Rating the drivers for their performance at the Japanese Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel | Infiniti Red Bull Racing | 1st | 9/10
It wasn’t the lights-to-flag victory that had been expected, but Vettel executed his two-stop strategy to perfection to claim his fifth successive victory – a feat not achieved in the sport since 2004. Pushed when he needed to, maintained a strong pace when he didn’t and now the title awaits in two weeks’ time in India.
Mark Webber | Infiniti Red Bull Racing | 3rd | 9/10
Webber admitted that his pole position was slightly ‘hollow’ in light of Vettel’s KERS failure in Q3 but he seized his opportunity and set two laps good enough for top spot. His start was poor but he was still in contention; a three stop strategy was a winnable one but he took too long to get past Grosjean.
Fernando Alonso | Scuderia Ferrari | 4th | 8/10
Alonso was again found lacking during the final moments of qualifying as he could manage only the eighth fastest time. He stayed out of trouble at the start and had a few nibbles at trying to get through on Massa. He eventually made the move stick and then later on dispensed with Hülkenberg to grab fourth.
Felipe Massa | Scuderia Ferrari | 10th | 5/10
Massa emphasised on Thursday that his experience should help him in his quest for a 2014 race seat. But despite harbouring the speed over a single lap – as in Korea – his race pace was again lacking compared to Alonso. Speeding in the pits was a silly error and cost him some points.
Jenson Button | Vodafone McLaren Mercedes | 9th | 6/10
There are glimmers of hope on the horizon for McLaren courtesy of the acquisition of Red Bull’s chief of aero Peter Prodromou, as well as the Honda partnership from 2015. But that’s still 18 months away and for now Button has to be content with a couple of points.
Sergio Pérez | Vodafone McLaren Mercedes | 15th | 5/10
Pérez’s miserable season continues as, in his own words, “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.” Pérez was hanging onto the group including Alonso during the first stint but a slow stop and a puncture dropped him out of contention. Crash during second practice won’t have helped his 2014 prospects.
Kimi Räikkönen | Lotus | 5th | 6/10
It was a messy weekend for Räikkönen. The Finn lost control in second practice, scuppering his long run and losing Lotus valuable data. Qualifying was again underwhelming and while he recovered to fifth, he should have been closer to Grosjean. His race pace remains among the best in the sport, but he leaves himself with too much to do on Saturday.
Romain Grosjean | Lotus | 3rd | 10/10
Grosjean judged the start to perfection and leapt into the lead, one which he retained through the opening stints. He was unable to prevent Vettel and Webber from passing him but it was a mature and measured drive that demonstrated his ability to lead Lotus in 2014. The contrast compared to 2012 was striking; no more ‘first lap nutcase.’
Nico Rosberg | Mercedes AMG Petronas | 8th | 7/10
Rosberg had few complaints with regards to his drive through penalty but he was less effusive about the driving ability of Pérez. The two made contact under braking at the chicane and Rosberg profited from their minor collision. Eighth place was scant reward for his efforts when fourth place was on the cards.
Lewis Hamilton | Mercedes AMG Petronas | Ret| 7/10
Hamilton made a strong start compared to his rivals on the front row but was squeezed in and made the lightest of touches with Vettel. A puncture followed and a lap of the circuit with the tyre flailing caused irreparable damage to his Mercedes, leaving him out of the race for the first time in 2013.
Nico Hulkenberg | Sauber | 6th | 8/10
Sauber’s remarkable transformation continues; after leaving Spa-Francorchamps at the end of August the team had just seven points. Now, four races later, they have amassed 45 and are closing in on Force India. McLaren might remain elusively out of reach, but Hülkenberg has taken his opportunities with aplomb.
Esteban Gutierrez | Sauber | 7th | 8/10
Gutiérrez’s performance in Japan was similar to a week ago in Korea, but this time he was rewarded with a healthy dose of points. He built on a strong start to run comfortably in the top 10 and while an audacious move on Massa was unsuccessful, he composed himself and was able to defend superbly against Rosberg at the end.
Paul di Resta | Sahara Force India | 11th | 6/10
A poor start marooned him behind tardier rivals in the midfield, forcing his hand earlier and shortening his first stints. The knock-on impact meant that he had to run a longer final stint and was unable to prevent Button from passing him. 11th was hardly a result to shout about, but at least he put in a clean race.
Adrian Sutil | Sahara Force India | 14th | 5/10
Sutil’s crash during final practice left him with a five place penalty for a gearbox change and setting only the 17th quickest time in Q1 meant he would start plum last. He rocketed away at the start and climbed up to 16th, but further progress proved difficult and he finished outside of the points.
Pastor Maldonado | Williams | 16th | 5/10
The wheels came off of Williams’s season long ago but it the team took the phrase too literally on Friday and copped a hefty fine. Maldonado needed to make up for lost time and promptly stuffed into the barriers. He didn’t seem too happy with the team in his TV interview post-race and knows that his healthy sponsorship package is important.
Valtteri Bottas | Williams | 17th | 6/10
Bottas acquitted himself well considering the challenges that Suzuka poses (unlike his more esteemed colleague) and was racing well until the sister car nudged him off at the final corner. Bottas, usually a paragon of calmness, was pretty unimpressed with Maldonado’s actions, not that it mattered in the long term.
Jean-Eric Vergne | Scuderia Toro Rosso | 12th| 6/10
Vergne’s luckless season took a smoky turn in Q1 when his rear brakes jammed and his STR8 caught fire. Pyromaniacs with an interest in Formula 1 were also treated to unburnt fuel in Gutiérrez’s Sauber igniting following his first run in qualifying. Fortunately for all involved, the quick reaction of mechanics prevented catastrophe.
Daniel Ricciardo | Scuderia Toro Rosso | 13th | 7/10
Ricciardo’s penalty may have appeared a little harsh, but all too frequently the stewards find themselves under a barrage of criticism for being inconsistent. They applied the law laid down in the rulebook and Ricciardo copped a penalty that cost him a point. Would he have done the same move if there was gravel there?
Charles Pic | Caterham | 18th | 6/10
Pic was the first recipient of a new penalty which meant he started the race knowing he’d have to serve a drive through penalty within the first five laps. He suffered a high speed half-spin at 130r early on but regrouped and beat Chilton to 18th place.
Giedo van der Garde | Caterham | Ret | 4/10
He threw the car off the road on Friday morning but the error at the start of the race was a far heftier impact. He clipped the back of Bianchi’s Marussia and speared off the circuit, destined for a one way ticket into the barriers. He was fortunate to walk away without injury.
Jules Bianchi | Marussia | Ret | 4/10
Bianchi suffered an unusual shunt when he got his elbow stuck and was unable to correct the car. He missed almost all of Friday’s running while Marussia fixed his car, but it was good to see that Bianchi got stuck in among the mechanics and didn’t shy away from his duties.
Max Chilton | Marussia | 19th | 6/10
Japan proved to be Chilton’s most accomplished weekend of the season; he was unable to beat Pic in the race but he beat both Caterham drivers in qualifying after what was a very good lap.