Thursday 22 February 2018 / 09:15 PM


The final race of the Asian section of the Formula 1 schedule took place on Sunday at the challenging Suzuka course in Japan, the 16th round of the Championship. And the reliability of the Ferraris again dogged the team as Lewis Hamilton extended his lead, while the Red Bulls again got both drivers on the podium.

Ferrari were hungry to put their past two races of woe behind them in Free Practice 1, as Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time, just pipping Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. The session was halted after Carlos Sainz made a small error and hit the barriers quite strongly, doing extensive damage to his Toro Rosso – but thankfully, none to him.

A few hours later the second practice session began with heavy rain constantly pouring down. Only five drivers braved the conditions to set timed laps, with Hamilton leading the field while all Red Bull and Hass cars chose to keep dry. Both Force Indias rounded out the top three with both Williams cars behind them as the only cars to set lap times.

Carlos Sainz managed to get his car rebuilt in time for him to post two laps – neither flying laps, purely to test out the newly-installed components to his engine, which in turn cost him a 20 grid-place penalty. Valtteri Bottas also received a grid penalty, of just five places, after fitting a new gearbox. The end of FP2 also revealed that McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer would both receive 20 grid-place penalties for replacing their power units.

The drama continued on a damp day two when Bottas set the fastest lap of the session only to push too hard in the ‘spoon’ section, which saw his car drift off the track and hit the wall, damaging the rear of the car and the front wing. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen followed suit shortly after, hitting the tyre barrier. Hamilton was very narrowly second to his team mate Bottas with Vettel running third. Raikkonen’s crash saw him replacing his gearbox and thus a five grid-place penalty.

The first qualifying session came to a premature end after Romain Grosjean’s Haas went over the kerb, causing him to lose control and hitting the wall hard. Hamilton set the pace in Q1 with Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third. Q2 saw Hamilton smash the track record to again set the fastest lap, with Vettel almost half a second adrift in second place and Bottas in third. In the race for pole, it was all Mercedes, with Hamilton nearly half a second quicker than Bottas with Vettel in third and both the Red Bulls behind.

There was a sense of déjà vu on the grid as the Ferrari pit crew were frantically working on a Ferrari prior to the race, however this time it was Vettel with the issues. This time, though, everything seemed to be rectified and the race started with Vettel alongside Hamilton on the front row. Vettel made a strong start, as did the Red Bulls and Esteban Ocon. Verstappen made a stunning move to pass Vettel at the hairpin to claim second place and shortly after Vettel was passed by Ocon, Ricciardo and Bottas before Vettel’s car was retired just two laps later.

On lap 9, Marcus Ericsson hit his Sauber into the wall, which saw a Virtual Safety Car deployed, helping Verstappen close his gap on Hamilton. Verstappen pitted first in an attempt to undercut Hamilton, but was not successful. Hamilton looked to struggle slightly with the new tyres, and after Lance Stroll’s Williams’ suspension broke, bringing out another VSC, Verstappen had closed the gap.

Verstappen was pushing hard to try and claim a second win in successive races but Hamilton did enough to keep him at bay, winning by just over a second. Ricciardo again found himself under pressure to hold onto his podium, this time from Bottas, however the Australian got the job done to finish third with Bottas right on his tail. Raikkonen came home in fifth ahead of Ocon who was pushed by teammate Perez for sixth place. The Haas cars followed next with Felipe Massa rounding out the top 10 in his Williams.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
2 – Verstappen (Red Bull)
3 – Ricciardo (Red Bull)
4 – Bottas (Mercedes)
5 – Raikkonen (Ferrari)
6 – Ocon (Force India)
7 – Perez (Force India)
8 – Magnussen (Haas)
9 – Grosjean (Haas)
10 – Massa (Williams)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton – 306
2 – Vettel – 247
3 – Bottas – 234
4 – Ricciardo – 192
5 – Raikkonen – 148
6 – Verstappen – 111
7 – Perez – 82
8 – Ocon – 65
9 – Sainz – 48
10 – Hulkenberg – 34

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 540
2 – Ferrari – 395
3 – Red Bull – 303
4 – Force India – 147
5 – Williams – 66
6 – Toro Rosso – 52
7 – Haas – 43
8 – Renault – 42
9 – McLaren – 23
10 – Sauber – 5

[YouTube – Formula 1]

Add Comment

About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

More motorsport News

Special Features