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Onboard in Japan - was Hamilton's move on Rosberg unreasonable?

30 Sep 2015

More often than not, the start is the most important part of any race - and so it proved in Suzuka, where the fortunes of many were cast in the 545 metres between the start line and the first corner. Lewis Hamilton was one of those who benefited, surging past Nico Rosberg to take a lead he would never relinquish. But was he right to be so forceful on his team mate? And was there blame to be attributed in the numerous incidents behind? We ride onboard to get an exclusive driver's-eye view of the key action...
Hamilton hangs Rosberg out to dry

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Unsurprisingly, Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had vastly differing views of their race-defining battle through the first couple of corners in Japan. The pole-sitting German, who ended up running over the grass on the exit of Turn 2 and dropping back to fourth, said after the race that he had to back off “to avoid a collision”, whereas the Briton stressed that he’d simply made the best use of the inside line. “I was basically understeering, I was running out of grip,” said Hamilton, who we ride onboard with in the video above. “I imagine Nico was running out of road, but that’s what happens when you’re on the outside…” Uncompromising but ultimately fair, this bold move set Hamilton on course to his eighth victory of the season. Had he been less decisive, who knows how the race might have panned out.

Ricciardo derailed by the slightest of touches

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Of all the drivers to suffer at the start in Japan, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was arguably the unluckiest. The Australian made a lightning getaway from seventh on the grid, and had already moved the bulk of his RB11 past Felipe Massa’s Williams when the left-side of his car made the merest of glancing blows with the FW37. Almost instantaneously Ricciardo’s left-rear tyre deflated (as did Massa’s right-front) and, as the video above shows, it was all he could do to keep his car pointing in the right direction as he negotiated the first couple of turns on three wheels. The Australian would face five more kilometres of painful limping before finally making it back to the sanctuary of the pit lane for fresh rubber, by which time his - and Massa’s - race chances had been severely compromised.  

Three into one won’t go

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Suzuka isn’t the widest of tracks, so the prospect of three drivers barrelling around the first corner side-by-side and all escaping unscathed was always likely to be extremely low. On this occasion the unlucky party was Sergio Perez, who, having found himself on the outside of a three-wide battle with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Force India team mate Nico Hulkenberg, was soon heading for a trip through the gravel trap. As the above video shows, Perez’s problems began when he had to swerve inside Massa’s sparking Williams as the Brazilian slowed with a puncture approaching the turn-in point. This diverted the Mexican into the same piece of road as Sainz and made contact between the two drivers all the more likely. Riding onboard with Alonso, who has a perfect view of the incident, you can see just how late Perez jinks to the right - a move that seems to surprise Sainz who locks up his left-front tyre in response, just before contact was made. However, Alonso’s viewpoint also highlights Hulkenberg’s unwitting role in what was ultimately just an unfortunate racing incident…

Hulkenberg stands his ground

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As shown in Alonso’s onboard and the video above, Hulkenberg approached the first corner on the tightest of inside lines, having worked his way across from the other side of the track via an excellent slingshot off the line. The German turned into the right hander side-by-side with Sainz, but in forcefully standing his ground over the kerbs, he then banged wheels with the Spaniard - ironically helping to divert the Toro Rosso into the path of team mate Perez. As the Mexican made a bee-line for the gravel trap, Hulkenberg accelerated out of the first turn in ninth - four places higher up than he started. Mixed fortunes for Force India indeed…