Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Review - Team by Team analysis
Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix 2017 after leading much of the race while his Championship rival Sebastian Vettel faces further reliability woes as Ferrari seems to be losing the plot.
Max Verstappen kept Lewis Hamilton honest and was in contention for a win but couldn't quite seal it in the end. Daniel Ricciardo again had a pretty okay start ending up behind Esteban Ocon at the end of Lap 1 which cost him some time. Over the course of the race, he couldn't keep up with Lewis and Max but he fended off a late surge from Valtteri Bottas for the final podium position.
A look at the Japanese Grand Prix team-by-team:
Lewis Hamilton(Grid : P1, Race : P1)
Valtteri Bottas(Grid : P6, Race : P4)
A good race for Mercedes considering all things. It was hot on Sunday which usually aids rivals Red Bull and Ferrari but they still managed to grab the race win and a decent haul of points with Valtteri. After lacking pace in Singapore and Malaysia, they looked to have recovered from that phase and looked the fastest of the field in FP1 and FP3. They proved their pace in Qualifying with a 1-2 line-up. Sadly, Bottas had to take a 5-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change and that compromised his race a little bit. He elected to qualify on softs and have a considerable advantage in the latter part of the race which nearly fetched him a podium. Lewis Hamilton drove a near-perfect race even after suffering from 'vibrations' in the last 2-3 laps and keeping Max Verstappen at bay. Mercedes also had team orders in play when Valtteri Bottas was holding up Max after the Briton's pit stop thus providing an advantage to Hamilton.
Verdict : All in all, a good race for Mercedes as they looked on pace throughout the weekend.
Sebastian Vettel(Grid : P2, Race : DNF)
Kimi Raikkonen(Grid : P10, Race : P5)
Shocking weekend yet again for Ferrari. Vettel looked in good touch this weekend and after securing a front-row grid slot alongside Championship Rival Lewis Hamilton thanks to the penalty to Bottas but he had a spark plug issue which considerably reduced his pace and made him a sitting duck. Verstappen identified it first and made the move on the hairpin and he was a sitting duck on the start-finish straight on the following lap. He was forced to retire soon after due to that problem. Kimi Raikkonen had an average start but while fighting with Hulkenberg on Lap 1, he went off into the gravel which cost him a lot of time and around 6-7 positions. From there on, his race was pretty much over for the victory or the podium and 5th was the best result possible.
Verdict: Another weekend to forget for the red cars, and as Vettel said after the race, they will just give it their all in the remaining weekends and put this disappointment behind.
Daniel Ricciardo(Grid : P3, Race : P3)
Max Verstappen(Grid : P4, Race : P2)
After their pace deficit in Qualifying to Mercedes and Ferrari, things were looking rather glum for Red Bull and doubts were there if they can be in the mix with the front-runners. They quashed all doubts and even forced Lewis Hamilton to be wary of them. Red Bull, aided by the higher track temperatures was a force to be reckoned with and Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo capped a successful race for the Milton-Keynes based squad.
Verdict: A good weekend overall. They are just lacking Qualifying performance to be a real contender at every weekend and make the big step to be regular winners.
Sergio Perez(Grid : P7, Race : P7)
Esteban Ocon(Grid : P5, Race : P6)
Once again the best of the rest after the three big teams. They had a significant advantage to the cars behind but were still 20 seconds behind Kimi Raikkonen who had a troubled race himself. After multiple intra-team collisions and incidents, Sergio Perez was outrightly denied the opportunity to race or attack Esteban Ocon and was told to hold station and bring home the points. 14 more points are added to their kitty and their position in the Constructors' Championship looks secure.
Verdict: Solid points haul and once again maximising every opportunity presented to them proved to be a successful weekend for the pink panthers.
Felipe Massa(Grid : P8, Race : P10)
Lance Stroll(Grid : P15, Race : DNF)
Williams struggled in the race. They had good pace over one lap and that is why Felipe Massa found himself starting in 8th position but they didn't have good race pace. Lance Stroll had a puncture with only 8-9 laps to go and was unable to continue in the race, therefore, culminating in a sad afternoon for him. Massa had a tumultuous time himself and found himself struggling holding up a train of cars before just managing to grab a solitary point.
Verdict : Intriguing weekend, impressive in Qualifying but not in the race. They will hope to understand the problems as soon as possible.
Carlos Sainz Jr.(Grid : P19, Race : DNF)
Pierre Gasly(Grid : P14, Race : P13)
After it was confirmed that Carlos Sainz will race for Renault after this weekend, he was looking to finish his Toro Rosso stint in style. Sadly, he overdid it and while being over-aggressive on Lap 1, he spun himself out and couldn't continue his race. Pierre Gasly, in only his second race in F1, provided glimpses of composure but he locked up his front-right tire and had a huge flat spot which resulted in him in making an extra pit-stop and ruling him out of points contention. Without the flat spot, he could have had his first points but it just wasn't meant to be.
Verdict: Separate driver errors stopped Toro Rosso from fully expressing their pace and the drivers will definitely hope to learn from this.
Romain Grosjean(Grid : P13, Race : P9)
Kevin Magnussen(Grid : P12, Race : P8)
A good effort from Haas, they got both of their cars in the points for the second time in their short history but it was a good effort which helped them regain 7th position in the Constructors championship leapfrogging Renault in the process. They were pacy, quicker than their immediate rivals, drivers made no substantial errors throughout the race and had a good strategy. Overall, a nice weekend for the American team.
Verdict: Good double points finish giving them some crucial Constructors' Championship points which will definitely help their cause to finish as high as possible.
Nico Hulkenberg(Grid : P11, Race : DNF)
Jolyon Palmer(Grid : P18, Race : P12)
A very different strategy in which Renault went very deep into the first stint on Soft tires and unleashed their pace to the fullest in the latter stage was ambitious. But, with Hulkenberg's bizarre rear wing problem due to which the DRS was left open forced him to retire the car. He was absolutely fuming over this issue and didn't even come in the TV pen to give an interview. Palmer had a lonely race, if there had been an extra lap, maybe on the faster Supersoft compound he could have overtaken Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in the end and could have taken a point in his final race for Renault. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Verdict: Odd strategy raises a few eyebrows and also poses some tantalizing 'what if?' questions about lost opportunities.
Stoffel Vandoorne(Grid : P9, Race : P14)
Fernando Alonso(Grid : P20, Race : P11)
A very uneventful race for McLaren-Honda on their engine suppliers' home Grand Prix. They maintain the dubious unwanted record of never scoring together ever since they have joined hands with Honda in 2015. Stoffel Vandoorne had a shocking start and was there at the end of the F1 grid at the end of the first lap. Fernando Alonso was very close to a points finish and probably fought too hard due to which he got a penalty for not adhering to blue flags when Lewis Hamilton was behind him. After promising performances in Singapore and Malaysia, they won't be too happy this weekend.
Verdict : Won't be too pleased as they can't cope up with the pace of Haas and probably couldn't have been ahead of Nico Hulkenberg either if he had completed the race.
Pascal Wehrlein(Grid : P17, Race : P15)
Marcus Ericsson(Grid : P16, Race : DNF)
Another week where Sauber where they were too much off the pace for their own liking. Marcus Ericsson who had finished every Japanese Grand Prix ahead of his teammate before this year crashed his car which was a complete driver error and will be gutted with himself. Having said that, he will be keen to show his worth to teams to secure a seat in F1 for 2018 just like his teammate.