Lewis Hamilton has won the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, mastering the wet conditions following a delayed start. Nico Rosberg finished second and Vettel third following an early stop of the race due to a crash involving Jules Bianchi.
As was predicted, rain was always going to interrupt the race, and predictions proved right. Rain made it difficult for some to get round to their starting positions, with Button saying there was no doubt the race should be started from behind the safety car. Kevin Magnussen said it's "very wet, but we should be ok".
10 to 15 minutes before the start though, rain started pouring down heavily, creating visible rivers all over the circuit. The pitlane especially had centimers deep water in it, soaking mechanic's feet as they crossed.
The start then did get underway as planned, but as predicted at happened behind the safety car. Once going, Hamilton first asked the SC to speed up to get temperatures into the car and better simulate visibility when racing. Once that happened, the same Hamilton reported he could no longer see Nico Rosberg ahead of him due to the spray.
It appeared like this was enough of a signal for Charlie Whiting to red flag the race at the end of lap 2. The safety car led the cars back into the pitlane where they all halted for 20 minutes, before getting underway again behind the safety car 25 minutes past the original start.
The only difference between the first and second start is the position of Marcus Ericsson. He managed to spin in turn 1 of lap 2. He got going again following a little push by the marshalls and managed to jointhe race at the back of the pack.
After the restart, Alonso became the first victim only at turn 5 where his Ferrari simply stopped. It looked like all power was lost on his car, losing drive and forcing him to park alongside the circuit.
Moments later, Hamilton reported the track is "as good as it will get", before saying one lap later that "we're good to go". Another lap later, Vergne goes on record saying "it's perfectly fine to race", and on lap 7, Hamiton targets Charlie Whiting directly, saying "it's been 3 laps, we need to get racing again".
At the end of lap 9, the SC finally leaves the track, according to most drivers quite a few laps too late.
Immediately, Button and Maldonado pit for intermediates, a considerable gamble judging from the spray that is coming off the cars.
Halfway in lap 10, Vettel is the first to attempt a pass but fails to make it stick through the hairpin. 2 corners later, he runs slightly wide through spoon but managed to keep his position.
At the end of lap 12, lots of drivers decide to pit following reports the Button is recording reasonable times on his inters. After that first group of cars stopped (crucially not including the Mercedes), Button jumped ahead all of them.
Massa and Vettel pitted one lap later, and similarly ended up rejoining the track behind Button, but ahead of Ricciardo thanks to a quick lap on the wets. Button of course is enjoying the advantage of pitting immediately behind the safety car when the cars were all running very close to each other.
At the end of lap 13, Rosberg pits for inters. Hamilton does one lap later, leaving positions at the front unchanged.
On lap 15, the running oder is ROS HAM BUT BOT MAS VET RIC MAG RAI HUL KVY PER SUT GRO GUT VER MAL BIA KOB CHI ERI.
On lap 16, Vettel finally gets past Massa who was struggling badly. Ricciardo looked to follow suit out of spoon curve, but the power of the Mercedes powered Williams easily got the advantage on the straight. Half a lap later, Ricciardo did make the move stick by passing through the outside in one of the sweeping corners of sector 1.
In lap 18, Vettel moves up into 4th by passing Bottas through the outside of the hairpin. Half a lap later Ricciardo also gains a position, passing Bottas in identical fashion as he did with Massa 2 laps earlier on.
After a second series of stops for a number of lower postiions drivers, DRS gets enabled in lap 24 at a time when Hamilton is just 0.7s behind the race leader.
On lap 27 Hamilton has a tense moment in turn 1, nearly losing control under braking while keeping DRS open as long as possible. Hamilton went wide, but half a lap later was back under the rear wing of Rosberg.
Two laps later Hamilton finally makes it through at turn 1, going round the outside of Rosberg in what is a very brave move. It was made possible by a slight twitch under accelleration out of the final corner by Rosberg. The latter though has been complaining of terrible oversteer since his switch to intermediates.
By the end of lap 31, Hamilton opened his advantage to Rosberg to 4.8 seconds whereas third placed Button is 12s behind Rosberg, gaining close to a second per lap on the second Mercedes.
At the same time, Button pits and takes on a new set of intermediates while also getting a new steering wheel, which would mean that Button was struggling with an issue. This moved Ricciardo into third and Vettel into fourth. The latter's new inters are allowing him to gain 2 seconds a lap on the leaders, triggering a stop for Rosberg at the end of lap 33.
Hamilton meanwhile decides not to pit on lap 34, opting to stay out for another lap, despite Rosberg suddenly lapping nearly 2 seconds faster.
Following Hamilton's stop, Ricciardo leads the race while still running on his first set of intermediates. He's got 2 seconds on Hamilton before pitting himself.
On lap 38 and 39, Massa and Bottas pit for new inters, right at the time when new rain as falling on the track. The worn out intermediates were clearly no longer suited for the track.
Meanwhile the battle for third was heating up as Vettel made a serious driving error and lost 6 seconds going through the gravel in one of the esses. This dropped Vettel to just 2 seconds ahead of Button, who himself is being under threat from Ricciardo.
As rain further intensified, DRS got disabled on lap 41 with one lap later McLaren's Magnussen and the Caterhams switching to full wet tyres. On lap 43, Button switches to full wets as well after getting passed by his lapped teammate. The move once again was interesting as Button had enough time in hand on Hulkenberg not to lose a position.
At the same time, Adrian Sutil crashed out of the race after losing control in the last of the twisty corners of sector 1.
On lap 44, the safety car is out, along with the medical car. Hulkenberg immediately went into the pits and got a new set of intermediates. Vettel similarly pitted one lap later, dropping from third to fourth.
On lap 47, the race is red flagged with all cars led into the pits by the safety car, one lap after Hulkenberg parked his car at the end of the pitlane. It was also the end of the race. Thanks to the lap countdown at the end, Vettel still got positioned third, ahead of Ricciardo, Button and the two Williams.
Meanwhile, the medical car was still present at Sutil's crash scene, even though Sutil was sitting aside of the track. It appeared that Bianchi later ended up crashing at the same scene, and he got transported to the medical centre for treatment. More news to follow...
|2||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||44||+9.1 secs||1||18|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||44||+29.1 secs||9||15|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||44||+38.8 secs||6||12|
|5||22||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||44||+67.5 secs||8||10|
|6||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||44||+ secs||3||8|
|7||19||Felipe Massa||Williams-Mercedes||44||+ secs||4||6|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||44||+ secs||13||4|
|9||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||Str-Renault||44||+ secs||20||2|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||43||+1 Lap||11||1|
|11||26||Daniil Kvyat||Str-Renault||43||+1 Lap||12|
|12||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||43||+1 Lap||10|
|13||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||43||+1 Lap||15|
|14||20||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren-Mercedes||43||+1 Lap||7|
|15||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||43||+1 Lap||16|
|16||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||43||+1 Lap||22|
|17||9||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham-Renault||43||+1 Lap||17|
|18||4||Max Chilton||Marussia-Ferrari||43||+1 Lap||21|
|19||10||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||43||+1 Lap||19|
|20||17||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Ferrari||41||+3 Lap||18|
|21||99||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||40||+4 Lap||14|
|Ret||14||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||2||+42 Laps||5|