Max Verstappen through turn two which would ultimately cause the Dutchman to retire with heavy damage. Leclerc had to make an extra pit stop for a change of front wing, and eventually recovered back up to 6th.
It was an interesting race full of strategy. The on track action was also exciting with many incidents and overtakes; seeing Leclerc carve his way back through the field was thrilling.
Bottas was able to control the race upfront and took the win with ease today – he definitely had his porridge for breakfast this morning. Sebastian Vettel finished 2nd for Ferrari after surviving an investigation for a jump start, and holding off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton who completed the podium.
For the first time since joining Red Bull, Alexander Albon showed glimpses of matching his team mate for pace this weekend, and he brought the car home in 4th position; recording his best ever finish in Formula One. Carlos Sainz has been superb lately, and should be very satisfied with his 5th placed finish today.
Renault had a dismal practice and qualifying this weekend, so to get both cars in the points is a superb turnaround. Daniel Ricciardo was 7th with Nico Hulkenberg 10th. They sandwiched Pierre Gasly (8th) and Sergio Perez (9th). Actually there’s a bit of confusion about Perez. He crashed out on his final lap after a collision with Gasly. However, there are reports that the chequered flag was shown one lap early in error. Certainly the timing screen does show the Mexican as finishing 9th. For the record, his team mate, Lance Stroll, is 11th, and may be promoted into the points depending on what happens with Perez.
1st and 3rd places for Mercedes today mean they secure the constructors’ championship for the sixth consecutive time. Although, paddock celebrations were minimal, purely because this has been expected for several months now. When do you think Hamilton will officially claim the drivers’ title? Surely even the most ardent Bottas fans don’t think he can turn the deficit around? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Four races to go. Next up; Mexico.