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Winners and Losers - Japan

28 Sep 2015

Within the first few corners of Sunday’s 2015 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, there were several clear losers: Rosberg down from first to fourth; Massa and Ricciardo limping back to the pits with punctures; and Perez getting knocked off and dropping to the rear of the field. Race victor Hamilton aside, the obvious winners were: Hulkenberg, an impeccable drive taking him from 13th to sixth; Lotus, who got both cars in the points just when they needed it most; and Verstappen, whose battling afternoon lifted him from 17th to ninth. We take a team-by-team look back at Sunday’s action in Suzuka…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, P1
Nico Rosberg, P2

Mercedes were right on form again in Suzuka. Hamilton dominated the race after toughing it out with Rosberg through the first two corners, and said that in the final stint his car flowed through the turns like it was sailing. His eighth victory of the year was his 41st overall, bringing him level with his idol Ayrton Senna.

Rosberg blew pole with a poor start and dropped to fourth initially after backing off on the exit to Turn Two. He then had to manage engine temperatures for a while but overtook Bottas on the 17th lap and undercut Vettel on the second pit stop to take a decent second, 18.9s behind his team mate.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, P3
Kimi Raikkonen, P4

Ferrari didn’t have the speed they demonstrated in Singapore and were well beaten by Hamilton. Vettel was a fighting third close to Rosberg, however, but Raikkonen again a distant fourth. It was the seventh time in 14 races that the same three drivers finished on the podium.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, P5
Felipe Massa, P17

Williams looked good when Bottas ran fourth early on, but Massa lost his chance to shine when he was hit by Ricciardo on the run down to Turn 1 at the start and suffered a punctured right-front tyre. That dropped him to the back as he limped home, and it was a long time before he caught and passed even the Marussias. Bottas succumbed to Rosberg on the 17th lap, but retained fifth thereafter without being challenged by anyone.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, P6
Sergio Perez, P12

Hulkenberg drove a fast, intelligent and lonely race from 13th on the grid to sixth, to bring home another eight points, but Perez got knocked off in Turn 1 at the start by Sainz and had to play catch-up thereafter. He won the battle for 12th, but might reasonably have expected to score points too without that first-lap adventure.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, P7
Pastor Maldonado, P8

Grosjean and Maldonado had no answer once Hulkenberg had taken his Force India past them, but seventh and eighth earned the team another welcome 10 points just as they seem to be on the verge of moving towards works Renault status.

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen, P9
Carlos Sainz, P10

Verstappen drove like a demon from 17th on the grid to ninth, despite losing a lot of time trapped behind Alonso and Kvyat early on. Sainz was well up for a long while until he clobbered a marker cone coming in for his second stop and lost time having the nose replaced as a result.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso, P11
Jenson Button, P16

McLaren’s race was unfortunately not one to make engine partners Honda proud on their home soil. The Toro Rosso drivers said the Japanese power unit wasn’t half bad on the straights, but Alonso likened it to a GP2 car’s and Button said they were trying to fight like samurais without armour or swords and was worried about the closing speed of passing rivals. Alonso hung on to a fighting 11th, but Button was a distant 16th.

Red Bull

Daniil Kvyat, P13
Daniel Ricciardo, P15

Red Bull had a horrible race, Ricciardo clobbered Massa as the field hammered towards Turn 1, sustaining a left-rear puncture and floor damage that ruined his race. Kvyat, meanwhile, started his rebuilt car from the pits but ran into problems with the tyres, the brakes and the overtake button, and struggled home 13th.

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson, P14
Felipe Nasr, Retired lap 50

Ericsson spoiled his chances early on with a half spin at Spoon Curve, but was in the thick of the fight for 12th in the closing stages before Perez and Kvyat exploited his worn tyres to move ahead. Nasr was there or thereabouts, but retired with four laps to run for reasons undisclosed.

Marussia

Alexander Rossi, P18
Will Stevens, P19

Stevens led Rossi for most of the race, but having incurred a penalty for speeding during his second pit stop the Englishman half spun in 130R on the 44th lap. Rossi just missed the red, white and blue car in the cloud of smoke ahead of him, and Stevens just missed him as he straightened things out. Rossi moved ahead as Stevens pitted for fresh rubber and to serve his penalty.