Ferrari Failure – Japanese GP 2018
Mercedes seems to have an incredibly easy time securing the championship with yet another disappointing race performance from the black stallions. Heavy debris from the Magnussen incident caused the safety car to come onto the track, beyond which this was yet another underwhelming race in a season full of them…
- Lewis Hamilton – Hamilton had probably his easiest victory of the whole season in Japan. No-one came even close to giving him a hard time.
- Valtteri Bottas – When Bottas can go wide without losing a position, it tells you all that you need to know about Mercedes’ race speed.
- Max Verstappen – Verstappen was either a force of nature or a bulldozer on track in Japan depending on who you ask. He was able to force both Ferraris off the track at different times and did receive a 5 second penalty for his efforts which sadly didn’t really affect anything. Maybe Verstappen’s dirtiest podium of the season, but yet another podium never the less.
- Daniel Ricciardo – With the Ferraris failing, Red Bull had a field day. Ricciardo actually had the most impressive rise of the day. All the way from grid-15 to 4th in the finish.
- Kimi Räikkönen – In the end, Kimi was less negatively affected by being bumped off the road by Verstappen but then failed to make any meaningful moves for the rest of the race.
- Sebastian Vettel – Was closing in on the Mercedes cars after a dynamite start (from grid-8) but on his overtake attempt on Verstappen, Vettel was forced off the track and spun out, losing valuable positions. By the end he had to fight his way back to 6th position.
- Sergio Perez – Force India keep on closing the distance between themselves and McLaren.
- Romain Grosjean – With an impressive grid-5 in the qualifying, Grosjean’s eventual drop from the top-5 was obviously a little disappointing. But I also have to be honest and admit that Grosjean was the only Haas car in this race who didn’t make any mistakes.
- Esteban Ocon – Ocon added to Force India’s tally.
- Carlos Sainz – Renault has been a bit hit or miss towards the end of the season which is giving Haas a chance to challenge their position.
Golden Pineapple Award: Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso
If there’s one team who has reason to be disappointed in their Japanese performance, it’s absolutely Toro Rosso. Gasly started from grid-7 and dropped from points by the end. The qualifying results looked so good after the disastrous Russian round and it would have been nice to see the junior bulls pull off a good performance. This is Gasly’s third pineapple award, which means he’s challenging Ericsson for pineapple supremacy.
Drop-out count: 3
Nico Hülkenberg retired with technical issues.
After his left-rear wheel was totalled in a clash with Charles Leclerc, Kevin Magnussen was forced to limp back into the pits and retired way behind everyone else. Leclerc himself would retire some laps down after having gone wide dramatically at one point.
Back of the Lot News:
As if Leclerc hadn’t had it rough enough, his team-mate Marcus Ericsson rear-ended him under the safety car. Ericsson can be proud that he wasn’t last this time, not that it’s much of consolation for such a useless, bone-headed drive.
However, Toro Rosso were just disappointingly slow in Suzuka. Brendon Hartley not only started from the top-10 but ahead of his far more illustrious team-mate. Hartley started from grid-6 and finished as 13th. That is just down right depressing.
But of course there are still two teams of losers to get through. I would say this was McLaren’s worst finish of recent memory, were it not for the fact that they actually finished worse in the immediate previous race. Fernando Alonso couldn’t rise to the occasion and even received a 5 second penalty. Stoffel Vandoorne seems to have officially lost what little fight he had at the start of the season if he couldn’t even pass Alonso at the back.
But of course the biggest losers were the Williams cars. Sergey Sirotkin was surprisingly not the last man on the track…
Dead last: Lance Stroll – I’m not actually sure if Stroll actually finished behind Sirotkin or if this position was the result of his 5 second penalty. At any rate, Stroll doesn’t have to feel too bad with a Racing Point drive waiting in his immediate future.