Lewis Hamilton returned to winning ways as he jumped into the lead at the start and dominated the Japanese Grand Prix for his eighth victory of 2015.
The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver got the lead after making a better getaway than team-mate Nico Rosberg, with the two drivers running side-by-side through the first two corners before the German had to concede position.
After trying to fight Hamilton, Rosberg was forced to lift off and then lost positions to both Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas, and was forced to run down in fourth for the first stint of the afternoon.
Hamilton was able to pull out a gap to Scuderia Ferrari’s Vettel, while Williams Martini Racing’s Bottas was finally hunted down and overtaken in an aggressive move by Rosberg at the chicane just after the first round of pit stops. Rosberg appeared to take the Finn by surprise, and slid by on the inside.
Rosberg then made the effort to close down the gap to Vettel, and was able to undercut his fellow German during the second round of pit stops to complete a Mercedes 1-2, although Vettel was never far away from his compatriot, finishing on the podium once more in Japan.
Bottas also lost out to the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who drove a relatively quiet race before clinching fourth during the second pit stop window after pitting a couple of laps earlier than his fellow Finn.
Nico Hulkenberg made a good start to run eighth early in the race for the Sahara Force India team, and then passed both Lotus F1 Team drivers during the pit stops to finish sixth. Romain Grosjean finished ahead of Lotus team-mate Pastor Maldonado in seventh and eighth.
Max Verstappen drove another impressive race to finish ninth for Scuderia Toro Rosso despite having started seventeenth, making a number of exciting overtaking manoeuvres, while team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr completed the top ten despite making a mistake entering the pits for his second pit stop, hitting the pit entry bollard and breaking his front wing, necessitating a change that lost him valuable time.
Despite running inside the top ten early in the afternoon, Fernando Alonso was unable to convert that into any points, and was highly critical of his race craft over the radio after finding himself being overtaken down the straight with relative ease. His McLaren-Honda team-mate Jenson Button was unable to do any better than sixteenth.
The recently re-signed Sergio Perez finished twelfth despite running off circuit at the first corner on the opening lap after a clash with Sainz that caused a puncture on his Force India.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Infiniti Red Bull Racing, with Daniil Kvyat unable to use his overtake button for the majority of the afternoon and finishing thirteenth having started from the pit lane, while team-mate Daniel Ricciardo clashed with Felipe Massa on the opening lap, giving the second Red Bull a puncture that saw him ultimately finish fifteenth.
Marcus Ericsson split the two Red Bulls in his Sauber, but was running competitively early on before a spin at Spoon Curve lost him time, and ruined his opportunity for a top ten finish. His team-mate Felipe Nasr was the only retirement on the day, although the Brazilian had still completed enough laps to be classified.
After the first lap clash with Ricciardo, Massa also suffered a puncture, and was unable to better seventeenth in the second Williams, ahead only on the track than the two Manor F1 Team drivers, with Alexander Rossi again getting the better of Will Stevens after the British driver spun on the exit of 130R and was forced to make an extra pit stop.
But no one could touch Hamilton, who equalled his idol Ayrton Senna’s record of forty-one career victories, and extended his championship lead back to forty-eight points over Rosberg, with Vettel now 59 points down in third.
Suzuka Race Result
|6||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||+55.559s|
|9||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Toro Rosso-Renault||+1m35.315s|
|10||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||+1 Lap|
|11||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||McLaren-Honda||+1 Lap|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||+1 Lap|
|13||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Red Bull-Renault||+1 Lap|
|14||9||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Sauber-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|15||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Renault||+1 Lap|
|16||22||Jenson Button||GBR||McLaren-Honda||+1 Lap|
|17||19||Felipe Massa||BRZ||Williams-Mercedes||+2 Laps|
|18||53||Alexander Rossi||USA||Manor-Ferrari||+2 Laps|
|19||28||Will Stevens||GBR||Manor-Ferrari||+3 Laps|
|20/RET||12||Felipe Nasr||BRZ||Sauber-Ferrari||+4 Laps|