Nico Rosberg further extended his championship advantage over team-mate Lewis Hamilton after taking victory in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, while their Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team confirmed themselves as the 2016 Constructors’ Championship winners.
Hamilton’s race was compromised early as he again struggled away from the startline, dropping from his front row grid slot to fall to eighth, but the Briton recovered to third at the chequered flag behind Max Verstappen.
Rosberg was untroubled all afternoon long and did not need to push hard on his tyres, only briefly losing the lead during the pit stop cycles, and ended 4.978 seconds ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Verstappen.
Verstappen was forced to resist the challenge of the recovering Hamilton over the closing lap, but with good usage of his Energy Recovery System down the front straight, the Dutchman was able to repel the challenge of the Briton despite the Mercedes driver having use of his Drag Reduction System.
The duo came close on the penultimate lap when Hamilton looked to make a move into the final chicane, but Verstappen defended robustly and held on until the chequered flag to finish 0.798 seconds ahead.
Hamilton’s start saw him drop a number of places to eighth, but found a way passed Nico Hülkenberg on lap seven, and although in the early laps he seemed content to follow in the footsteps of Kimi Raikkonen, he jumped the Finn and Sergio Perez during the first round of pit stops.
The Mercedes driver then passed Daniel Ricciardo on track before closing down and jumping ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the second round of stops to take the podium finish, but came up short in his battle with Verstappen.
Vettel saw his run of Suzuka podium finishes come to an end, with the Scuderia Ferrari driver finishing fourth on Sunday, while team-mate Raikkonen took fifth after taking a pre-race grid penalty after a gearbox change, ahead of Ricciardo, who could not match the pace of his podium finishing Red Bull team-mate.
Perez took seventh despite running as high as third after a good getaway, while the Mexican finished 1.682 seconds ahead of Sahara Force India team-mate Hülkenberg.
After missing out on Q3 on Saturday, the Williams Martini Racing team recovered to finish with both drivers inside the points, with Felipe Massa ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Both the Brazilian and the Finn were able to jump ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean by making just the one stop compared to the Frenchman’s two.
Jolyon Palmer ended a lapped twelfth in his Renault Sport F1 machine ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, while the second Renault of Kevin Magnussen was fourteenth, just 0.754 seconds ahead of the leading Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.
It was another disappointing day for the McLaren team at the home of their engine suppliers Honda, with Fernando Alonso sixteenth and Jenson Button eighteenth, either side of the second Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr.
Felipe Nasr was nineteenth in the second Sauber ahead of Esteban Gutierrez, who again was unable to take advantage of his top ten grid placing, with the Mexican spinning his Haas at the chicane just after mid-distance while battling one of the McLaren’s.
Gutierrez ended just 2.131 seconds clear of Manor Racing’s Esteban Ocon, who finished ahead of his fellow Mercedes-protégé Pascal Wehrlein by 19.860 seconds, with all twenty-two competitors seeing the chequered flag, the second time in as many years at Suzuka where all drivers were classified.
Rosberg now holds a thirty-three point advantage in the Drivers’ Championship over Hamilton, with just four rounds of the season remaining, and in the form he is in, he will be hard to beat.
Suzuka International Racing Course Race Result
|2||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||+4.978||18|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||+33.941||8|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||+57.495||6|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||+59.177||4|
|12||30||Jolyon Palmer||GBR||Renault||+1 Lap|
|13||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso-Renault||+1 Lap|
|14||20||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Renault||+1 Lap|
|15||9||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Sauber-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|16||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||McLaren-Honda||+1 Lap|
|17||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||+1 Lap|
|18||22||Jenson Button||GBR||McLaren-Honda||+1 Lap|
|19||12||Felipe Nasr||BRZ||Sauber-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|20||21||Esteban Gutierrez||MEX||Haas-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|21||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Manor-Mercedes||+1 Lap|
|22||94||Pascal Wehrlein||GER||Manor-Mercedes||+1 Lap|