Japanese Grand Prix – The Race


So quickly skiddaddling over the Korean Grand Prix and the ahem non-blog which can be read here, the Vettel-sponsored F1 roadshow is now in the Land of the Rising Sun. What thrills await us this weekend? Please let there be thrills and not another horrifically dull race where the eventual race winner has opened up an unassailable 20 second lead by the first corner. Its nothing personal against Sebastian. He is a great driver in a great car yadda yadda but I am SO BORED ALREADY.

So its me, myself and the 3 year old home alone this morning while the husband and the 6 year old do some rugby thing in the pissing torrential rain. I suspect I will never hear the end of it. Anyhoo lets hope there are enough Peppa Pig episodes to see me through the Japanese Grand Prix. Ah Suzuka. You have given us so many classic, epic races and the drivers absolutely freaking love it. Bring It On.

Daddy Pig please box at the end of this lap!

Daddy Pig in a car. Its the best I could do!

Sebastian could today be crowned world champion if he wins and Alonso finishes 9th or worst. Alonso starts in 8th. Portent of Doom Alert.

Sky opened with a fitting and lovely tribute to Maria De Villota who tragically died on Friday from the injuries she sustained during her terrible crash in July 2012. What an inspirational and special woman.

Maria de Villota, 1980-2013

Maria de Villota, 1980-2013

So Suzuka: The Track of Dreams where (insert  Doctor Death voice)…

  • Chaos Causes Controversy – see Senna and Prost 1989-1990.
  • Emotions Overpower Individuals – see Eddie Irvine (and oh my good Lord hasn’t he aged well!!!)
  • Performances of Perfection – see Damon Hill in 1994, Raikkonen in 2005, Button in 2011.
  • Racers with No Limits – too many to mention.
  • The Atmosphere is Unique – see Kobayashi’s podium last year (how he hasn’t a drive this year is criminal).
  • Champions Crowned – see Damon Hill in 1996, Hakkinen in 1998, Schumacher in 2000, Vettel in 2011. Actually where is Damon this weekend?
Two more different team-mates you could never find. Eddie Irvine and Michael.

Two more different team-mates you could never find. Eddie Irvine and Michael.

All in all quite a long montage. Boy do they love a good montage on Sky.

So time for #MartinsGridWalk. And Martin is in the queue behind Tanja (and some upstart from RTL rocking an ill-advised gangster look!) to speak to Vettel. Quick chat with Niki Lauda who comments on Webber being a rubbish starter (which he is) then predicts that the Red Bulls will disappear then a huge bunfight behind for track position. Can’t argue with that. Grosjean isn’t speaking. Rosberg only speaks to German TV, Massa isn’t speaking. Thank the Lord (in so many ways) for Rob Smedley who will speak. He says that Massa is enjoying himself. Slightly bizarre moment when Martin told Rob to ditch the beard as girls don’t fancy him as much (*might have just been thinking exactly that thought….ahem). What a dull old gridwalk. Where are all the celebrities? Where is Bernie? Where is David Beckham? Where is anyone? Its not like it’s a dull circuit. Its Suzuka!! Sake.

So the grid lines up thus:

  1. Webber
  2. Vettel
  3. Hamilton
  4. Grosjean
  5. Rosberg
  6. Massa (outqualified Alonso in 3 of the last 4 races)
  7. Alonso
  8. Hulkenberg
  9. Raikkonen (outqualified by Grosjean ever since he signed for Ferrari)
  10. Button

Lights out and its Go Go Go!! And what the FREAKING GOOD LORD IS THIS?!?! Grosjean LEADS the Japanese Grand Prix. What an incredible start. Hamilton and Vettel had contact which resulted in a right rear puncture and a full-blown tyre delamination for Hamilton and seemingly nothing for Vettel in his teflon cyclone-proof car. And not surprisingly all the cars were very bunched up behind Grosjean from the get go.

The start of the Japanese GP 2013

The start of the Japanese GP 2013

Collision between Van Der Garde and Bianchi. Cue post-race investigation. The poor old sods. What’s the point in penalising them or giving them a grid-place drop. They’re practically always last as it is.

Lewis is told over the radio there is some aero performance missing. His response “yes the car is all over the place”. Oh dear.

Intriguingly Grosjean is now setting fastest laps. On lap 7, Kimi takes Button for 10th place. Meanwhile Massa is keeping Alonso at bay and hanging onto P5 for dear life. Rob radios Massa to inform him its Strategy A (is that code for allowing Alonso to pass? Hmmmm). And Hamilton retires. News of which is delivered by Ted Kravitz with such despondency that you’d think Lewis’s entire F1 career had come to an end.

Ted - the David Dimbleby of F1

Ted – the David Dimbleby of F1

The main battle appeared to be the 4 way scrap for 4th place between Rosberg, the two Ferraris and Hulkenberg. That could be tasty. And the burning question was when Grosjean would pit and let the Red Bulls off their leash. Webber pitted on lap 12 after failing miserably to reel in Grosjean. I like Mark but yeah its time to call it a day.

Button is now setting fastest laps – he might only be 12th but one to watch if he has a clever strategy as he adores driving round Suzuka*.

* post-race edit – what do I know?

In comes Grosjean on lap 13 and he is back out ahead of Mark Webber. And an unsafe release for Rosberg who nearly clattered into the path of Perez in the pits. What an utterly abysmal afternoon for Mercedes. Not said that for a while hey. Massa pitted ahead of Alonso (first dibs on pits – surely not?!!) and bouncing back nicely from the near miss in the pits, Perez took his team-mate for 11th place.

Lap 15 and Vettel pits so that’s a nailed on two stop strategy and rejoins behind Grosjean and Webber. But with only 4 seconds covering the top three, I think we all know how this is going to end up. Poor old Nico Rosberg gets a drive-through penalty. Tough on Nico as it was hardly his bloody fault. Interestingly Rocky is telling Vettel to hold tight and leave Mark where he is. Sub-text for ‘if you try to overtake Mark he will take you off’.

The battle for 4th rages on with slightly different participants now of Ricciardo (hey?), Hulk, Massa and Alonso! And finally on lap 20, Alonso moves ahead of Massa. Crofty says he just had better traction. Shyeah right. Nothing to do with the Number One clause in his contract then?

Clause 1 in Massa's Ferrari contract "your team-mate is always faster than you"

Clause 1 in Massa’s Ferrari contract “your team-mate is always faster than you”

And a brave move by Hulkenberg on Ricciardo quickly followed by Alonso moments later. It might just be time for Ricciardo to whack on some new tyres! Massa is suddenly all over the place banging wheels with Gutierrez and only just hanging on to 7th place. And sure enough Ricciardo pits on lap 23. Bring on the Hulkenberg and Alonso fight. According to Martin the Hulk has more or less signed for a team although one team principal has said he isn’t really convinced by Hulkenberg. Are they mad? I think he’s a superb driver.

And Ted bring us news of an Epic Catastrophe. Are we are at war with France? No, it just turns out that Jenson had a slow pitstop. Thanks Ted. Meanwhile Mark Webber is clawing his way right up behind Grosjean and on lap 25 he pits.

So at the halfway point, the race order is: 1. Grosjean 2. Vettel 3. Webber 4. Hulk and 5. Alonso (but with plenty of pitstops to come and Sebastian Vettel to throw a spanner in the works!). If Grosjean wants the win, he has to stay out and take the fight to Webber. Tough call.

Radio message to Vettel saying “we are not racing Mark, we are racing Grosjean”. Interesting. Lets face it Seb is about a zillion points ahead in the championship so he can slum it on the second step of the podium for just the one race. Can’t he?*

* post-race edit – apparently no.

Ooooh a big lock up from Grosjean – that’ll nicely fry his tyres. Still its not like he has a 3 time world champion behind him or anything. Oh. And on lap 29, Grosjean pits. Much much earlier than they would have hoped. Drat, damn and blast.

All sorts of minor excitements. Ricciardo has been slapped with a drive-through penalty. Perez has had the same problems in the pits as Button with getting the right rear changed. Battle of the R’s for 7th place – Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Rosberg. Massa is being investigated for speeding in the pitlane. Blimey the clipboard army are out in force.

Clipboard army were out in force this weekend

Even Vettel is making a lot of mistakes. Feeling the pressure or far more likely he is actually boring himself with his sheer dominance. Now Raikkonen has woken up is absolutely flying round the track. Fastest laps and all sorts.

Vettel is ordered to box on lap 37 and Grosjean retakes the lead of the race. Please for the love of God, just let Grosjean win this race. We desperately need to have a different race winner. And having literally just penned those words, in a classic Murray Walker ‘kiss of death’ moment, Sebastian Vettel overtook Grosjean to lead the race. <Sobs hysterically> It all happened in the period of time it took me to set up the Mister Maker DVD. Will no one rid me of this imbecilic man? Mister Maker not Vettel.

Grosjean leads Vettel. Exciting while it lasted!

Grosjean leads Vettel. Well it was exciting while it lasted.

So Webber pits again on lap 43 and trundles back out into 3rd place. I might be wrong but I fear the race could be entering a Boring Phase. He’s laying down some rubber out there is old Mark but we all know he won’t win. Sorry Mark.

Vettel just radioed to say “keep him away from me”. Is he talking about Webber? Lets be honest it will be a miracle if Mark passes Grosjean let alone get to within a sniff of Vettel! Alonso has now moved into 4th place passing Hulkenberg who is having another very impressive race.

Three laps to go and still Grosjean is clinging onto second spot for dear life. It must be hard to take but the difference with Vettel and Webber is that Vettel converts the poles into wins and Mark by and large er doesn’t. The peerless Red Bull is obviously a mahoosive factor but it does not drive itself to race wins. Sorry Mark.

GOOD LORD. On lap 52, Webber manages to overtake the Lotus but alas he is over 8 seconds behind Vettel. A bit further back down the track, Gutierrez is driving beautifully to keep Rosberg at bay. Not sure what the deal is at Mercedes at the moment. The whole team seems to have lost its mojo. The huge uncertainty regarding Ross Brawn’s future can’t be helping. Surely they must see what 99% of the F1 watching population can see and realise it is imperative they give Ross Brawn whatever the hell he wants (make him THE team principal, sack all the other team principals they keep recruiting and give Ross unfettered decision-making).

In other news: Vettel has won the Japanese Grand Prix. His 9th win of the season. A fifth place in India (oh holy cow is it the blandathon race of India next? *slips into a coma*) will secure Vettel the title. So done deal then. He seems inordinately happy “you’re the best team in the world, I love you”. I might be a little bit sick.

Another race. Another win.

Another race. Another win.

Well done to Gutierrez for his FIRST points in F1 as he finishes 7th ahead of Nico Rosberg.

Here are the results from the Japanese Grand Prix 2013:

  1. Vettel – Repeat on loop for the rest of the season.
  2. Webber – Forever the bridesmaid (actually not normally even the bridesmaid) but a nice way to bow out of Suzuka for Mark.
  3. Grosjean – Fabulous drive and so pleased he is proving those critics wrong.
  4. Alonso – Really needs to sort out his terrible quali performances because he gives himself a mountain to climb every race.
  5. Kimi – Another driver who seems to have lost some mojo. Maybe his mind is already in a red car.
  6. Hulkenberg – Where, where, where is Hulk going next year? I fervently hope its Lotus.

Turns out Damon Hill had a reboot in the form of Susie Wolff this race. Not sure when they booked her in but it seemed fitting to have a female F1 driver perspective this weekend of all weekends. There is something of a female David Coulthard-bot about her but she’s so much warmer and more engaging in front of the camera.

So that was Japan. Same old same old. In a way I’m hoping the title will be wrapped up in India (which lets face it is normally a race of unmitigated dross) so we can have some blood and thunder all-out racing in the final three races.

Suzuka, 2000. A beautiful moment.

Suzuka, 2000. A beautiful moment.

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