We start our analysis of the good, the bad and the ugly from the Japanese Grand Prix with the fastest teams, known in these parts as the Top Dogs.
- Lewis Hamilton: Quali – 3rd, Race – 5th
- Jenson Button: Quali – 2nd, Race – 1st
Another great drive from Jenson Button. We at Badger, while always having a soft spot for the Englishman, didn’t think he’d be able to beat Hamilton over the course of a season. Just goes to show how much we know, given it now looks exactly like that’s what he’s going to do.
Button’s weekend hinged on a strong performance in qualifying. If he gives himself the opportunity to be at the front on the grid, rather than qualifying far enough back to be troubled by fast starting Mercedes or Force Indias, then he’s going to do very well. Too often he’s qualified fifth or sixth, leaving himself open to attack. In the race, as ever, he was imperious in maintaining a consistently quick pace. Twin that with some handy pit stop work from McLaren and he was onto a winner.
Hamilton, by his own admission, didn’t have the greatest weekend. An odd mix up in qualifying left him without the chance to have a go at his final quick lap and then, during the race, he was reduced to battling with Felipe Massa. Again. You know it’s all gone wrong then…
If we were Lewis we’d try to get the final races over and done with as quickly as possible, go on holiday somewhere really remote and try to get into the right mental state to approach racing next season. Simple.
Badger’s Best: Button
- Fernando Alonso: Quali – 5th, Race – 2nd
- Felipe Massa: Quali – 4th, Race – 7th
A good race for Fernando Alonso. After a so-so qualifying performance he really pushed on during the race and might feel, given a bit more luck, that he could have won.
Alonso is suffering from a slight touch of Button-qualfitis, in that he’s not able regularly to challenge for the first four grid slots. Races, by contrast, are a completely different story. If Ferrari can give him a car capable of challenging the Red Bull next season, we think it’s him that Vettel will be most nervous about, especially as he comes with the almost complete backing of his team mate.
Speaking of whom, Felipe Massa managed to outqualify his more illustrious team mate on Saturday but, if you can’t follow it through on a Sunday, what’s even the point?
The resumption of hostilities with Lewis Hamilton brought noises of glee from around the Sett. We love a good on-track scrap, especially if it involves two drivers who really don’t seem to like one another. This weekend it was Massa trying to overtake Hamilton and, as if you needed us to tell you, there was a collision. Massa came off worse again and, after the race, claimed Hamilton moved over for no reason. Someone’s off the Christmas card list.
All we’ll say is that it’s not been a great season for the Brazilian, but at least now he’s found himself a reason.
Badger’s Best: Alonso
- Sebastian Vettel: Quali – 1st, Race – 3rd
- Mark Webber: Quali – 6th, Race – 4th
To be honest, we’re not going to dwell too much on Sebastian Vettel as there are any number of other articles on the site which do just that.
Yes, he was on pole, yes, he drove a conservative race (well, apart from pushing Button off the track) and yes, he is a deserving world champion. Enough said.
To be honest, we didn’t see that much of Mark Webber during the race. A disappointing qualifying session was followed by an improved race performance, so 4th position isn’t bad.
That said, on a weekend where Vettel wasn’t at his best this was a real opportunity for Webber to have a go at his team mate. Needless to say, he didn’t. Is Webber becoming Felipe Massa to Vettel’s Fernando Alonso? Does it matter if he is?
Badger’s Best: Vettel
- Nico Rosberg: Quali – 23rd, Race – 10th
- Michael Schumacher: Quali – 8th, Race – 6th
A good weekend for the Mercedes team, all told.
Despite his hydraulic problems in qualifying and his associated 23rd place on the grid, Rosberg managed to fight his way up to tenth. Not a bad job at all.
Schumacher managed to continue his revival (yeah, let’s call it a revival) with a strong sixth place finish. Yes, he was helped by the safety car, but it still qualifies as a Good Job.
More broadly, Mercedes will be one of the most interesting teams next season; they have two drivers who appear to be much closer than they were last year (or even earlier on this season) and should have high hopes for their 2012 car. If they don’t get it right questions will be asked of Ross Breawn, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Badger’s Best: Schumacher