2019 Japanese Grand Prix – The Rookie Report

by Ed Spencer

On a weekend which saw F1 at the mercy of the Japanese weather, the Japanese Grand Prix didn’t let the fans down.

As for the rookies it was only Alexander Albon who snatched points with best result to date in the sport, but Albon was instrumental in ending Lando Norris‘s charge for points whilst Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell lost ground and missed out.


Alexander Albon | Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Qualified: Sixth | Finished: Fourth


Photo Credit:Octane Photos

Alexander Albon’s best result in Formula 1 would look on paper as the completion of the fairytale run the Thai driver has had from having no prospect of having an F1 drive to being a place away from the rostrum.

But his fourth-place will be marred by the collision with fellow rookie Norris at the final chicane on lap 4 which sent the McLaren tumbling down the order with damage.

Albon’s move could be seen by some as an act of desperation after a dreadful start which saw him passed by both McLaren’s as the field headed into turn 1, ruining all the good work that the Thai driver had achieved in qualifying as he managed to once again qualify sixth his highest starting position in F1 to date.

With teammate, Max Verstappen’s race wrecked courtesy of a collision with Charles Leclerc, Albon had even more pressure to deliver a good result on engine supplier’s Honda’s home ground which could have been a reason for his overly ambitious move on Norris for fifth spot

That become fourth when Carlos Sainz Jr pitted for fresh rubber late in the race with Albon keeping the position till the checkered flag and with it his best result in Formula 1 as he bids for the second Red Bull seat as he moved within nine points to overtaking Red Bull seat rival Pierre Gasly in the championship standings.


Lando Norris | McLaren F1 Team

Qualified: Eighth | Finished: Thirteenth


Photo Credit: Octane Photos

It was all going well for Lando Norris in the Japanese Grand Prix, and if it wasn’t for a dive-bomb gone wrong from fellow rookie Albon, Norris would have probably joined teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in the points.

McLaren once again showed pace with a lockout of the fourth row with Norris +0.160 behind Sainz as the Brit qualified eighth.

At the start Norris got away well and picked up two spots from Verstappen and Albon but the Brit struggled to keep up with Sainz who pulled out a gap in the opening three laps to his teammate.

Norris’s race was deeply compromised when Albon decided to attempt an impossible move into the final chicane which saw Norris’s front wing broken and forcing him into an early pitstop for repairs.

From then on in it was to be an uphill struggle for Norris who could only have brief spells in the points when cars in front of him pitted for fresh rubber, as the Brit brought his battered and bruised McLaren in thirteenth spot and a lap down.


Antonio Giovinazzi | Alfa Romeo Racing

Qualified: Eleventh | Finished: Sixteenth


Photo Credit:Octane Photos

It was to be another tough weekend’s work for Antonio Giovinazzi as the Italian’s point drought continued into its second race.

Qualifying saw Giovinazzi 0.110 seconds away from snatching his fourth Q3 appearance, but Romain Grosjean produced a superb lap to keep the Italian out of the top 10 shootout.

In the race itself it was Alfa Romeo’s strategy which backfired badly with the decision to put the Italian on hard tyres causing Giovinazzi to fall down to sixteenth as they struggled to get near the points.

With increasing speculation that Nico Hülkenberg is in talks with Alfa Romeo on a potential move for 2020, Suzuka will have left Giovinazzi with more questions over his F1 future then answers as he languishes in eighteenth spot in the drivers’s championship.


George Russell | Williams F1 Team

Qualified: Eighteenth | Finished: Eighteenth


Photo Credit: Octane Photos

With just four races left George Russell still remains the only driver on the 2019 grid to have not scored a point in Formula 1 in what was yet another hellish weekend for the British rookie.

After out qualifying teammate Robert Kubica courtesy of the latter crashing his car on the main straight, Russell spent the race glued to the back dicing with his teammate as Williams failed to keep pace with the rest of the field.

Russell brought his FW42 home ahead of Kubica in eighteenth place and two laps down.

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