Japanese GP: Driver Ratings

By on Monday, October 6, 2014

Rating the drivers for their performance in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, a race which was marred by the terrible accident suffered by Marussia's Jules Bianchi.

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

1 | Sebastian Vettel | Red Bull-Renault | Grid: 9th | R: 3rd | 8/10

On Friday night he dropped the bombshell that he was leaving Red Bull, somewhat overshadowing a sub-par qualifying effort which left him in ninth place. Managed to jump Daniel Ricciardo through the pit stop phase and emerged ahead of Jenson Button when the Brit had a steering wheel change. Trip through the gravel cost him time, but he retained third. After four years at the top, he is not mathematically out of title contention.

3 | Daniel Ricciardo | Red Bull-Renault | G: 6th | R: 4th | 8/10

Ricciardo made a rare error when he went off at the final corner in second practice but he made amends by qualifying in sixth. Stopping early for Intermediates actually left him behind Vettel, but a couple of majestic moves on the Williams driver were another demonstration of his talent. Late move on Button gained him fourth

44 | Lewis Hamilton | Mercedes | G: 2nd | R: 1st | 9/10

Crash in final practice put him slightly on the back foot but he admitted never feeling fully on it during qualifying as he finished second best. His pace was impressive in the race despite a couple of errors, the second when his car snapped sideways approaching turn one. Move a lap later was breathtaking and crucial in context of title fight.

6 | Nico Rosberg | Mercedes | G: 1st | R: 2nd | 7/10

Claimed his eighth pole of the year with a fine lap and was fastest throughout the entirety of Q3. He led away on the wet tyres but after switching to Inters he never had the same amount of confidence, which he attributed to the balance issues and struggling with oversteer. This was another sub-par performance, but he remains in championship contention.

14 | Fernando Alonso | Ferrari | G: 5th| R: Ret | 7/10

Scuderia Ferrari

Scuderia Ferrari

The will-he-won’t-he saga of Alonso’s future rumbled on yet again, although Vettel’s announcement somewhat trumped Alonso and left him in a weakened position. Fifth in qualifying was par for the course, but he didn’t get a chance to race when the car conked out.

7 | Kimi Räikkönen | Ferrari | G: 10th | R: 12th | 4/10

Räikkönen’s qualifying efforts were hampered by a Power Unit issue in practice but Ferrari’s mechanics did a superb job in dismantling and reassembling the car in just two hours! It did leave Räikkönen on the back foot and balance issues, especially in sector one, exacerbated matters. Couldn’t make progress in the race and a slow stop exacerbated his woes.

8 | Romain Grosjean | Lotus-Renault | G: 16th | R: 15th | 5/10

Lotus looked slightly better in practice but come qualifying the car regressed to the mean and Grosjean was left marooned in 18th place. Pace wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t good enough for Grosjean to make huge progress and his race was hampered by excessive tyre wear.

13 | Pastor Maldonado | Lotus-Renault | G: 22nd | R: 16th | 4/10

Maldonado managed to beat Grosjean in qualifying but a 10 place penalty dropped him to the back of the grid – and he has to serve the remainder at Sochi. Early switch to Inters didn’t work as he went off a few times, while he also copped a 20 second penalty due to speeding in the pits.

22 | Jenson Button | McLaren-Mercedes | G: 8th | R: 5th | 9/10

McLaren Mercedes

McLaren Mercedes

Quick in FP2 but wasn’t able to carry that into qualifying, with a lock-up accentuating matters. But in the race he starred as he gambled on Intermediate tyres (Jenson Button with an inspired tyre choice, who’d have thought it) and only lost a podium due to a slow stop for a steering wheel change. Showed just why he remains a classy driver.

20 | Kevin Magnussen | McLaren-Mercedes | G: 7th | R: 14th | 5/10

Magnussen was sixth in both Q1 and Q2 and a few mistakes on his hot lap in Q3 left him in seventh. He was running well during the initial stages but had to make an unscheduled stop due to electronics problems and he fell outside of the points, with a neat 360 spin not helping matters.

27 | Nico Hülkenberg | Force India-Mercedes | G: 13th | R: 8th | 7/10

Q2 was a tight old affair and a big lock-up approaching the Casio Triangle was the difference between a place in the top 10 and a spot on the seventh row of the grid. Late stop for Inters allowed him to gain a few places and from there he raced well, collecting eighth on count back having stopped at the end of the pit lane.

11 | Sergio Pérez | Force India-Mercedes | G: 11th | R: 10th | 7/10

Messy final lap – traffic, brakes cooling too much – in Q2 meant he abandoned his effort and got knocked out. He went off twice on his way to the grid but in the race he performed admirably and was unlucky that the timing of his second stop dropped him down the order.

99 | Adrian Sutil | Sauber-Ferrari | G: 15th | R: 21st | 4/10

Sauber F1 Team

Sauber F1 Team

Sutil, sporting a garish helmet, made a slight breakthrough in Q2 and managed to trump Esteban Gutiérrez by three-tenths of a second. He usually excels in wet weather but was unable to make progress and crashed out towards the end.

21 | Esteban Gutiérrez | Sauber-Ferrari | G: 16th | R: 13th | 7/10

Had a minor off in second practice which didn’t aid his progress at a circuit where he scored points a year ago. Unable to get tyres up to temperature in Q2 and thus his lap was fairly average. He raced well considering the deficiencies of the Sauber C33 – he made it into the top 10 briefly – but soon regressed to the mean.

25 | Jean-Éric Vergne | Toro Rosso-Renault | G: 21st | R: 9th | 9/10

Vergne was overlooked for Red Bull seat for the second successive season and while he qualified in 11th, a sixth ICE meant he dropped to 21st. However, he didn’t let that get him down and in conditions in which he typically thrives, he stormed through the midfield and finished ninth. Is anyone watching?

26 | Daniil Kvyat | Toro Rosso-Renault | G: 12th | R: 11th | 8/10

Kvyat arrived at the circuit prior to qualifying with a Red Bull seat in his pocket, just a year after winning the GP3 crown – not bad! His race was decent, but the timing of the red flag hurt his strategy and he missed out on a point.

19 | Felipe Massa | Williams-Mercedes | G: 4th | R: 7th | 6/10

Williams Martini Racing

Williams Martini Racing

Massa had a difficult time in practice but he found some pace to complete the second row for Williams. Race was a more challenging affair due to Williams’s wet weather issues and the Brazilian was helpless to defend against the Red Bull pair.

77 | Valtteri Bottas | Williams-Mercedes | G: 3rd | R: 6th | 7/10

Bottas was fighting to be best of the rest throughout the weekend so it was little surprise to see him line up in third place, behind only the Mercedes drivers. Williams’s problems in wet weather reared their head again, leaving him to settle for sixth.

17 | Jules Bianchi | Marussia-Ferrari | G: 18th | R: 20th | N/A

Bianchi was performing with typical style shortly prior to his terrible accident. We hope that Bianchi is able to make a full recovery from such a horrible situation and our thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time.

4 | Max Chilton | Marussia-Ferrari | G: 20th | R: 18th | 6/10

Chilton had built up a good advantage in the first sector but he made a mistake towards the end of the lap and scuppered his efforts. Managed to beat Kobayashi in the race, but was unable to challenge Ericsson.

10 | Kamui Kobayashi | Caterham-Renault | G: 19th | R: 19th | 5/10

Caterham F1 Team

Caterham F1 Team

Missed first practice so shunt in the second session put him firmly on the back foot. His hot lap in qualifying was consequently his first attempt on Options so he did a good job in the circumstances. But in the race he lacked pace and consequently his end result was slightly disappointing.

9 | Marcus Ericsson | Caterham-Renault | G: 17th | R: 17th | 8/10

Kobayashi’s problems and Ericsson’s prior knowledge of Suzuka from his F3 days aided his progress, but qualifying result was still comparatively strong. Spun on the opening lap but after which he drove magnificently as he raced to 17th place – by far his best performance of a difficult season.


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