Hamilton overtakes three cars in little over a lap
If there’s been one upside to Lewis Hamilton’s bad starts (and bad luck) this season, it’s that his fans have had the chance to watch him scythe back up the order on numerous occasions. In such situations, the world champion has proved aggressive and decisive – just ask Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, all of who were powerless to defend against the Briton’s freshly-shod Silver Arrows over a scintillating lap and half of the Japanese circuit.
Raikkonen takes two in one
The laps after a pit stop can be the most important in a driver’s race – get stuck behind slower traffic on fresh rubber and you not only lose time, you also run the risk of taking too much out of your tyres and compromising your entire stint. With Lewis Hamilton stopping later in his Mercedes, Kimi Raikkonen knew he had to be rapid in his post-pit-stop laps to avoid being jumped by the world champion, but despite a stellar effort – which included this no-nonsense double pass of Sergio Perez’s fast-starting Force India (on fresh tyres) and Jolyon Palmer’s hidden from view Renault (on older rubber) – the Finn couldn’t do enough to prevent Hamilton emerging from the pits in front.
Verstappen and Hamilton go head to head
For a brief moment after Sunday’s race at Suzuka, it looked like Max Verstappen might have to answer questions over his defence of second place from Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap, but as it was Mercedes withdrew their protest and the under-fire Dutchman was spared further criticism of his driving. “Lewis was obviously a bit quicker in the final stages and I knew he was going to catch me, the gap time on the pit board was dropping every lap,” said the Red Bull teenager. “Into the last chicane I saw him coming in my mirrors so I defended my position…” Was Verstappen’s move fair? Having tweeted his support of Mercedes’ decision to withdraw their protest, you get the sense Hamilton thought it was, despite his earlier heat-of-the-moment proclamation over team radio that “Max moved under braking…"
Ricciardo makes a meal of Palmer pass
Daniel Ricciardo dropped from fifth to 14th after a relatively early pit stop at Suzuka, but despite coming out in heavy traffic the Australian was still able to undercut Sergio Perez’s Force India and stay ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the opening pit sequence. However, he nearly came unstuck as he tried to pass Jolyon Palmer’s yet-to-stop Renault at Spoon, running too deep and immediately relinquishing the position back to the Brit. Luckily for the Red Bull man it’s now asphalt and not gravel that lines the famous left hander…
Another start to forget for Hamilton
Bad starts have become a recurring theme for Lewis Hamilton in 2016, and you got the sense he was nervy about making another one at Suzuka on Sunday when he was seen apprehensively checking the tarmac around his grid slot before clambering into his car. Yes, overnight rain had left the track a little slicker on the right-hand side of the grid than the left, but that, according to the man himself, wasn’t the primary cause of the world champion’s lacklustre getaway. “I just got wheelspin,” was Hamilton’s straightforward explanation, and in the video above you can here that loud and clear. Luckily for Hamilton the run down to Turn 1 at Suzuka is a little over 400m, which gave only enough time for six cars to overhaul him. A start that poor at a track like Barcelona or Monza would probably have dropped him even lower down the order.
Vettel vents at slower Sainz
Sebastian Vettel’s frequent outbursts at backmarkers and their unwillingness to jump out of his way at the first sight of blue flags lit up the team radio airwaves over the latter half of the race, though in truth the Ferrari driver’s angst was probably just as much a reflection of how his podium chances had unravelled. Running third for much of the race, Vettel was late making his final stop and was jumped by Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. On soft tyres the four-time world champion did all he could to get back past the Silver Arrow, but he was fighting a losing battle and soon dropped back, making encounters with slower drivers such as the one above - with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz - an irritating distraction rather than a significant impediment.
Raikkonen runs wide at Degner
Having started eighth, Kimi Raikkonen climbed to sixth at the start and was soon pressuring Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull for P5 – that was until the Finn got slightly loose through the tricky Degner Curves on lap 8 and barely kept his Ferrari on track. The mistake thrust Raikkonen back into the clutches of Lewis Hamilton, though the Mercedes man would have to wait until the pit sequence to get by.
Grosjean (nearly) feels the force
Having got both of their cars into Q3 for the first time ever on Saturday, Haas were then ensured of their highest grid start yet when Kimi Raikkonen’s engine penalty lifted Romain Grosjean to P7. As it happened, that put the Frenchman right in the thick of the action as, after inhaling brake smoke from Sergio Perez’s Force India, Grosjean was nearly sideswiped by the other VJM09 of the fast-starting Nico Hulkenberg in the bottleneck caused by Lewis Hamilton’s tardy getaway. A quick lock-up later and the Haas driver slotted into ninth behind the Silver Arrow – one place lower than he qualified.