Team-by-team look at the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel took another victory on his way claiming a fourth drivers title. The race had been led by both Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber but Vettel’s strategy allowed him to jump both. Elsewhere Sauber took their first double points finish of the season with Hulkenberg sixth and Esteban Gutierrez seventh. The Mexican became the first rookie to score points this season. Fernando Alonso’s fifth place finish keeps him in contention for the drivers title.

Red Bull
IMG_2875Sebastian Vettel finished on the top spot of the podium for the ninth time this season. The German lost out to Grosjean at the start to be third on the first lap. In the end it was strategy which helped him to the win with Grosjean and Webber having also led the race at different points. The two stop strategy was the winning combination with Grosjean and a three stopping Webber stuck in traffic. Webber started on pole but lost out to Grosjean who led from lap one. The Australian later regained the lead but was on a three stop strategy. After his third stop he was behind Grosjean and managed to catch him but could only pass him with a few laps left to run. It was too late to catch Vettel and challenge for the win. The double podium moves the team a step closer to the constructors title.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean had looked set to take his first F1 win showing Lotus he is more than ready to lead the team next season. Third place looked inevitable with the speed of the Red Bulls but the Frenchman had managed to jump both at the start to lead the race. Like Vettel he was two stopping but Vettel managed to get the better of him. Grosjean ened third after Webber passed him on the penultimate lap. Kimi Raikkonen had started ninth but by the end of the race he was in fifth. The Finn charged through the field and eventually got passed Nico Hulkenberg to chase Fernando Alonso. Although he was catching the Spaniard late in the race there were not enough laps for him to catch and pass.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso finished in fourth after a close battle with Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. Alonso was behind his teammate at the start and could not find a way past. At the first set of pitstops both Alonso and Massa had been jumped by Hulkenberg. This remained until after the second pitstop. Hulkenberg was still ahead but Alonso bided his time catching the Sauber as passing near the end of the race. Felipe Massa eventually held on for tenth place after having a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane and a close battle with Jenson Button on the line. The Briton got ahead for ninth right on the line after they had clashed at the previous chicane. Alonso can still mathematically win the championship but seems to have given up on his chances.

Sauber
Sauber had a double points finish for the first time this season. Hulkenberg finished a strong sixth whilst Esteban Gutierrez claimed the first points of his F1 career with seventh holding off Nico Rosberg to the line. Hulkenberg jumped the Ferrari’s at the first round of pitstops and attempted to hold off Alonso and Raikkonen but was eventually passed by them both. Eight points were well earned alongside Gutierrez’s six. The Mexican produced the good result keeping a faster car behind him and becoming the first rookie to score points this season. The double points finish moves the team further ahead of Toro Rosso in the constructors championship.

Mercedes
It was a day to forget for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton attempted to get between the slow starting Red Bulls but had his tyre punctured after hitting Vettel’s front wing. He made it back to the pits but his car was damaged enough to have to be retired after just nine laps. Nico Rosberg also had a difficult day he had been running higher up in the top ten before being given a drive through penalty for an unsafe pit release. This dropped the German driver back and he was unable to pass the impressive Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez. He finished the day in eighth taking hime four points.

McLaren
McLaren came away with two points in what proved to be an interesting and battle-filled race for the team. Jenson Button struggled with his tyres throughout the race having to make three stops. He was ovetaken by Massa on the last lap but managed to get ahead of him in the drag to the line to finish ninth with two points. Sergio Perez also had to make three stops – however one was unscheduled after he suffered a puncture after a collision with Nico Rosberg and could only manage to finish in 15th.

Force India
Force India continued with their slump in form with Paul di Resta finishing in 11th and Adrian Sutil in 14th. Di Resta had been fighting for the final point among the other midfield drivers but could not keep up and finished ten seconds down on tenth place finisher Massa. Sutil didn’t have a much better day. Having started last he went straight through the middle of the backmarkers at the start to avoid the Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi collision at the start. Another race with no points means Sauber moves ever closer to passing them in the constructors title.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne finished 12th whilst teammate Daniel Ricciardo was 13th. The Australian gambled by starting on the harder compound tyre and ran a long first stint. After his pitstop he made a charge through the field but went off the track passing a Force India. This gave him a drive through penalty which pushed him back down the grid. He had been in the lower points but was unable to get back finishing behind his teammate.

Williams
The two Williams drivers were fighting it out among themselves throughout the race as they failed to make the points once again. Pastor Maldonado had been in the points at one point but fell back to finish 16th just a few lengths ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas in 17th.

Caterham
Caterham finished ahead of Marussia once again as Charles Pic beat Max Chilton to the line. Pic had avoided the incident which his teammate Giedo van der Garde got caught in to finish 18th. Van der Garde was involved in a first lap incident with the Marussia of Jules Bianchi as both ended their day in the gravel.

Marussia
Max Chilton finished behind Caterham rival Charles Pic as they continue in their battle for backmarker supremacy. Chilton was 19th. Teammate Jules Bianchi ended his day in the gravel on the first lap after a collision with the Caterham of Van der Garde.

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Vettel wins but all eyes are on Massa and Kobayashi in Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel was victorious in Suzuka narrowing Fernando Alonso’s championship lead to just 4 points after a first lap crash led to his retirement from the race.

Vettel’s comfortable victory was overshadowed by two superb drives from Felipe Massa for second and Kamui Kobayashi for third. Massa’s result is the first time he has been on the podium since 2010, whilst cheered on by a home crowd Kobayashi secured his first ever podium in F1 by holding off McLaren’s Jenson Button. Both these drives came at the best time for the respective drivers as they both look to secure their F1 future.

The day did not end well for current championship leader Alonso as he found himself spinning into the gravel on lap one after his Ferrari touched wheels with Kimi Raikkonen. Mark Webber lost time on lap one when Kobayashi separated the Red Bull’s and then Romain Grosjean crashed into him in the second corner. Webber had to pit for checks to his car whilst Grosjean served a ten second penalty. Nico Rosberg also found himself having to retire on lap one after clashing with Bruno Senna.

Button took fourth ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton in fifth after both survived the lap one crashes. Raikkonen finished sixth in the Lotus holding off Nico Hulkenberg who finished seventh in the Force India. Pastor Maldonado scored his first points for Williams since his Spanish Grand Prix win finishing eighth and Webber salvaged ninth and two points after his troubles on lap one. Daniel Ricciardo closed out the point scorers in tenth having held off Michael Schumacher in the closing stages.

Behind the top ten Schumacher finished 11th in a disappointing race for Mercedes, he was followed by Paul di Resta, Jean-Eric Vergne and Senna.

Sergio Perez impressed in the early laps of the race but retired on lap 19 after a botched attempt at an overtake on Hamilton that led to him spinning into the gravel.

Vettel’s comfortable victory has helped him narrow down Alonso’s lead in the championship and gives him a great chance of winning a third consecutive championship with just five races left to run.

Despite Vettel’s victory the race was really about Massa and Kobayashi. Heading into this race both looked as though they may struggle to secure race seats for next season. However on the back of these impressive results they have most likely done more than enough to see themselves racing in 2013.

Red Bull lock out front row as Raikkonen crash disrupts Q3

Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position in Japan on Saturday with teammate Mark Webber taking second on the grid in a session disrupted by a Kimi Raikkonen crash in Q3.

Jenson Button qualified his McLaren third on Saturday but will start the race from 8th tomorrow after a five place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. Kamui Kobayashi took fourth place in the first Sauber at his home grand prix whilst Lotus’ Romain Grosjean qualified fifth, they will start third and fourth respectively following Button’s penalty. Sergio Perez qualified the second Sauber sixth and will start fifth in a good qualifying session for them.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso had to settle for qualifying seventh after his run was impeded by Raikkonen’s crash but will start sixth after penalties are applied. Alonso also suggested that Vettel had impeded him during his flying lap, Vettel was later reprimanded but kept pole position.

Raikkonen managed to qualify eighth despite his crash but will start seventh due to Button’s penalty. His crash on his second run in Q3 also prevented Lewis Hamilton from improving and he will start from ninth. Nico Hulkenberg reached Q3 but decided not to run, he also has a five place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change following his FP3 crash and will start tomorrows race from 15th.

Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari was knocked out in Q2 along with Paul di Resta they will start tomorrows race from tenth and 11th respectively after the penalties are applied. Michael Schumacher finished the session in 13th but will start 23rd following his 10 place grid penalty from Singapore. Pastor Maldonado, Nico Rosberg and the Toro Rosso’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Jena-Eric Vergne were also knocked out in Q2. Vergne was later given a penalty for impeding Bruno Senna and will consequently start 19th. Senna was knocked out in Q1 but following Vergne’s penalty will start 16th.

At the back of the grid HRT appeared to have made a break through with Pedro de la Rosa who qualified 21st and will start 20th after Schumacher’s penalty.

With all the penalties applied Red Bull are in the best position when compared with their rivals. Ferrari and McLaren will start at the back end of the top ten and will hope to exploit the Sauber’s and Lotus’ in front of them in order to challenge Red Bull. Assessing Red Bull’s performance over the weekend so far they look set to secure victory at Suzuka on Sunday.

Webber tops FP2 in Japan

Mark Webber topped a tight free practice two session in Suzuka in a race that is pivotal to the 2012 championship.

Webber beat Lewis Hamilton to the top spot whilst his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel finished the session third, to demonstrate that Red Bull could be set to dominate the closing races of the season. Nico Hulkenberg finished the session fourth for Force India, but teammate Paul di Resta failed to set a time having crashed causing the session to be red flagged early on.

The incident packed session saw many drivers struggle to control their cars. Michael Schumacher went off at the same corner as di Resta, in an almost identical accident, but was not injured. Both of the Caterham drivers and Sauber drivers had off track excursions along with a number of other drivers including Felipe Massa.

Ferrari were slightly off the pace with Fernando Alonso only managing fifth but he was still within one second of Webber. Romain Grosjean was sixth behind Alonso and FP1 leader Jenson Button finished seventh in the second McLaren. The tight top eight was completed by Bruno Senna for Williams, all drivers in the top eight were within a second of Webber’s time.

Massa finished the session in ninth whilst Schumacher finished tenth in the Mercedes, despite his crash, his teammate Nico Rosberg was 11th. Despite their incidents Sauber finished the session 12th and 13th ahead of Raikkonen who had suffered a KERS issue. The unreliability of the Lotus is beginning to hamper Raikkonen’s chance of winning the drivers championship, and the decision to not run the new rear wing device as it was deemed to offer no advantage will not help either.

Webber will be happy to have topped the session and will hope that this form will continue for the rest of the weekend as he hopes to get his chances of a championship back on track, however unlikely this is.

Red Bull and McLaren are likely to battle for pole position tomorrow, but with all the teams relatively close together it is set to be an interesting qualifying session.