Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nico Rosberg Extends Point Lead With Japanese GP Win

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

As the 21-race 2016 Formula 1 calendar narrows into a five-race stretch consisting of two long-standing circuits as well as three events first held in 2009 or sooner. First part of the world's top open wheel racing tour in 1987, the Suzuka International Racing Course is a reputable venue for challenging drivers and teams with slow and high-speed sections requiring a well-rounded race car.  Suzuka's late season location in the Formula 1 schedule has presented some landmark championship-related outcomes with the Ayrton Senna/Alain Prost battle of 1989 and 1990 being the most iconic. During five of the past six Japanese Grand Prix events, the race winner has went on to win the world drivers' championship. The enthusiasm leading up to the 17th round of the 2016 race in Japan was linked to the intense title fight between Mercedes AMG drivers as 53 laps.

Despite the full distance of the Formula 1 event at Suzuka, the race was heavily decided on the start. In fact, it could be argued Saturday's qualifying where Nico Rosberg edged-out Mercedes AMG teammate Lewis Hamilton could have wound up as the winning move for Sunday. Achieving a ninth front row dominance for 2016, the Silver Arrows assembled as did the remainder of a 22-car field as the Japanese Grand Prix would commence following a longish five-light start. When the competitors were unleashed, Nico Rosberg was able to optimize his prime starting position launching away with the lead. While Rosberg shot away on the outside of the Suzuka track into turn 1, the inside front row starter left his grid position slowly. Hamilton first seconds of the Japanese Grand Prix saw him fall prey immediately to the Red Bull-TAG Heuer machines as the Mercedes AMG appeared to struggle. The three-time world champion would fall to 8th place on the opening lap of the event he had won in the previous two occasions. In a post-race interview, Hamilton cited a lack of traction and wheel spin as the reason for this poor start that would result in a 53-lap recovery mission strikingly similar to what his teammate needed to perform the previous week in Malaysia. This early incident for the Brit would serve as a major attraction over the course of the race in Japan.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

Bucking the trend of recent Formula 1 races heading into the latter part of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix went without a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car Period. There allowed Nico Rosberg to cruise away from Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen. Deeper in the field, Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes AMG needed to exercise the pace to reunite with his teammate. With Hamilton contending with a gap that extended to as much as 17 seconds between himself and the leading car of Rosberg in the early stages of the event, himself and his Mercedes AMG pit crew worked together to climb to fourth place after lap 13.

Lewis Hamilton's run to the front eventually netted the Brit third place running position into the late stage of the Japanese Grand Prix. Attempting to cap off a fierce, determined drive with a runner-up position, Hamilton approached and began hovering over the rear of Red Bull-TAG Heuer of Max Verstappen. Into the final laps, the Mercedes AMG closed in on second place's Max Verstappen pulling within a second of the Red Bull Racing car with several laps remaining. The three-time world championship experience of Hamilton tested the young grand prix winner Verstappen. With 2 laps remaining, Hamilton made his attempt at the runner-up spot into Suzuka's turn 16 chicane but locked-up and overshot the turn-in leaving him to settle for third place. Mercedes AMG issued a protest following the late-race incident insisting Verstappen performed a dangerously defensive move. However, the protest was promptly withdrawn as Lewis Hamilton who later clarified on Twitter he did not want to pursue a penalty for Red Bull Racing and Verstappen for the incident.

Running a clean, steady race, Nico Rosberg captured the Japanese Grand Prix in an overwhelmingly underwhelming manner. Capitalizing on his pole position, the German was left unchallenged over the 53 laps for what was a 9th grand prix victory for the 2016 season. A win that allows Rosberg to push his drivers' championship point lead over teammate Lewis Hamilton to 33 makers heading into the final four Formula 1 events, Mercedes AMG's united efforts between their two drivers in Japan clinches the constructors' title for the 3rd consecutive year.

Finishing outside of the podium positions, both Ferrari racers participated in a quiet but respectable outing that saw drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen overcome grid place penalties after qualifying. Starting 6th, Vettel reached fourth place while Raikkonen rose from a five-position demotion due to a gearbox change to finish 5th. While the 2016 Formula 1 Constructors' Champion was won by Mercedes AMG, Ferrari is still in the hunt for the runner-up position in the standings 50 points behind Red Bull Racing. The second Red Bull-TAG Heuer machine driven by Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth.

Foto Studio Columbo Per Pirelli Media

After a sluggish start to the season, Force India has continued to show impressive consistency in Japan, Sergio Perez crossed the finish line at Suzuka in 7th place while teammate Nico Hulkenberg followed in 8th. Since the British Grand Prix, at least one Force India car has scored points elevating the Mercedes-Benz powered race team to the position of fourth in the constructors championship standings.  

For what proved to be the leading strategy for lapping the Suzuka Circuit through the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix, a two-stop plan was exercised by the top eight finishing competitors. The Williams Martini Racing team drivers rounded out the top-10. Felipe Massa finished 9th ahead of Valtteri Bottas being the only competitors finishing the points paying positions to endure the Japanese Grand Prix's 53 laps with a one pit stop strategy after starting the event on medium compound Pirelli tires. Bottas' Williams-Mercedes was able to narrow fend off the Haas F1 Team's Romain Grosjean for the tenth place spot.

Since there were no retirements due to mechanical or on-track incidents, every driver of the 22-car field finished the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix.

Austin, Texas' Circuit of the Americas will serve as the next venue for deciding the outcome of the 2016 Formula 1 Drivers' Championship as well as one of four chances to leave 2016 triumphant. The United States Grand Prix will take place on October 23rd.

2016 Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
4 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
5 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
7 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
9 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
10 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
12 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
13 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
14 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
16 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
17 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
18 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
19 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
20 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
21 31 Esteban Ocon Manor Mercedes-Benz
22 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz

No comments:

Post a Comment