2011 Japanese Grand Prix – Race Report

Sebastian Vettel secured the drivers’ championship in the unspectacular Japanese Grand Prix. This years race was a massive let down in comparison to last year, second only in its lack of excitement to the Valencian Grand Prix.

Race Direction: Good

To be fair, not a whole lot happened on track but the race director did manage to stay focused on what was relevant and interesting. No missed yellow flags, most of the pit-stops were covered. I can’t give an Excellent grade since there was practically nothing shown from the Back of the Lot, but other than that a Grade A showing from the race director.

The Top-10

Jenson Button tried challenging Vettel at the start but fell behind and only rose gradually after Vettel had to make an extra pit-stop. Jense drove a solid race though and I’m happy for him. Fernando Alonso also showed massive improvement from the start of the race and finished second. Sebastian Vettel only had to score in order to secure his championship, but a third place meant that at least he’d be celebrating his championship from a podium.

Mark Webber had a weak qualifying but finished a strong fourth at the end. Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa butted heads on-track once again. This time a piece from one of their cars landed smack middle of the track and caused the safety car to come on. Unfortunately, this didn’t add much excitement. Hamilton finished a respectable fifth and Massa dropped to seventh by the end.

Michael Schumacher had  a good day and even lead the race for a brief moment before his first pit-stop. He finished sixth. His team-mate Nico Rosberg made the most impressive rise of the day, from 23rd in the start to 10th  in the finish, taking the final point for Mercedes GP. It’s sort of expected, given he’s driving the fourth best car in the series – but also a great accomplishment as he no doubt had to pass several to contenders.

The second most impressive rise was achieved by Sergio Perez who started from 17th and finished eighth. Vitaly Petrov drove an unspectacular but safe race to finish ninth.

Golden Pineapple Award

Adrian Sutil takes the lead of the pineapple chart with a total of three positions. Force India had a really lackluster race day in Japan.

Drop-out count: 1

Almost a record low for this season. Sebastian Buemi‘s wheel came off mysteriously when he entered a curve. It’s not at all clear what really happened but Buemi’s retirement was the final nail on the coffin for Toro Rosso’s massively unspectacular day.

Back of the Lot News

A rather shocking lack of improvement by most drivers this race and I’m not entirely sure why that was. Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna were the biggest failures on-track, both falling out of the top-10 early on. It’s quite remarkable, given Senna’s otherwise solid (half-)season and especially for Kobayashi who really wowed the crowd in his homeland last year.

Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams all failed massively today. Jaime Alguersuari rose a measly one position due to his team-mate’s retirement, Di Resta and Maldonado made absolutely no improvement on their positions and Barrichello fell four positions down. Come on, guys! You really need to start getting your shit together. Williams have had a crap season anyway, but now it seems like Toro Rosso and Force India just weren’t trying at all.

Once again, nothing new for the new teams. Lotus occupied the top-spots and we already know which of the two drivers was the better of them (hint: Heikki Kovalainen). The only thing worth mentioning about the rear-end teams is that HRT’s Vitantonio Liuzzi was permitted to race despite not putting up a time within the 107% rule. This time around I can’t imagine why the FIA let this one fly because clearly Liuzzi should have been disqualified from the race. The FIA has only really enforced the 107% rule in the season opening race and since then every instance of the 107% limit not being reached the cars have been permitted to race regardless. What the fuck…