Nico Rosberg continues to achieve firsts in this 2016 and has now added a first-time victory in Japan. The Mercedes driver, never troubled, strolled towards the chequered flag while teammate Lewis Hamilton dropped further behind in the race for the championship.
While Nico Rosberg charged off his pole starting position Lewis Hamilton was swamped by several cars off the line. The Brit ended up eighth after the first lap after he bogged down on the start with wheelspin. Through consistent driver, and a particularly strong second stint on the hard tyre, Hamilton was able to recover to third.
In second place Red Bull’s Max Verstappen faced significant pressure from Hamilton for the second step on the podium. Nevertheless, the 19 year old did not succumb and more than held his own against the superior Mercedes. The Mercedes team later lodged a protest against Verstappen’s defence into the final chicance on the penultimate lap but has subsequently withdrawn it, seemingly, at the request of Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen delivered solid drives for Ferrari despite several issues plaguing the team throughout the weekend. For more than three quarters of the race Vettel was well in contention for the podium but yet another strategic error from Ferrari made sure he didn’t get there. As he battled against Hamilton for the position the call to make his final stop of the race came too late and the position was surrendered to Hamilton. Although Raikkonen qualified third on the grid he was forced to drop to eighth due a gearbox box. The Finn ultimately recovered to fifth place.
Earlier in the weekend Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene made a point to sit down with a media outlet for an interview. He made very specific comments in this interview that include the statement that Vettel must earn his seat at Ferrari. There is nothing inherently wrong with this comment. No driver in Formula 1 is absolved from needing to earn their place in the sport. However, this comment and argument isn’t a one way street. For this reason the question must be asked: What is Ferrari doing to earn Vettel and Raikkonen?
The pendulum swung dramatically for last weeks race winner Daniel Ricciardo who could only manage a sixth place finish seven days later in Japan. The Force India pairing of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg came home in a solid seventh and eighth place respectively. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, in ninth and tenth, took the final points on offer for Williams. This result strengthens Force India’s fourth place in the constructor’s standings to ten points over Williams.
Mercedes secured the overall title of constructor’s champions with their Japanese Gp result. The German mark remains the only team and manufacturer to be champions in the hybrid era of the sport.
Effectively Mercedes has also won the driver’s title, as no other driver is mathematically possible of taking the crown. However, the question remains will be Rosberg or Hamilton who takes the ultimate prize. Rosberg’s win in the land of the rising sun gives him a 33-point gap over Hamilton whose title chances have dimmed slightly. However, with 100 points still up for grabs it’s far too soon to call this race.