The 2014 Japanese Grand Prix ended in a horrible feeling following Jules Bianchi’s horrific crash. Lewis Hamilton won the race and extends his championship lead but the feelings of joy associated with a win were far from there.
Before the race started, the race stewards decided that the rain had reached such a severe level there would be no racing start. Meaning a safety car start would happen with all drivers on the full wet tyres. This would be the first race started behind a safety car since Canada 2011.
However that did not stop drivers from having issues before the red lights went out with Sergio Perez spinning off during his lap to the grid. Perez was able to keep his car moving despite a trip through the gravel and eventually made his way to the grid.
Come 3PM local time, the race began behind the safety car and two slow laps trickled by. In the sporting regulations that was all that’s needed for half points to be awarded but thankfully after a short stop in proceedings, the race was back underway. Albeit still behind the safety car.
The third lap of the race kicked off with the safety car leading the drivers out of the pit lane but it wasn’t long before someone was parking his car to the side of the track. Fernando Alonso has been one of the most consistent finishers in Formula One, but was forced to park his Ferrari when he lost all power following an electrical problem.
When the race was initially paused under the red flag, the teams began to expect a 30 minute period of no rain in which they expected the race to really kick in. Thankfully for the spectators, come lap 6 Williams were informing Bottas that they expected to have at least 40 laps of racing. This would also mean full points would be awarded at the chequered flag.
Eventually, after another 5 laps behind the safety car, conditions had dried up enough for race control to bring the safety car in and get the race underway.
Button and Maldonado immediately headed into the pit lane for intermediate tyres. But out in front, Hamilton was looking to overtake Rosberg. However the spray was so heavy he was forced to peel to the side in order to see the breaking zone and the overtaking chance was gone.
Over the next few laps, the Mercedes drivers began to storm away at the front whilst Bottas began to hold the field up on the full wet tyres. But come the end of lap 12, Bottas and a heap of drivers began to head into the pits to change onto the intermediate tyres.
This was no comfort for some drivers who had their team-mates ahead of themselves as they were forced into staying out longer. But this issue wouldn’t creep up on Mercedes just yet as they chose to stay out.
By the time everyone had pitted for inters, the Red Bull duo began to fly. Red Bull had chosen to use a set up with more downforce knowing it would rain and this decision was clearly a great move with it paying off early on. Even as early on as lap 16, where they were even challenging Massa for fifth.
First up came Vettel as he took the inside line through the hairpin to make his way past the Brazilian. But it took Ricciardo an extra lap to make his way past Massa, allowing Vettel to create a slight lead. Although Ricciardo’s overtake was far more impressive than Vettel’s, as the Aussie made his way around the outside through the esses.
One more lap went by, but the Red Bull duo continued their hunt of a Williams. This time Bottas was being lined up by Vettel going into the hairpin, except the Finn was overtaken around the outside unlike Seb’s move on Massa. And like Ricciardo on Massa, Daniel was making his way around Bottas through the esses.
Despite the track remaining damp, the race stewards decided the track was sufficiently dry enough that DRS was acceptable, and on lap 24 enabled it. When that decision came through Hamilton had caught right up on Rosberg and began to challenge for the lead.
Unfortunately for Lewis, but fortunately for Rosberg, Hamilton was unable to find a way to get past despite closing right up on his team-mate out of the chicane and down the pit straight. But come lap 29, the lead was Lewis’ after sending his Silver Arrow around the outside of Rosberg into turn one.
Over the next few laps Hamilton drew out a reasonable lead over Rosberg, as the German began to suffer more and more from worn out rear tyres. This struggled even lead to the threat of attack by Button, but that threat was eliminated when Jenson took to the pits. As did Rosberg one lap later.
Lewis chose to stay out for a few more laps but was soon called in by the team as Jenson and Rosberg began to gain on him. This handed the lead of the race to Ricciardo, but he wouldn’t hold on for too long as the pit lane was calling.
But before he could pit, Kevin Magnussen wanted to challenge him into turn one in order to un-lap himself following a terrible race. Magnussen had suffered issue after issue throughout the race and was running down in 14th place at the time but seized on the chance to un-lap himself. Going into turn one, he took to the outside of the track and hung on in there, clipping the edge of the track. But without any contact, he made his way past Ricciardo.
After Ricciardo pitted for fresh tyres, the rain returned to Suzuka. Conditions soon got to such a degree DRS was re-disabled and some drivers began to pit for full wet tyres.
Unfortunately for Sutil, he would not see the end of the race after crashing into the barriers at turn 7. But things soon became worse as the safety car was deployed. The medical car had also been sent out to the scene of Sutil’s crash but is was originally unclear as to who it was for.
It was soon revealed that whilst the marshals began to clear away the stricken Sauber of Sutil, an un-seen incident involving Bianchi resulted in the race being red flagged.
It was later confirmed by Sutil himself that Bianchi crashed out and hit the JCB recovering his Sauber, following an identical incident that resulted in Sutil finding the barrier.
The horrific incident resulted in Bianchi loosing consciousness before being taken to a nearby hospital via ambulance. The medical helicopter was being prepared to fly Jules but it was decided on medical grounds to use a police escorted ambulance.
More details on Bianchi’s condition will follow as and when they are released.
But for the race, Lewis Hamilton took the win ahead of Rosberg to extend the championship lead to 10 points. Sebastian Vettel took third place for Red Bull just days after announcing his departure from the team.
|2||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||44||+9.1 secs||1||18|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||44||+29.1 secs||9||15|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||44||+38.8 secs||6||12|
|5||22||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||44||+67.5 secs||8||10|
|6||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||44||+113.7 secs||3||8|
|7||19||Felipe Massa||Williams-Mercedes||44||+115.1 secs||4||6|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||44||+115.9 secs||13||4|
|9||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Renault||44||+127.6 secs||20||2|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||43||+1 Laps||11||1|
|11||26||Daniil Kvyat||STR-Renault||43||+1 Laps||12|
|12||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||43||+1 Laps||10|
|13||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||43||+1 Laps||15|
|14||20||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren-Mercedes||43||+1 Laps||7|
|15||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||43||+1 Laps||16|
|16||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||43||+1 Laps||22|
|17||9||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham-Renault||43||+1 Laps||17|
|18||4||Max Chilton||Marussia-Ferrari||43||+1 Laps||21|
|19||10||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||43||+1 Laps||19|
|20||17||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Ferrari||41||+3 Laps||18|
|21||99||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||40||+4 Laps||14|