Rosberg wins at Suzuka as Mercedes takes championship

Nico Rosberg has extending his title lead with a masterclass victory in the Japanese Grand Prix as another slow start affected Lewis Hamilton.

With his 30th career pole position, Rosberg led from the start and never looked back to record his 23rd victory in the sport and his ninth this season. This result means the Mercedes driver has a 33-point gap over Hamilton with four races left.

Hamilton could only manage third, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen taking second as 5.7 seconds covered the top three at the chequered flag.

The Japanese Grand Prix sealed a third successive constructors’ championship for Mercedes after it failed to clinch it in Malaysia last weekend when Hamilton’s engine blew.

Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of a third successive win at Suzuka were over after the first few seconds.

Following overnight rain, come the start of the race there were still damp patches on the circuit, with one of those being Hamilton’s grid box, and the three-time champion showing some concern beforehand.

Once the five red lights went out Hamilton then bogged down and was swamped, slotting into eighth and apologising to his team shortly afterwards.

While Rosberg enjoyed the lead, what followed was damage limitation from Hamilton, who passed Nico Hulkenberg on lap seven before making up another two positions at his first pitstop to get ahead of Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton then soon cleared Ricciardo to leave him with Verstappen and Vettel in between him and Rosberg after all the opening pitstops in which the leaders took on the hard compound tyres.

Come the second round of stops Hamilton again made up lost ground, getting ahead of Vettel by pitting before the Ferrari.

Mercedes again gave Hamilton the hard tyre, while Ferrari switched Vettel to softs in an aggressive move, but despite a couple of laps of pressure from the latter he was unable to get close to make a move on the former.

Vettel’s irritation over backmarkers this season reached new heights in this race as the four-time champion was continually on the team radio bemoaning being held up, and by the end he could only claim fourth, 14.4 seconds behind Rosberg.

Hamilton did close to within a second of Verstappen on lap 44, and on lap 52 he made a move into the chicane, but was forced to take the escape road as the 19-year-old moved to the inside to defend as they hit the brakes.

Behind the leading top four, Raikkonen, who started the race with a five-place penalty for a gearbox change after qualifying third, and Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth.

Force India pair Perez and Hulkenberg were seventh and eighth, with the team ekeing out a 10-point gap over Williams whose drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finished ninth and tenth on a one-stop strategy.

So the constructors’ title has been won by Mercedes for the third successive time. Top stuff to everybody at Silver Arrows.

As for the drivers’ championship, this is looking good for Nico Rosberg. 33-point advantage and 100 to play for. Rosberg can afford to finish second in the remaining four races and still win the title. Can Lewis Hamilton fight back? It’s going to be difficult and yet the pressure is on. Roll on the US Grand Prix.

Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka race results:
1    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    53    1h26m43.333s
2    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    53    4.978s
3    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    53    5.776s
4    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    53    20.269s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    53    28.370s
6    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    53    33.941s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    53    57.495s
8    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    53    59.177s
9    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    53    1m37.763s
10    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    53    1m38.323s
11    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    53    1m39.254s
12    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    52    1 Lap
13    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    52    1 Lap
14    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    52    1 Lap
15    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    52    1 Lap
16    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    52    1 Lap
17    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    52    1 Lap
18    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    52    1 Lap
19    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    52    1 Lap
20    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    52    1 Lap
21    Esteban Ocon    Manor-Mercedes    52    1 Lap
22    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    52    1 Lap

Drivers’ standings:
1    Nico Rosberg    313
2    Lewis Hamilton    280
3    Daniel Ricciardo    212
4    Kimi Raikkonen    170
5    Max Verstappen    165
6    Sebastian Vettel    165
7    Valtteri Bottas    81
8    Sergio Perez    80
9    Nico Hulkenberg    54
10    Felipe Massa    43
11    Fernando Alonso    42
12    Carlos Sainz    30
13    Romain Grosjean    28
14    Daniil Kvyat    25
15    Jenson Button    19
16    Kevin Magnussen    7
17    Jolyon Palmer    1
18    Pascal Wehrlein    1
19    Stoffel Vandoorne    1
20    Esteban Gutierrez    0
21    Marcus Ericsson    0
22    Felipe Nasr    0
23    Rio Haryanto    0
24    Esteban Ocon    0

Constructors’ standings:
1    Mercedes    593
2    Red Bull-Renault    385
3    Ferrari    335
4    Force India-Mercedes    134
5    Williams-Mercedes    124
6    McLaren-Honda    62
7    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    47
8    Haas-Ferrari    28
9    Renault    8
10    Manor-Mercedes    1
11    Sauber-Ferrari    0

Next race: United States Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americans. October 21-23.

5 thoughts to “Rosberg wins at Suzuka as Mercedes takes championship”

  1. Japanese Grand Prix race review as reported by

    Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead to 33 points with victory in Sunday’s 2016 Formula 1 Emirates Japanese Grand Prix, as Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton recovered from a nightmare start to finish third, just behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The result means Mercedes are assured of the constructors’ title for the third year in succession.

    Sebastian Vettel was Ferrari’s lead runner on a frustrating afternoon for the Scuderia, the German taking fourth place ahead of team mate Kimi Raikkonen. Also disappointed was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in sixth, the Australian having started the race in front of both the scarlet cars.

    The Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were seventh and eighth, beating arch rivals Williams, who saw Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas complete the top ten, as all 22 drivers finished the race.

    Polesitter Rosberg effectively had things won the moment Hamilton made a mistake and lagged so badly at the start that he plunged from second to eighth place.

    Thereafter, the German drove a controlled race well out in front to win for the first time here and score his ninth victory of a season that looks increasingly like going his way, comfortably clear of Verstappen’s Red Bull and the recovered Hamilton.

    As Rosberg quickly eased away at the start, Verstappen jumped to second but Ricciardo in the second Red Bull lost momentum diving past the tardy Hamilton and was overtaken by Perez’s Force India and fast-starting Vettel’s Ferrari. Further back, Hulkenberg took sixth ahead of Raikkonen, who got a late five-place grid drop because of a gearbox change, and Hamilton.

    Vettel made swift work of deposing Perez, and Raikkonen passed the other Force India on the sixth lap, Hamilton on the seventh. But the really key moment for the reigning world champion came with his first pit stop on the 13th lap; he jumped past both Raikkonen and Perez as they were held up trying to pass Jolyon Palmer’s Renault.

    That freed the Englishman to chase after Rosberg, Verstappen and Vettel, and he steadily cut down the Ferrari driver’s advantage, from 12.9s on lap 26 to 4.2 when he pitted for the second time on the 33rd lap. Ferrari immediately brought Vettel in on lap 34, but the Mercedes got the undercut to claim the final podium slot.

    It was a bad-tempered race as far as traffic was concerned, with Verstappen, Vettel and Raikkonen in particular complaining bitterly about their perceived lack of blue flags, or else drivers ignoring them. As Rosberg controlled things without taking much out of his detuned engine, Hamilton moved ever closer to the Red Bull in second place. But Verstappen had better traction out of the chicane and stayed ahead.

    At the end of the penultimate lap, 52, Hamilton had a look down the inside going into the chicane, but had to pull left dramatically as Verstappen jinked right to slam the door. Indeed, Hamilton had to duck down the escape road to avoid contact, enabling the Dutchman to claim second, 4.9s behind Rosberg, and 0.7s ahead of him.

    Rosberg now has 313 points to his team mate’s 280, meaning he needs only three seconds and a third to clinch his first title over the remaining four races – even if Hamilton wins all of them.

    Vettel and Ferrari gambled on fitting a set of soft Pirelli tyres for his final stint as all the other leaders went for another set of hards, and the yellow tyres soon faded, leaving the German 14.4s seconds behind the second Mercedes but well ahead of Raikkonen’s sister car. Ricciardo drove a very subdued race to sixth, as Perez led Hulkenberg home on another strong day for Force India.

    The final points went to the battling Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who were separated by 0.5s at the flag and were only 0.9s ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Haas.

    Palmer took 12th, from Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Renault team mate Kevin Magnussen and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, as McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz battled throughout to finish 0.8s apart.

    Jenson Button, who started from the back after changing Honda engine components on his McLaren, took 18th ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez – who spun in the chicane while fighting Sainz early on – and Esteban Ocon who comfortably beat Manor team mate Pascal Wehrlein.

  2. Mercedes driver and title challenger Lewis Hamilton takes responsibility for bad start in the Japanese Grand Prix. has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton has taken full responsibility for his poor start in the Japanese Grand Prix, saying it had nothing to do with the track being damp.

    The reigning Formula 1 world champion showed concern ahead of the race as the inside of the track was damp, and from second on the grid he fell to eighth thanks to a poor getaway.

    “The damp patch didn’t really have anything to do with it, I made a mistake,” said Hamilton, who recovered to third place but lost further ground to winner Nico Rosberg in the title race.

    “Then I was just working my way up from there – it was tricky but I did the best I could.

    “The car felt great throughout the race, I had a good run and fought hard but in the end just didn’t make it [back to second].”

    Hamilton was unable to elaborate on his poor start, adding: “I just got wheelspin.”

    The Mercedes driver’s charge was halted when he caught Max Verstappen for second in the closing stages.

    Verstappen was able to focus on getting a good exit from the final chicane to protect himself into Turn 1 where Hamilton had DRS, and with two laps to go he defended the inside line out of 130R, resulting in Hamilton locking up and heading down the escape road at the chicane.

    Asked if he was happy with Verstappen’s defence, after saying on the radio the Red Bull driver moved in the braking zone, Hamilton said: “It doesn’t matter now, it’s done and we move forwards.”

    Verstappen added: “You see him coming in the mirrors. The laps before he was closing.

    “I saw he had a good exit, defended into the last chicane, so yeah, all good.

    “Lewis is fighting for the world championship, so you’re not going to do crazy things.”

    Rosberg said he is not focused on the points gap to Hamilton with four races to go, while Hamilton described the 33-point difference at the top as “a healthy margin”.

  3. Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff believes Lewis Hamilton will take the Formula 1 world championship fight down to the wire because he “needs the enemy” to perform at his best.

    Nico Rosberg struck a potentially decisive blow in the title race by winning the Japanese Grand Prix to extend the points gap to 33, meaning he can afford to finish second to Hamilton in all four of the remaining races and still be crowned champion.

    But Wolff believes Hamilton, who has endured a tumultuous week on and off track with his retirement from the lead in Malaysia, poor start in Japan and falling out with certain parts of the media this weekend, is at his best when he is on the back foot.

    “It’s not over, there’s four weekends to go,” said Wolff. “Lewis is going to regroup.

    “We have seen that – remember when Nico won seven races in a row [over 2015-16] and then Lewis had that winning streak [six races from seven mid-season]

    “He is very strong, he needs the enemy sometimes. That’s how he functions.

    “Lewis functions best when he is under pressure and he has a target.

    “I have no doubt this will be an intense fight. It’s going to go down to the end.”

    Wolff believes there is no need to rush into talking to Hamilton off the back of two disappointing weekends, instead giving the reigning world champion time to take stock away from the paddock.

    “Just after such a race is not the right moment to put the finger where it hurts,” said Wolff.

    “We need to calm down and find out what happened, regroup.

    “My learning from the last couple of years is that 24 hours later things look completely different than they appear an hour after the race.

    “So our main emphasis will be building Lewis up. He is going to come back strong.

    “We have 10 days before Austin [the US GP], it’s not a rush like last week.

    “Lewis in Malaysia was really on a roll, dominating the weekend and we let him down with the engine failure.

    “During the week he was OK and then all these things around the press conferences, whether it affects him or not, I don’t think so.

    “It’s just not his priority – I wouldn’t put it down to that that his start didn’t go well.

    “His racing was great afterwards, how he recovered was really exceptional.”


  4. Sebastian Vettel defended Ferrari’s strategy decisions in Japan on Sunday, saying that the team had made the right calls – and that he had also been involved in making them during the race.

    Vettel had been running third heading into the Grand Prix’s closing stages, but lost out on the final podium spot at Suzuka after Mercedes utilised the undercut to get Lewis Hamilton ahead. Though Vettel was on softer tyres, the world champion was able to resist his pressure and gradually pull clear.

    “It’s easy to analyse now and say what we could have done and when, but in the moment I think it was the right decision,” said Vettel to suggestions that Ferrari had erred in leaving him out.

    The German’s strategy contrasted with that of team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who pitted eight laps earlier, stayed on the hard tyres, and in doing so managed to undercut Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to seal fifth.

    “I was pushing for it as well as the team,” added Vettel of his own strategy call. “It’s very easy to now be an expert and criticise, but in the moment we had to try – that was our chance to get P2.

    “It didn’t work; that’s a pity because the speed was there. Equally if we put the cars on the second row and stayed there, we would have a better race as well. But ‘could, would, should’ doesn’t matter.”

    Vettel had lamented the impact of traffic during his race, complaining several times over team radio about his perceived lack of blue flags, but also refused to blame that for not being able to keep Hamilton behind.

    “I don’t think backmarkers made the difference,” he said. “For sure I was unlucky with the timing – I think I lost four seconds in the fight with Lewis [through traffic]. But looking at the final gap, it didn’t really matter.

    “That’s how it goes sometimes. What’s important is that there were plenty of positives…”

    Vettel’s fourth place finish represented the first time in eight years that he has not made the podium at Suzuka. It also means he falls to sixth in the drivers’ championship, tied on points with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.


  5. Daniel Ricciardo said Kimi Raikkonen’s gearbox change penalty worked against him as it meant he had to start from the damp side of the track.

    The Red Bull driver reckoned that spoiled his start in the Japanese Grand Prix.

    “I think Raikkonen’s gearbox penalty this morning was sort of the opposite of a blessing in disguise,” he said. “It put me on the wet side of the grid and it looked like all of us on that inside line struggled the most, especially [Lewis] Hamilton.”

    Hamilton said the damp patches on their side of the track didn’t affect his start, which was worse than Ricciardo’s, meaning the Red Bull driver had to dodge around him.

    “I don’t think my initial launch was that bad, but then having to go around him I sort of crossed the wet patch and lost out to [Sergio] Perez,” said Ricciardo.

    Ricciardo said he also had difficulty following other cars closely.

    “We struggled to stay close, just seemed like we couldn’t really follow the cars that well with the dirty air and we didn’t really have the straight line speed to make an attack. We saw [Sebastian] Vettel make quick work of me and the first lap he caught Perez, he got him.”

    “We just struggled in traffic today and that was pretty much that. We fell behind the eight ball from that first stint.”

    “I didn’t feel there was anything else we could do, it was just sort of circumstances how the race panned out. The last stint we finally got some clean air and it looked like we could put in some quick times at the beginning. But in the end we’d conceded [fifth] and that was it.”


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