September 27, 2015

F1 Update: Japan 2015

A blue sky welcomed the F1 Circus as polesitter Nico Rosberg led the field to the grid, but ominous looking clouds in the horizon echoed the memories of the accident a year ago that eventually took the life of Jules Bianchi.  Rosberg's teammate and Championship rival Lewis Hamilton was next to him in 2nd, with a Williams and a Ferrari on each of the next two rows.  Would Rosberg be able to capitalize on his good fortune and take the championship fight to Hamilton?  Or would Hamilton curbstomp the field?  Or would Seb Vettel take his second win in a row?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Japan.

*START:  The start fell into a category best called "sloppy".  At the front, the two Mercedes drivers got away well enough and went into Turn 1 side-by-side... at which point Hamilton decided to muscle up and start shoving his teammate the the outside of the turn.  At this point, Rosberg had two choices: 1) hold his ground and make his teammate decide whether or not to run into him; or 2) run offtrack, potentially compromising his race, but keeping the car in one piece.  He made his choice, getting pushed into the runoff area and losing a couple of positions in the process.  Further back, Daniel Ricciardo got a marginally better start than Felipe Not Nasr Massa and slid to the center of the front straight to get past him... into an opening that he thought would open up but didn't.  Both drivers suffered punctured tires just past the start/finish line.  It would be very long laps for the pair, and neither would ever factor into the race again.  Sergio Perez, attempting to avoid the kerfluffle, bounced off Carlos Sainz and spun out in Turn 1.  While mostly unscathed, he lost all the time in the world and would actively lobby for a safety car the rest of the race.  By the end of the first lap, Hamilton had a 1.7 second lead on Seb Vettel's Ferrari, and that was the last we'd see of the Silver Arrows.

*NO, REALLY:  According to MercedesF1, their cars were on screen for a total of six minutes during the race.  That total includes the cool-down lap and the start.  At one point the only time we saw Hamilton was during a pit stop, and only after it was over and he pulled out on track.  For one of the front runners, we'll normally get the entire stop, from the final bit of roll into the pitbox to the exit of the box.  There is a theory out there that this is Bernie Ecclestone turning up the pressure on Mercedes in an attempt to force them to provide engines to Red Bull next season.  We here at F1U! believe that there wasn't much reason to actually show the Mercedes this race, since for most of it they were alone and unmolested.

*MCLAREN FRUSTRATION:  Let's face it, thus far this season the McLaren/Honda combination has been a dog and nothing but.  Today, the frustration of the drivers boiled over.  Jenson Button seems more and more likely to retire rather than finish his contract with the team, and Fernando Alonso... well.  After being totally embarrassed by Sony Ericcson, who had screwed up the final corner yet was still able to blow past the Spaniard with contemptuous ease down the front straight, he got on the radio to his pit wall.  "GP2 Engine.  GP2.  ARRGH!"  Though to be fair, we here at F1U! thought Alonso had sneezed, not angrily grunted.  Coming as it did at the circuit Honda owns, with Honda's president in attendance, this was not an off-the-cuff comment by an annoyed driver. 

*WHAT ELSE?:  Honestly?  It'd be difficult to make the rest of this race feel exciting.  Up at the front it shook out rather quickly, farther back it was a case of the lower-midfield squabbling over a point here or there.  If Friend of The Pond Vaucaunson's Duck hadn't been texting us as he watched the race from San Francisco, we may have called it an early night.  Hamilton won by 19 seconds over his teammate, who was three seconds ahead of Ferrari's Seb Vettel.  Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas were some 15 seconds behind, and then there was almost a half-minute to the next car.  The two Lotuses were over 73 seconds behind the leader in 7th and 8th, and the two Toro Rossos were 95 seconds and over a full lap behind to round out the top 10. 

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"...and that (snaps fingers) for Singapore!" - Lewis Hamilton

"Next time, we wreck or he backs off.  Oh, who am I kidding, I'll back off again." - Nico Rosberg

"'Two seconds to Nico is plenty, Seb' my butt." - Seb Vettel, after losing second place to a stupid pit call.

"mrmrmrmmmbrlbr mmrmrlrrbrllrlrlr mmmmmmrbrbrbrlr" - Kimi Raikkonen

"What he said." - Valtteri Bottas

"I was a lonely traveler today.  Was there a race going on?" - Nico Hulkenberg, who was alone on track most of the day.

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - American Alexander Rossi after barely missing teammate Will Stevens car, hidden in a cloud of tire smoke after spinning in 130R.

Sochi Russia in two weeks time.  An announcement may be coming before then, stay tuned!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 02:17 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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I was thinking that with this race some of the championships were locked up, but I just did the math and it's still mathematically possible for Ferrari to beat Mercedes, and it's still mathematically possible for Rosberg and Vettel to beat Hamilton.

Not that it's going to happen, of course. I bet the bookies in London won't even offer odds on Mercedes and Hamilton.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 27, 2015 09:02 PM (+rSRq)

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