Lewis Hamilton has once again beaten teammate Nico Rosberg in a terrific straight fight in today’s Japanese Grand Prix, however any sense of celebration was soured when the race was stopped after 44 laps when Marussia driver Jules Bianchi suffered injuries in a sickening collision with a trackside recovery vehicle.
We will provide you with rolling updates on his condition as they come to hand, however it is pointless to offer speculation and opinion until the facts are known.
With heavy arrival hitting the circuit in the hours before the race, the Grand Prix began behind the Safety Car but was halted after just two slow laps as a number of runners complained that the conditions and visibility were too poor. Even at greatly reduced speeds, Marcus Ericsson managed to light up his rear tyres and loop his Caterham into a slow spin at the final corner, although the marshals were able to push him back on to the track so he could rejoin at the back of the pack.
With the red flags unfurled, the FIA race director took the unusual decision of having the cars form up in their order in the pit lane – the usual practice is the starting grid – thus ensuring that the cars had completed two laps in order (should the conditions prove impossible to resume the race) that it be declared a ‘started race’ whereby half-points could be awarded at minimum.
In order for full points to be awarded, 75% of the race distance (40 of the 53 scheduled laps) would need to be completed, and that was a long way away at this stage… As the maths currently stood, Nico Rosberg would return to the lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings by half a point – the same margin by which Alain Prost lost the 1984 title to McLaren teammate Niki Lauda…
Fortunately, the conditions eased quite quickly and the field could return to the track for another run behind the Safety Car before hopefully being released into some high-speed racing.
Incredibly, Fernando Alonso only managed to see his Ferrari last a few corners before it conked out in the Esses with flooded electrics. He would be – amazingly, given the conditions – the race’s only true non-classified driver in the final standings.
The race ultimately went green on Lap 10 – about five laps too late, in the eyes of many – and the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Hamilton quickly skipped off into the distance, while the two Williams’ of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa played a blocking role against the chasing pack.
Jenson Button was the first to gamble on a switch from Full Wet to Intermediate tyres – swapping as the Safety Car peeled off the track – and he made the gamble pay handsomely, leaping to third place behind the Silver Arrows once all the pit stops had shaken out.
Hamilton had looked the quicker of the Mercedes pairing, but lost out on snatching the lead at the first round of pit stops with a mistake on his in-lap. He emerged just behind Rosberg, who was less than happy on his new set of tyres and suffered several oversteer moments as the back end of his car got loose.
Further behind, the Red Bulls of Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were revelling in the less-soaked conditions, with both managing to dispose of the Williams’ with bold overtaking moves. Vettel made his moves stick at the Hairpin, while Ricciardo took the more flamboyant route, passing Massa and then Bottas with sensational moves through the Esses! Button’s McLaren sat clear in third place, slowly closing on the battling Mercedes’.
Up at the front, Rosberg’s tyre degradation woes were simply escalating, and with the use of DRS finally being allowed, Hamilton needed little invitation to sweep ahead on Lap 29 with clean move on the approach to the Turn 1 right-hander. Rosberg was a sitting duck, and despite some attempt at defending his position, his cause was hopeless.
Hamilton quickly built up an ultimately unchallenged lead before the second round of pit stops, at which point Vettel was able to slip into third courtesy of a slow pit stop for Button. The German held on to claim back-to-back podium finishes in one of his more inspired races of the season, while Ricciardo ultimately made it a 3-4 for the team by disposing of Button with another great pass, this time at the Hairpin.
The heavens began to open in earnest at the 40-lap mark, and a lap later Sutil lost control of his Sauber at the exit of the Dunlop corner. slamming at some speed into the trackside barriers. Barely a lap later and the Safety Car was called: there were initially fears that either Sutil or one of the marshals had been hurt, until word crept through that it was Bianchi…
As the medical team attended to the Marussia driver and the collective F1 world held its breath, the FIA declared the race. Hamilton was the winner from his teammate – extending his points lead over Rosberg to 10 – while Vettel claimed third over Ricciardo on countback.
2014 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (44 laps*):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||44||1:51:43.021|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||44||+ 9.180|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||44||+ 29.122|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||44||+ 38.818|
|5.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||44||+ 1:07.550|
|6.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||44||+ 1:53.773|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||44||+ 1:55.126|
|8.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||44||+ 1:55.948|
|9.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||44||+ 2:07.638|
|10.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||43||1 lap behind|
|11.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||43||1 lap behind|
|12.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||43||1 lap behind|
|13.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||43||1 lap behind|
|14.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||43||1 lap behind|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||43||1 lap behind|
|16.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||43||1 lap behind|
|17.||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||43||1 lap behind|
|18.||Max Chilton||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||43||1 lap behind|
|19.||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||43||1 lap behind|
|20.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||41||Accident|
|21.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||40||Accident|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||2||Electrical|
* Race stopped on Lap 46 as a result of Bianchi’s accident; final classification is shown counted back to the conclusion of Lap 44 in accordance with Article 41 of the FIA Sporting Regulations.
Image via XPB Images