The Japanese Grand Prix was always going to be a pivotal race in the championship and as expected Red Bull had the pace to run and hide, but it was far from a procession and delivered yet another exciting race in the 2010 season.
The race as it happened:
Lucas Di Grassi retired before the race begun after losing it around 130R and after the lights went out we quickly lost Massa, Liuzzi, Hulkenberg and Petrov. Petrov was behind Hulkenberg on the grid, the Williams driver had a slow start and Petrov went to get passed him, but pulled across too early, damaged the Williams and put himself into the wall. The likelihood of the Russian staying with the team just took a nose dive.
Massa ended his race before turn two, purely by being far too racey in the first corner and unfortunately took out Liuzzi. The safety car came out and remained out for quite few laps, during which Kubica retired from 2nd after losing a rear wheel. It was a massive shame for him – a great start put him right him right up in the mix in car matching the straight-line speed of the dominating Red Bulls.
As the safety car finally pulled off, the race began and all five of the title contenders were running in the top five with Vettel leading Webber, Alonso in third, Button in fourth and Hamilton right behind him. The top five remained pretty much as they were, all pitted bar Button who ran around in 1st for while due to his alternative strategy of starting on the hard tyres. When he did finally pit, he came out in 5th behind Hamilton.
Unfortunately for Lewis he had yet another problem, with losing 3rd gear and allowing Button to breeze past who proceeded to chase down Alonso, but ran out of laps. Vettel lead from start to finish, clean sheet, no overtaking needed and was obviously very happy – Mark Webber was also chuffed too – his 11pt lead is now a 14pt lead with only 3 races to go.
Beyond the title fight, today’s Japanese GP was another showcase in overtaking by Kamui Kobayashi who pulled off more moves than an entire field of Nascar drivers. The young Japanese driver pulled moves on Heidfeld, Barrichello, Alguersuari, Sutil, and more – it was just a shame there weren’t enough laps to catch Schumacher before the chequered flag.
Speaking of Schumacher, at Suzuka today he, for the first time this season looked like the Schumacher we all used to love/hate (delete as appropriate) as he challenged his team mate for the final 10 laps or so, until Rosberg had his rear wheel bizarrely come off.
With only 16 finishers today was a great chance for one of the new teams to score a massively valuable point, Lotus came close with Kovalainen and Trulli in 12th and 13th, just ahead of Glock in 14th with the two Hispanias also finishing the race.