Suzuka, scene of some classic races down the years, didn’t play host to anything even remotely close on Sunday. It wasn’t dreadful, it just wasn’t anything particularly special. With no drama at the very front, those further back did their very best to make up for it (we’re looking at you Kobayashi) by throwing themselves around a bit and having their wheels drop off with wild abandon.

** Qualifying positions quoted do not take into account Lewis Hamilton’s five place grid penalty

Red Bull

  • Qualifying: Vettel (1st) Webber (2nd)
  • Race: Vettel (1st) Webber (2nd)

The Red Bulls were, quite frankly, a class apart this weekend.

Very quick in qualifying and the race, they simply never looked like losing their mojo. Even when Robert Kubica slipped past Mark Webber at the start it didn’t seem terminal for him (although obviously Kubica limping out a few laps later didn’t hurt).

The fact that Vettel described the race as “controlled” and Webber spoke about a “formation finish” tells you all you need to know about their dominance. Efficient, ruthless but very very dull. Where are the days of Vettel careering into Button or crashing into his team mate? We miss those days.

More broadly, Webber is clearly still the man to beat in the championship, but it’s always easier to chase than it is to defend. Whatever happens, expect more fireworks before the end of the season.

Badger’s best: Vettel

Ferrari

  • Qualifying: Alonso (5th) Massa (12th)
  • Race: Alonso (3rd) Massa (ret)

Neither Alonso nor Massa had stellar qualifying sessions. What this shook out to once adjusted for expectations was that Alonso started fifth behind the Red Bulls (fair), Hamilton (acceptable) and Kubica (surprising).

Massa, on the other hand, started twelfth, blaming “traffic” for his poor performance. He really needs to get himself into gear and start producing some good performances, otherwise he’s going to be looked back upon as the man who never fully deserved his seat in one of the top teams. Despite all that, he may well keep his seat next season due to the fact that he’s a “team player”, but there are certainly other, more deserving drivers out there. His race ended nearly as soon as it started – flying off the road right at the start into Liuzzi’s Force India. Must. Try. Harder.

Alonso did what he nearly always does – driving very solidly to a third place finish after Hamilton’s penalty promoted him to fourth on the grid and Kubica’s retirement promoted him up to third. No stress, no hassle, just another strong performance.

Badger’s best: Alonso

McLaren

  • Qualifying: Hamilton (3rd) Button (6th)
  • Race: Button (4th) Hamilton (5th)

Our feeling at Badger is that McLaren have very rarely had the best car on the grid this season, if at all. What they have been very good at, however, has been making the most of what they’ve got.

That said, this weekend wasn’t one of their finest hours. A five place grid drop for Hamilton after changing a gearbox (which then broke anyway on Sunday) and a slightly strange strategy for Button during the race left the McLarens in fourth and fifth places and looking well off the title pace.

Hamilton will doubtless have been relieved to salvage something from the weekend after his gearbox decided to lose third gear late on in the race, resulting in Button flying past. Well done to Hamilton for letting his team mate through without so much as a whimper – it was the sensible and obvious thing to do, but that hasn’t always translated into action in the past.

Sadly for those of us who care about such things, it’s looking very much as though there won’t be a British World Champion this year.

Badger’s best: Hamilton.

Mercedes

  • Qualifying: Rosberg (7th) Schumacher (10th)
  • Race: Schumacher (6th) Rosberg (ret)

A good weekend for Schumacher at Suzuka – not as good as in the past, but certainly one of his better showings this season.

Despite that, we at Badger are still slightly concerned that even after he received a message from the team telling him that Rosberg knew that the elder German was faster and wouldn’t fight too hard, he wasn’t able to get through. It was just…odd.

In the end it didn’t matter as Rosberg’s wheel did a dramatic solo performance and flew off the car, leaving him on three wheels, in a barrier and out of the race. You can have all the fancy computers and sensors in the world but if your wheels aren’t attached properly, you’re probably not going to make much hay. That said, Rosberg’s retirement shouldn’t take away from the fact that he was on to beat Schumacher during the race.

Just to look at the bigger picture for a second, next season is possibly the most important of Schumacher’s career. It’s probably not going to be the title at risk but, rather, something of even more importance – his own legacy. It won’t be obliterated, of course not, but it would take the shine off all those long years of success. Is it worth it? We’ll find out soon.

Badger’s best: Schumacher

Images courtesy of Unlap – for loads of great F1 themed tshirts and humour see the superb Unlap shop