Hamilton equals Senna’s record with victory in Japan
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton took a step closer in clinching his third world title after taking yet another unchallenged victory in yesterday’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
His victory ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, also sees the Brit equalling the record of 41 career wins by his idol and late former three champions, Ayrton Senna, and leaves him 48 points clear in the standings with five races remaining.
“This has been a circuit that I can honestly say that I've struggled through all the years that I've come here but one that I've loved driving, and I think that goes for all the drivers,” Hamilton told Sky F1 afterwards.
“I'm really grateful for, as I posted the other day, all the people who have helped me get to where I am today and this team, because without them I would not be here”.
Starting from second on the grid behind Rosberg following a red flagged qualifying session, Hamilton, who posted his first DNF of the season at the previous round in Singapore, got off the line faster to positon himself on Rosberg’s inside heading into the banked turned two.
Trying to hang-on around the outside for the left handed turn three, Rosberg was squeezed for space and had to fall-in behind Vettel and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas as Hamilton immediately started to pull away.
Often the scene of accidents from the get-go, the rundown to turn one had the opposite effect for Bottas’ teammate Felipe Massa, when the Brazilian’s right front wheel came into the contact with the left rear of a fast starting Daniel Ricciardo.
Both were able to return after visits to the pit with Massa finishing 17th and Ricciardo only two places better in a weekend which saw his Red Bull teammate, Danill Kvyat, destroy his car in qualifying after running wide and touching the grass. The Russian eventually crossed the line 13th having started from the pitlane.
The notorious turn one nearly also claimed Sergio Perez when the Mexican bounced off a Toro Rosso that had been nudged by the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg at the start. All three were able to continue in a race that eventually finished with no retirements, a first since the European Grand Prix four years ago.
Although appearing to mount a challenge on the lead after a feisty move on Bottas at the final chicane and getting past Vettel in the later stages, Rosberg was unable to reel in his teammate and had to settle for the second step on the podium.
Behind the top three, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen managed to overtake Bottas after the second round of stops with the Finn coming home fifth ahead of Hulkenberg.
Amidst much speculation about a buyout from Renault and mounting financial pressure, Lotus teammates Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado salvaged crucial points in seventh and eighth with the final points going to Toro Rosso drivers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr., the latter surviving an encounter with a pitlane bollard to finish tenth.
Despite being on home turf, the season long difficulties continued for McLaren Honda with Fernando Alonso coming home eleventh and Jenson Button 16th. The Spaniard later vented his frustration by describing the car as having the power of a GP2 after being overtaken by a Sauber and then Verstappen on the main straight. It has since been confirmed that both would be driving for McLaren next year.
The F1 circus now makes its way to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix on October 11th.
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX RESULTS
|6.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+55.559|
|9.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||+1:35.315|
|10.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Toro Rosso||+1 Lap|
|11.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||+1 Lap|
|12.||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1 Lap|
|13.||Danill Kvyat||Red Bull||+1 Lap|
|14.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+1 Lap|
|15.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+1 Lap|
|16.||Jenson Button||McLaren||+2 Laps|
|17.||Felipe Massa||Williams||+2 Laps|
|18.||Alexander Rossi||Manor||+2 Laps|
|19.||Will Stevens||Manor||+3 Laps|
|20.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||+3 Laps|
|7.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||73|
|8.||Danill Kvyat||Red Bull||66|
|10.||Sergio Perez||Force India||39|
|11.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||38|
|12.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||32|
|15.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Toro Rosso||12|
IMAGE sourced from bleacherreport.com
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