Lewis Hamilton took another step closer to title number five at Suzuka, while his rival imploded yet again. It was almost a happy homecoming for Honda and it was all kicking off at Spoon as Chris Fawcett dissects five talking points from Japan.
It’s getting there…slowly
The new Honda engine upgrade certainly impressed at Suzuka, there were times that it was keeping up with Mercedes-powered cars on the run to 130R, if it can prove to be reliable then it’ll look very handy going into next season.
This can only be music to the ears of Red Bull who’re heading into a partnership that promises so much but has so much riding on it too. If 2019 onwards is a failure in the same way Honda’s return to the grid has been so far, it’s quite conceivable that both Red Bull and Honda will leave the sport.
Not only that but we’ll be robbed of multiple seasons of Max Verstappen mounting a title challenge…it’s going to happen, but we want it sooner rather than later please.
Getting the rub of the Red Bull
If anyone was due a slice of good fortune or even a fair crack at the race it was Daniel Ricciardo.
Since signing for Renault in early August he’s retired from two races and endured power-unit problems in qualifying at Monza, Russia and Japan.
Blowing your voice out through screaming in frustration isn’t a great start to the weekend, neither is swearing during a TV interview afterwards…it was kind of expected and justified after such a bad run of form. Which is why it made it all the more sweeter to see him finishing in fourth after starting in 15th.
He’s currently one race away from equalling his longest time away from the podium since joining Red Bull, a record that stretches back to Japan in 2015 until Spain 2016. He’ll be keen to make a return in Austin, and boss Christian Horner was quoted as saying he wants to see him leave the team on a high.
Just hope those Renault power units are a bit more reliable next year…
Keep an eye on K-Mag
He’s the bad boy of F1 and has an image to uphold some might say. However, moving deliberately in the braking zone multiple times is not on. It’s purely dangerous, the move he pulled on Charles Leclerc could easily have ended up in a serious shunt. It could be forgiven if it was a one off but it was a similar story in Russia too, meaning that he deems this acceptable.
He’s having a great season, but more instances like this could really but a black mark on it when looking back. It’s amazing to think that through everything he only has 3 penalty points to his name. Compare that to teammate Romain Grosjean (9 points) and it paints him out to be an angel!
Seb’s Stuffed it
Can we all agree that Sebastian Vettel is either a bottler or has constant knack of attracting bad situations when there’s a lot at stake.
Just look through the archives and you’ll see that in many cases of extreme pressure he just cannot get the job done easily, or at all.
Rewind to Canada 2011; Jenson Button puts him under pressure enough on the final lap that he lets a certain victory out of his grasp. Jump to the title battle in Brazil 2012, he’s going backwards halfway through the first lap before eventually taking the Championship after a monumental battle through the pack.
His surge for last year’s title took a hit at Singapore where he collided with Kimi Raikkonen and then found himself rolling backwards while in first place again. This year, well, where do you start?…The barrier in Germany or silly tactical mistakes in qualifying for Italy and Singapore. Then there was the ridiculous prospect this past weekend of trying to overtake Max Verstappen at Spoon – leaving him backwards AGAIN.
It really does hammer home how quickly and easily the titanic tussle between F1’s current two most decorated drivers looks to have become a runaway triumph for Mercedes again.
He’s a brilliant driver who’s having to overcompensate for his team’s inability to make sound strategic decisions at the rate of their rivals. Leaving him in all sorts of bother when it really matters. Its a shame the season has petered out the way it has when it promised a true battle.
Let’s end on what was another magnificent performance from #44. Lewis Hamilton is cruising to title number five in a manner that was so easy for him in Japan, he even had time to pipe up and ask where Bono was after not hearing from him for a while over the radio. It was a rare insight into a man who at this time of year is supremely focussed and often unaccessible.
Off we go to Austin where Lewis needs to outscore Sebastian Vettel by 8 points to become level with the great Juan Manuel Fangio. Is he good around there, I cant remember?!