Our starting position today was not ideal. I did a decent start on the soft tires and in the first lap I tried to gain some positions, but when I attempted to pass a Renault I ran wide and lost some places; so I had to make them back. The feeling in the car was a little bit tricky all the way through the race, not the nicest balance; some laps were ok, some others a bit more difficult. It’s quite tricky to follow other cars on this track; we did a fairly good job out of overtaking people but we were too far from those at the front. Obviously, the final result is far from being the best possible. As for Sebastian, I don’t know what happened; we have made a lot of improvements over the last few years as a team, but now, for whatever reason, we suddenly seem to have technical issues coming out from nothing. It’s kind of weird, our cars are running perfectly and suddenly on Sunday there is an problem that nobody expects. There is some work to be done on that side. Then we are going to push until the last lap of the last race and we’ll see where we end up.
Hamilton wins the Japanese GP to close on F1 title, Vettel retires
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton closed in on the Formula 1 title with victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, beating Max Verstappen as Sebastian Vettel’s championship hopes took a blow with retirement.
Hamilton converted pole into an early lead while second-placed Vettel began to drop back immediately, minutes after his Ferrari team had taken the engine cover off the car on the grid to check a spark plug problem.
Vettel’s susbequent lack of pace after meant Verstappen, who passed Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo off the line, picked off Vettel at the hairpin on the opening lap, before the Ferrari dropped another three places at the start of the second tour.
After a brief safety car period, caused by Carlos Sainz crashing his Toro Rosso at Turn 6, Vettel slumped to eighth before getting the call on the radio to pit and retire the car on lap 4.
Hamilton then extended his lead to just over four seconds before Verstappen pitted to change his supersofts for soft tyres on lap 21, with Hamilton covering off the undercut on the following tour.
Bottas began to hold up Mercedes teammate Hamilton after Ricciardo made his stop, allowing Verstappen to close within a second of his rival, but the gap grew again when Bottas allowed Hamilton through at the Casio Triangle at the midway point and started to hold up Verstappen.
It wasn’t until lap 30 that Bottas pitted for supersofts by which time Verstappen had fallen 3.4s adrift.
The Dutchman then managed to cut Hamilton’s advantage to a little over two seconds, but couldn’t keep up the pace until Hamilton found himself impeded by Fernando Alonso on lap 51.
That allowed Verstappen to close to within a second at the start of the final lap, but more traffic allowed Hamilton to escape once more and seal the win by a slight margin.
Ricciardo completed the podium in third after a succession of fastest laps late on but couldn’t make further inroads after switching to supersoft tyres on lap 25.
The sole surviving Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth, recovering after dropping to 15th on the opening lap when he was forced wide at Spoon by Nico Hulkenberg.
The Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished sixth and seventh. Ocon had run as high as third early on after passing Ricciardo on the opening lap, but was soon demoted to fifth on successive laps by Ricciardo and Bottas.
An aggressive late move at Turn 1 on the Williams of Felipe Massa gave Kevin Magnussen eighth place, with Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean following through to grab ninth.
Fernando Alonso finished 11th in the final home race for Honda as engine partner to McLaren, ahead of Jolyon Palmer’s Renault and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
Stoffel Vandoorne came home 14th in the second McLaren after dropping to the rear on the first lap.
Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein was the only other finisher in 15th, his team-mate Marcus Ericsson crashing out early on at Degner 2.
Lance Stroll retired when an apparent failure on the front-right of his Williams sent him skating across the gravel late on, while Nico Hulkenberg’s DRS refusing to close forced him out.
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||Mercedes||1h27m31.194s|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||Red Bull/Renault||1.211s|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||Red Bull/Renault||9.679s|
|4||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||Mercedes||10.580s|
|5||Kimi Raikkonen||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||32.622s|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India F1 Team||Force India/Mercedes||1m07.788s|
|7||Sergio Perez||Sahara Force India F1 Team||Force India/Mercedes||1m11.424s|
|8||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team||Haas/Ferrari||1m28.953s|
|9||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||Haas/Ferrari||1m29.883s|
|10||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing||Williams/Mercedes||1 Lap|
|11||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||McLaren/Honda||1 Lap|
|12||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team||Renault||1 Lap|
|13||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso||Toro Rosso/Renault||1 Lap|
|14||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Honda||McLaren/Honda||1 Lap|
|15||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team||Sauber/Ferrari||2 Laps|
|–||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing||Williams/Mercedes||Suspension|
|–||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team||Renault||DRS|
|–||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team||Sauber/Ferrari||Spun off|
|–||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||Spark plug|
|–||Carlos Sainz||Scuderia Toro Rosso||Toro Rosso/Renault||Spun off|
Japanese GP: Raikkonen qualifying woe part of crash’s ‘hefty price’
Kimi Raikkonen says he paid a "hefty price" for his mistake in final Japanese Grand Prix final practice, which hampered his Formula 1 qualifying preparations and forced a gearbox penalty.
The Ferrari driver damaged the left side of the car when he crashed at the second Degner right-hander halfway through Saturday morning’s final practice session at Suzuka.
Ferrari inspected the unit and decided a change was needed ahead of qualifying, which instigated a five-place grid penalty.
It repaired the car ready in time to get him out for qualifying, but Raikkonen went wide at the same corner on his first Q3 run and ended up sixth after his second.
"I just went off," said Raikkonen.
"It was a mistake, and I paid quite a hefty price for it with the penalty and far from ideal preparation for qualifying, but that’s how it goes.
"The first lap [in Q1] was far from ideal. On the second lap, I wasn’t sure how much there will be grip because it wasn’t a great feeling on the first run.
"The biggest issue was very limited running because of the issue this morning.
"At a place like this where you have to get it right to be able to go fast in the first sector, you pay a big price."
Raikkonen is expected to line up 10th after his penalty and will begin the race on the soft tyre, rather than the super-soft like most of those ahead of him.
He is hopeful of a stronger race on Sunday, given his feeling in the car before his accident on Saturday morning.
"It’s a bit tricky because of this morning, it’s not the greatest feeling in the end of qualifying," he said.
"Before we had the mistake, it’s been good. I think the race should be OK.
"I think we have a good car, we will do our best and see where we end up.
"It’s not going to be easy, but I’m sure we should have a pretty decent race."
Raikkonen gets Japanese GP grid penalty after gearbox change
Kimi Raikkonen will take a five-place Formula 1 grid penalty into Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix after Ferrari changed his car’s gearbox after damage sustained in practice.
Raikkonen crashed at Degner 2 during final practice at Suzuka, bringing out the red-flag just over halfway through the one-hour session.
The rear of his Ferrari got away from him mid-corner and Raikkonen couldn’t gather it up before he hit the barriers, damaging the left side of his car.
Once the car was returned to the garage, Ferrari inspected the unit and decided to change it ahead of qualifying later.
Rules dictate gearboxes must last six consecutive events, with a driver incurring a five-place grid drop for an early change.
The only exceptions to these rules are for non-starters and non-finishers (for technical reasons) of the previous race, neither of which apply in Raikkonen’s case.
Japanese GP: Dominant Lewis Hamilton takes first Suzuka pole
Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix with a dominant qualifying performance, leading a Mercedes one-two, while title rival Sebastian Vettel was third-fastest.
Hamilton was quickest in all phases of the session, as he claimed his first pole at Suzuka and smashed Michael Schumacher’s qualifying lap record from 2006.
The championship leader was more than four tenths clear of Vettel after the first runs in Q3 and lowered his own benchmark by a couple of hundredths to confirm pole.
Vettel’s Ferrari was provisionally on the front row after the first runs, but a small improvement at the end was not enough to stay second.
Valtteri Bottas, who almost crashed at the second Degner in Q1 after shunting in FP3, found a chunk of time on his own final run to make it onto the front row.
However, a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change on Bottas’s Mercedes will promote Vettel back onto the front row for Sunday’s race.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest in the best of the Red Bulls, just 0.026 seconds clear of team-mate Max Verstappen.
Kimi Raikkonen went off at the second Degner on his first run in Q3, scene of his crash in final practice, and his second effort was only good enough for sixth in the second Ferrari.
Raikkonen will also drop five places on the grid after requiring a new gearbox following that crash.
Esteban Ocon narrowly beat Sergio Perez again, while Felipe Massa’s Williams and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda rounded out the top 10 in Q3.
Perez is under investigation for impeding Massa’s Williams team-mate Lance Stroll in Q1, while Alonso will drop to the back of the grid thanks to a 35-place grid penalty for an illegal engine change, following a hydraulic leak discovered after Friday practice.
Alonso’s McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne missed out on beating Alonso into Q3 by just 0.029s after failing to improve on his second run, but he should start the race inside the top 10 thanks to Alonso’s grid penalty.
Nico Hulkenberg was 12th fastest in the best of the Renaults in Q2, a tenth further back, while Kevin Magnussen scored the best qualifying result for Haas since August’s Belgian GP by posting the 13th fastest time here, within a tenth of Hulkenberg.
The second Renault of Jolyon Palmer was 14th, less than three tenths from making the top 10, while Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso was cut adrift of the group in 15th, almost four tenths slower than Palmer.
Palmer and Sainz both face 20-place grid penalties for requiring illegal engine component changes this weekend.
A heavy crash for Romain Grosjean at the top of the Esses in the closing stages of Q1 brought that segment to an early end, which prevented any of the lower runners from bettering their benchmark times.
Grosjean, who complained "something wrong on the car, massive oversteer" as he ran off the road at Turns 5 and 6 before crashing into the wall before Turn 7, was already in the drop zone when he crashed, having earlier lapped less than a tenth slower than Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
So, Grosjean ended up 16th quickest, ahead of Toro Rosso rookie Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll, who complained about being blocked multiple times in the early part of Q1.
Marcus Ericsson was quickest of the Sauber drivers in 19th, almost three tenths clear of team-mate Pascal Wehrlein and within two tenths of Stroll.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m28.306s||0.987s|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m28.332s||1.013s|
|5||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m29.111s||1.792s|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m29.260s||1.941s|
|14||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m31.317s||3.998s|
|19||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m30.413s||3.094s|
Japanese Grand Prix: Bottas fastest in FP3 before crashing out
Valtteri Bottas edged out Mercedes Formula 1 team-mate Lewis Hamilton to set the pace in final practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, but crashed to end his session early.
The Finn clocked a 1m29.055s on the soft tyres to finish 0.014s clear of Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel three tenths off the pace in third place using the super-soft Pirellis.
It was frustrating session for both Mercedes and Ferrari, with Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen crashing and Vettel the only one of the quartet to get a representative lap on the super-softs.
The rain stayed away during the session, allowing the field to head out on the slicks from the off and set about making up for running lost in yesterday’s rain-hit second practice session.
Bottas set the early pace on the soft tyre, a fraction ahead of Mercedes Hamilton, who was running the same rubber.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third on the soft, 1.334s adrift, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo four tenths further back on the super-softs in fourth.
The session was then red-flagged shortly before the halfway mark when Bottas ran wide of out Spoon, pulling up the artifical grass at the exit of the corner.
The Mercedes driver clipped the wall a couple of times, damaging the right-rear corner of the car. Although he made it back to the pits, that was the end of his session.
Running got back under way just after the halfway point but lasted just three minutes before race control red-flagged it again following Raikkonen’s crash at Degner 2.
Replays showed the rear of his Ferrari got away from him mid-corner and Raikkonen couldn’t gather it up before he hit the barriers, damaging the left side of the car.
The marshals quickly craned his damaged Ferrari over the barriers, allowing the session to get going again.
Several drivers, including Lewis Hamilton, had their super-soft qualifying-simulations ruined by the two red-flag interruptions.
Vettel focused on race simulations early in the session, before turning his attention to the super-softs and low fuel.
His first effort put him third and although he improved next time around, he was still 0.324s adrift of the lead Mercedes.
Verstappen’s super-soft tyre run put him fourth, 0.855s off the pace and one tenth clear of Ricciardo in fifth.
Esteban Ocon was best-of-the-rest in sixth, just over a second adrift of Bottas, with Nico Hulkenberg the leading Renault in seventh.
Fernando Alonso, who has a 35-place grid penalty for engine component changes ahead of FP3, was eighth as Sergio Perez ended up ninth.
Jolyon Palmer made it two Renaults in the top 10, but he will start Sunday’s race towards the back after engine component changes handed him a 20-place grid drop.
Raikkonen ended up bottom of the timesheets, having focused on race simulations on older sets of super-softs before crashing on his first flier on a fresh set.
|1||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||1m29.055s||9|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||0.014s||19|
|3||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari||0.324s||23|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||0.855s||15|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||0.963s||13|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India F1 Team||1.054s||12|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team||1.260s||19|
|8||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||1.369s||13|
|9||Sergio Perez||Sahara Force India F1 Team||1.508s||12|
|10||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team||1.709s||22|
|11||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing||1.709s||21|
|12||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Honda||1.715s||18|
|13||Carlos Sainz||Scuderia Toro Rosso||1.744s||23|
|14||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team||1.927s||12|
|15||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing||1.956s||20|
|16||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso||2.298s||25|
|17||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||2.404s||13|
|18||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team||3.524s||22|
|19||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team||3.643s||21|
|20||Kimi Raikkonen||Scuderia Ferrari||4.907s||12|
Suzuka – An encouraging first session and a nearly useless second one sums up the first day of practice at the Japanese Grand Prix. After setting first and fourth best times respectively in the morning P1, Seb and Kimi limited their running to an installation lap each in a rain-soaked afternoon session. “Today we were expecting to have difficult conditions in the afternoon, so we focused on the morning session,” said Kimi. “We did a little bit more running and generally, we worked on our programme like every other Friday. Overall it was not bad and the feeling was ok. In the afternoon we did not even try to learn anything; we are limited on tires and we have to save the full wet compound in case qualifying is run in wet conditions. It’s a pity because we did not do a lot of laps, but at least we have got some ideas. As for tomorrow, let’s wait and see what happens in the morning and then through the day. Whatever it will be, we are going to do our best”.
Japanese GP practice: Lewis Hamilton fastest but session a washout
Second practice for Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix was a near-washout following heavy rain, with Lewis Hamilton the quickest of just five drivers to set a timed lap.
Rain started falling just before the scheduled start of the afternoon session and soon intensified, leading to race control choosing to delay the start of practice two.
Rivers formed around the undulating Suzuka circuit, with teams entertaining the crowd by creating miniature rafts and boats and sailing them down the pitlane.
The rain finally stopped and with just over 45 minutes of the session to go, running got under way.
Kimi Raikkonen was the first driver to venture out on full wets, soon followed by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer followed suit on the same rubber, with all just completing installation laps.
Some teams were keen to save fresh sets of the full wets for later in the weekend and therefore chose not to go out as conditions did not improve enough for intermediates.
Force India was not one of them, with Sergio Perez the first to complete a timed lap with a 1m51.345s, before being usurped by team-mate Esteban Ocon.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton then pumped in a 1m48.719s to go quickest, 0.799 seconds ahead of Ocon.
The Williams of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were the only others to set a timed lap, with six drivers – Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas – failing to head out at all.
Stroll had a moment at Turn 1, running through the gravel but just missing the barriers before rejoining the track unscathed.
Toro Rosso did an impressive job to repair Carlos Sainz Jr’s car, following his crash in first practice, so he could get out for an installation lap with around 20 minutes to go.
|2||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m49.518s||0.799s||3|
|3||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m51.345s||2.626s||3|
|13||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||–||–||1|
Sebastian Vettel leads crash-interrupted first Japanese GP practice
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the pace in first Japanese Grand Prix practice, edging out Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton in a session interrupted by Carlos Sainz Jr crashing heavily.
Vettel’s best time of 1m29.166s was set shortly after a red-flag period that was caused when Toro Rosso driver Sainz suffered a violent crash around 50 minutes into the session.
Sainz, who is already set to start from the back of the grid at Suzuka due to engine component change penalties, suddenly lost control as he ran wide exiting the hairpin, and speared towards the tyre barriers, blocking the track.
When the session resumed with 23 minutes left on the clock, Ferrari sent both its drivers out on super-soft tyres, with Vettel – who had been 0.042 seconds behind super-soft-shod Hamilton in second when still on softs – eclipsing the Mercedes’ previous benchmark by 0.211s to move to the top of the times.
The arrival of heavier rain in the final 10 minutes ensured Vettel’s time would go unchallenged in the closing stages.
Hamilton, using the new Mercedes aero parts he eschewed last weekend in Malaysia, set the pace for much of the session, trading fastest times with team-mate Valtteri Bottas during the opening 20 minutes on soft tyres.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo became the first driver to dip beneath the 1m30s barrier just shy of half an hour into the session, using super-softs to set a 1m29.541s and eclipse Hamilton by 0.501s.
That benchmark stood for a little under 10 minutes, as Hamilton – now on super-softs – improved to a 1m29.377s to retake top spot.
That time held up for second after Vettel’s late improvement.
Ricciardo ended the session third-fastest, 0.375s shy of Vettel and a tenth up on the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who was 0.472s slower than his team-mate on super-softs.
Bottas was fifth, 0.985s off the pace, six tenths ahead of Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull.
Both drivers suffered lurid off-track moments during the session, Bottas approaching Turn 1 and then at Degner; Verstappen at Spoon.
Esteban Ocon was the best of the Force Indias in seventh, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault, Romain Grosjean’s Haas and Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren.
Fernando Alonso was 12th-fastest, 0.033s down on Vandoorne, the two McLarens split by Kevin Magnussen – recovering from a water pressure problem that kept him in the garage for much of the first part of the session.
Sainz ended up 17th after his crash, one place ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly, whose Toro Rosso was sent out equipped with a halo at the start of the session.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m29.541s||0.375s||27|
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m30.762s||1.596s||26|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m30.899s||1.733s||22|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m31.530s||2.364s||23|
|17||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m32.252s||3.086s||14|
|18||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m32.501s||3.335s||18|
Kimi also relishes the challenge of the track: “Suzuka is a challenging circuit, a bit old style. It‘s quite narrow and the run-off areas, which used to be gravel, now have a tarmac surface. You need a good set-up to be able to push because in the first sector you can lose a lot of time. Here, like any circuit this year, I think we’ll be quicker. Because of the downforce we can be a bit slower in the straight, but through the corners we should be faster. There’s a lot of high speed corners, especially the first part. In the past, some corners have been a bit tricky, maybe this year they are going to be easier because we’ll be driving full speed through them. Hopefully our car will be where we have been lately. In the last race we have had an unexpected issue, bua a lot of work has been done to understand what failed. If that’s going to be enough to be first or second, we will see. The three top teams are pretty close, you have to get everything right and do your best. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will hold at some point, so that we can actually do some proper running”.