Japanese GP 2012

Seven moments from the Japanese GP

1. King Kobayashi

There really isn’t another way to describe the Sauber driver today, when the focus had been solidly centre around his meteoric Mexican team mate he soaked up the pressure to put in a fantastic performance. A brilliant start put him ahead of Webber, which saw him escape another first lap letdown  and gave him the very best opportunity to please his homecrowd. A flying Massa got ahead of him during the pit stops but it was a pacy Button that was giving the Japenese driver problems. Lap after lap of pressure was piled up onto Kobayashi’s shoulders from the experienced Brit, but even with DRS and KERS available Button couldn’t get close enough for a pass.

2. Romain Crashjean

It’s not hard to guess what happened here as it’s become a bit of a recurring trend for Grosjean to get caught up in first lap incidents, although not all have been his fault, it is that his name is the one that crops up. His tally now stands at seven incidents in fifteen races and this has naturally leads to a reputation that sticks fast to his name, which has happened today. Last year Hamilton took the dubious title of ‘crash kid’ last year where he couldn’t seem to go long without taking himself or someone out, Maldonado soon followed and Grosjean has now overshadowed them both.

We not be quick to dish the blame out, for Grosjean out of his seven, three were not his fault (Silverstone, Melbourne and Monaco), one was clearly a racing incident (Spain) and his apologies came quickly after admitting fault in Malaysia and Belgium. Punished with a race ban after causing a multiple car collision in Belgium, he was served with a 10 second stop-and-go penalty after sending Webber off track at turn two. That particular penalty is considered the harshest (and rather old school) beside disqualifying the driver there and then.

The tussle between Alonso and Raikkonen behind however saw Raikkonen’s front wing leave a hole in the rear left of the Ferrari after the Spaniard put the squeeze on the Finn. The focus of the FIA statement regarding Grosjean’s ban was that he put a title contender out of the running, although certainly less dramatic Raikkonen essentially did the same. Was that down to Grosjean’s reputation? If it is that is a shame because this boy is talented, and fast and has been deserving of his podium appearances this season, and much more.

3. The future and the past

Following the announcement of his retirement Schumacher’s weekend in Japan was not the best start to his confirmed last races. With a ten place penalty for chomping on Vergne’s rear wing in Singapore he started the day in p23 and it wasn’t long before his car decided to stop telling the pitwall anything, with his telemetry not coming through. He finished outside the points but it was an admirable job nonetheless. And as the great name of the past prepared to leave again, the future in the shape of Ricciardo put up one hell of a fight to keep the last point on offer to himself.

Now looking to the past and future of McLaren there was a telling move from Perez on Hamilton, perfectly timed it saw the incoming McLaren driver take on the outgoing one with a risky slice down the inside of the hairpin on lap 6, taking on lots of kerb to do so it was a great display of his potential. However, illustrating his relative inexperience he tried the move again during lap 18 on Hamilton and parked it in the gravel at the same corner.

4. Close calls

Although the first laps suggested we might be in for a classic, after the safety car pulled off the circuit we were in for a raft of laps that did little for the adrenalin levels, they dropped off quicker than a Pirelli. Just going to prove exactly how important a pit stop can be, Hamilton left his stop in excellent time but a few tenths longer and he would have had another car to pass. Hamilton was leaving the pits just as Raikkonen was charging down the start/finish straight, taking the inside line a fighty Hamilton never let up despite it looking like the Finn had kept his position. A quick move on the steering wheel avoided any contact.

Later on in the race two drivers line up for a fight that made many nervous, Senna came up behind Grosjean with the intention to pass. After a couple of attempts the under pressure Brazilian (who ended Rosberg’s race garnering a drive through) passed Grosjean into 103R, well executed and clean it showed both drivers in the light that gave them their seats.

5. Flying Felipe

A well deserved second place for the downtrodden Brazilian lifted his spirits and his fans when the announcement of his future is imminent. It seems likely he will be staying with the Italian outfit for another season, the heady heights of 2008 may not be seen again, but a happy Massa is a competitive one which should please Alonso immensely as his cushion is cut to a measly four points.

6. Be wary of an angry Aussie

When Webber lined up alongside Grosjean in Singapore he was asked what he would do if the Frenchman crashed into him, he lightheartedly reminded all that he had a pretty handy right hook. There was no need for Webber to get his boxing gloves out, however in Japan exactly what he feared happened when Grosjean spun him onto the grass.

Luckily was able to get himself back onto the track, with Rosberg taken out by Senna the safety car controlled the pace but as it pitted Webber was 12 seconds behind the last car. So to crawl his way through into the points demonstrates exactly why Red Bull wants him on their books for another year, and despite being notoriously tough on his tyres he finished the race on what was essentially a one stop race. With that pace he showed a podium was definitely within reach, a win? Well team order are legal now…

Post-race it was clear we were going to get the straight talking version, and not wanting to disappoint he delivered this:

“I haven’t seen what happened at the start but the guys confirmed it was the first-lap nutcase again Grosjean. The rest of us are trying to fight for some decent results each weekend but he’s trying to get to the third corner as fast as he can at every race. It makes it frustrating because a few big guys obviously suffered from that today. Maybe he needs another holiday. He needs to have a look at himself obviously. It was completely his fault. How many mistakes can you make, how many times can you make the same error with first lap incidents? It’s quite embarrassing at this level for him.”

7. Two horse race

Entirely likely, but we have to keep our wits about us after the season we’ve experienced. But for now focus has now shifted to Alonso and Vettel, as it should do considering the results they’ve pulled in. One 194 and 190 points respectively their nearest challenger is Raikkonen on 157 without a win to his name so far, Hamilton is five behind him with Webber and Button on 134 and 131. Alonso looked unassailable a few races ago, his title was about to be pinned to his lapel but then Red Bull came and ruined his party and now the power has shifted from scarlet to navy.

Vettel dominated from pole position to checkered flag, leading every lap he took his second grand chelem, his first being in India last year, where he also had to lead every lap. Something he did with ease, the only challenge he faced was the one with his engineer when continous fastest laps had the pit wall worrying he would bin it before he finished. Or knacker the alternator.

Awesome-o-meter

A late burst of excitement from the hero of Japan as he held off Button saved the race from the doldrums, but apart from the flurry of carbon fibre at the beginning this race didn’t offer what it usually promises. Saying that the heartwarming chants of ‘Kamui, Kamui, Kamui!’ from the grands before he took to the podium showed why we can’t not go to Japan.

Race Stats

Qualifying Vettel Webber Button
Pole S Vettel  1:30.839 (Red Bull)
Laps 53
Weather Dry
Safety Car One
Results 1. Vettel Red Bull 1:28:56.242
2. Massa Ferrari 1:29:16.881
3. Kobayashi Sauber 1:29:20.780
Fastest Lap Vettel Red Bull 1:35.774
Retirements Rosberg Mercedes [0] Accident
Alonso Ferrari [0] Accident
Perez Sauber [18] Spin
Karthikeyan HRT [32] Retired
Pic Marussia [37] Engine
Grosjean Lotus [51] Retired
Penalties Grosjean Caused collision with Webber Stop and go
Senna Caused collision with Rosberg Drive through
Petrov Ignored blue flags Drive through
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