No spark left in Vettel’s championship fight
Things seemed promising for Sebastian Vettel as he and Ferrari looked to change their recent run of bad fortune at Suzuka. However, what seemed like a good start at lights out ended in horror as the German had severe power issues by the end of lap one. After dropping places with no resistance, he ultimately had to retire on lap six. Ferrari announced that it was a spark plug issue which caused this loss in power.
On a day when Ferrari fans had hoped for a strong performance from Vettel after starting from second on the grid, this retirement marked the probable end of a tight championship battle between him and Lewis Hamilton; The British driver is now 59 points clear of Vettel in the title fight. Though Vettel could still theoretically make a comeback with four races left, he will need more than a few miraculous strokes of luck to help him win the title from this position.
Hamilton and Mercedes are back to dominating ways
Mercedes were struggling for race pace at Malaysia last week. Max Verstappen made easy work of Lewis Hamilton to win at Sepang and one wondered if the German team was no longer the dominant force it's known to be. These speculations however, were put to rest as Hamilton dominated the entire weekend at Suzuka.
After a scintillating qualifying lap to take pole on Saturday, Lewis led the race from start to finish as his Mercedes outperformed the rest of the field to give him victory at the Japanese Grand Prix. This is very positive news for the team as they look to close out the championship in the next few races in the wake of Ferrari’s sudden string of reliability issues. Is Mercedes back on top? Perhaps Red Bull have a thing or two to say about that..
Another impressive performance by Red Bull
It seems like Red Bull have got their mojo back as they took second and third at the Japanese Grand Prix. A solid start from Max Verstappen helped the Dutchman move up to second place following Vettel's power issues. Though Hamilton was in control for most of the race, Max closed the gap and had a go for the lead in the penultimate lap. However, with some assistance from the back markers, especially Fernando Alonso (who seems to be making a rather unnecessary habit of ignoring the blue flags), Hamilton stayed ahead.
Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo was back to his overtaking self as he made crisp work of Force India’s Esteban Ocon for third place. He held his ground from here and fended off the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to take the final step of the podium.
Though they may have a slightly deficient engine in terms of horsepower when compared to the top two constructors, Red Bull's aerodynamic package has significantly improved to allow for a strong challenge on race day. It will be interesting to see how they fair in upcoming high downforce circuits in Mexico and Abu Dhabi.
Strong finish by the Haas F1 Team
For only the second time in the history of the Haas F1 Team, drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean delivered a double-points finish, as the duo finished eighth and ninth respectively. Magnussen came from 12th on the grid to claim eighth and Grosjean followed his teammate, moving up from his 13th-place start to earn ninth. Magnussen also made a brilliant move on Felipe Massa to take eighth as he muscled his way past the Brazilian, banging wheels in turn two.
This double-points effort allowed Haas to regain seventh in the constructors standings from Renault, a crucial victory as the midfield constructors battle seems to be going right to the wire between Toro Rosso, Haas, and Renault.
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