Japanese Grand Prix – Race

After the chaos that was qualifying and the subsequent flurry of penalties, the FIA have published the revised starting grid: SV, JT, LH, NH, KR, RB, NR, AS, RK, JB, HK, JA, SB, GF, KN, FA, RG, VL, MW; TG is not racing following his accident if qualifying. [Read my notes on qualifying and the penalties for more info – I’m not going to rehash it here.]

Weather if good: air 26°C; track 40°C; wind 3.3m/s; humidity 43%; pressure 1009mBar.

My notes are after the cut as usual.

SV leads 18 cars around on the formation lap; remember MW will start from the pit lane and TG isn’t fit to race.
Looks like SV, JB, RB, NR, JT & KR are starting on the hard tyres; LH is on the soft compound
MW waits at the end of the pit lane as the grid forms up

01/53: LH ahead of JT before Turn 1
Poor start for JB – he’s behind RK
Through Degner for the first time – it was the site of 2 of the 3 accidents in qualifying

02: SV, LH, JT, NH, KR, RB, AS, NR
MW into the pits already

03: SV fastest lap 1:34.661
JB close to RK but it won’t be easy for him to take P10
MW pits again – looks like the padding around the cockpit is loose

04: SV f/lap 1:33.949
JB has passed RK – so much for me saying it won’t be easy!

05/53: SV f/lap 1:33.851
LH f/lap 1:33.721
SV, LH, JT, NH, KR, RB, NR, HK
Pit-car from RB – he wants to pass KR; team say just be careful
SB has taken P17 from RG

06: SV 1:33.286
MW pits for a 3rd time but this time it was a puncture

07: HK (P8) has AS just 0.4sec behind, with JB a further 0.7sec adrift

08: SV f/lap 1:33.236 – he now has a 2.9sec lead over LH

09: SV f/lap 1:33.063
Pit-car for SV tell him not to push any harder in order to maintain the fuel strategy – “keep doing what you’re doing”

10/53: SV, LH, JT, NH, KR, RB, NR, HK

11: BBC report Brawn say JB’s car is OK – he’s dropped back from AS in order to cool the engine
It’s clear though that JB has a problem with balance
Pit-car from JB – he can’t catch AS on the straight and has understeer in the corners

12: SB pts and is directed into the garage – retires from P17
AS still harrying HK for P8, but we know the Force India is carrying less fuel and therefore will pit first

14: AS up the inside of HK in the final chicane – HK closes the door too late and they collide – AS spins
BBC commentators immediately blame AS but I’m not so sure

15: SV, LH, JT, NH, KR, RB, NR, JB – HK now P9; AS down to P12

16: LH pits from P2 – 8.9s stop – hard tyres – rejoins behind NR
AS pits – long fuel – 10.2s

17: JT pits from P2 – 8.7s – stays on hard tyres – rejoins behind LH

18: JB pits from P8 – 8.4s – stays on hard tyres – rejoins in clear air behind FA

19: SV pits from P1 – 12.4s stop – had to hold him as NH was passing the Red Bull box
NH, KR & RB all pit

20/53: SV, NR*, LH, JT, NH, HK*, RK*, KR (*=yet to pit)

22: Pit-car from JA – complaining RB is slowing him down; we don’t hear the reply from the team but it ought to be along the lines of “then pass him!”

23: NR pits from P2 – that’s 5 laps earlier than expected – rejoins right behind RB
JA pits too

24: HK & RK post personal fastest laps – both pitting soon

25/53: HK pits from P6
Pit-car for LH tells him he needs to open another 0.5sec/lap on JT before the 2nd pit stops

26: VL pits

Half distance

27: RK pits from P5 – 6.7s – hard tyres again – rejoins behind JB

29: RG runs wide in Spoon Curve, letting AS take P13

30/53: SV, LH, JT, NH, KR, RB, NR, FA*, JB
RG pits – that should be his only stop

31: SV f/lap 1:33.052
FA pits, so JB is back up to P8

32: VL passes KN in Turn 1 to take P15
Replay – did VL lose a front wing endplate as KN defended?

34: KR f/lap 1:32.999

35/53: SV, LH, JT, NH, KR, RB, NR, JB
MW pits – looks like a scheduled stop

36: KR pits from P5 – 9.2s – rejoins between JB & RK

37: NH pits from P4 – 9.6s – slight delay – why? – rejoins between KR and RK

38: LH pits from P2 – 6.6s – good stop behind he didn’t get the pit lane limiter off very quickly as he crossed the pit lane exit
Hopefully there wasn’t a limiter problem for LH (i.e. speeding in the pit lane)

39: RK takes a look up the inside of his teammate but NH holds on to P8

40/53: JT pits from P2 – he’s cleanly ahead of LH
HK, GF & AS all pit together
GF exits the pit lane just inches ahead of HK but HK powers down the inside into Turn 1 – contact? – HK takes the place

41: SV pits from P1 – front right well slow to come off –
JB pits from P6 – 6.8s

42: RK pits
BBC report that McLaren say LH’s problem was gearbox related, not speed limiter

43: RB pits from P4 – 6.1s stop – rejoins still ahead of JB

44: SV f/lap 1:32.572 – his lead over JT now 11.7secs with LH 3.5s further back

45/53: SV, JT, LH, NR, KR, NH, RB, JB; only retirement is SB
JA has had a big off in the Toro Rosso – chassis is just to the side of the track – front wheels off
Safety Car deployed

46[SC]: Replay shows JA lost it on the outside of 130R and had a big impact
JA gets out the car and walks away
Marshals quick to start clearing the car and debris

47[SC]: Pit-car for LH report another KERS issue – team are working on it

48[SC]: MW pits – that’s stop #5 – new nose cone this time!
JA is on a stretcher and being put into an ambulance – hopefully that’s just a precaution
JA’s car has been cleared away but the marshals are still fighting to rebuild the tyre wall

49[SC]: BBC say LH’s KERS problem is more serious than the problem he had last time
Lights are off (on the SC’s roof) so it’s in at the end of this lap, so just 4 racing laps left
SV slows the pack up to give himself some control over the restart
SC enters the pit lane

50/53: SV, JT, LH, KR, NR, NH, RB, JB; retirements: JA, SB
RK very close to JB’s tail under braking
SV has opened up a handy gap already
Blue flags waving all over the circuit as the front runners try to pass the slower cars that are mixed up in the pack

51: SV has already opened up a 2.2s lead over JT

52: FA fakes a move on RK in to Turn 1
MW set the fastest Sector 1 time but he’s 2 laps down

53 = final lap: MW f/lap 1:32.569
SV looks safe for the victory
RK continues to get very close to the exhaust of JB’s Brawn

SV takes the chequered flag
JT, LH and KR safely home
NR holds on to P5 with NH close behind
RB stays ahead of his teammate – JB beats RK over the line by 0.3sec

Provisional result: SV, JT, LH, KR, NR, NH, RB, JB; RK, FA, HK, GF, AS, VL, KN, RG, MW; DNF: JA, SB (DNS: TG).

This means Brawn haven’t yet sewn up the Constructors’ crown (it’s statistically possible for Red Bull to catch them, but Brawn need just 1 point), and the fight between teammates Button and Barrichello, and (statistically) Vettel continues.

The next race is in Brazil in 2 weeks (Oct 30 – Nov 01).