Japanese Grand Prix: Race Recap

Event:  Japanese Grand Prix (Round 17 of 21)

Date:  Sunday, Oct. 7

Location:  Suzuka Circuit

Layout:  5.807-kilometer (3.608-mile), 18-turn track

Weather:  Sunny and breezy

Air Temps:  27.7-29.2 degrees Celsius (81.9-84.6 degrees Fahrenheit)

Track Temps:  34.5-39.3 degrees Celsius (94.1-102.7 degrees Fahrenheit)

Race Winner:  Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes

Haas F1 Team:  

●  Romain Grosjean – Started 5th, Finished 8th (Running, completed 53/53 laps)

●  Kevin Magnussen – Started 12th, Finished 20th (Accident, completed 8/53 laps)

Haas F1 Team gained three more points on fourth-place Renault in the constructors’ standings as driver Romain Grosjean delivered an eighth-place result in the Japanese Grand Prix Sunday at Suzuka Circuit. Teammate Kevin Magnussen finished 20th after a flat left-rear tire at the start of the race damaged his racecar too much to continue.

The American squad remains fifth in the constructors’ ranks, but cut the gap to Renault to eight points after Grosjean secured his fifth points-paying drive in this year’s FIA Formula One World Championship. Haas F1 Team also extended its advantage over sixth-place McLaren to 26 points.

Grosjean began the 53-lap race around the 5.807-kilometer (3.608-mile), 18-turn track that first opened in 1962 as a testing venue for Honda from fifth in the 20-car field. A clean start allowed Grosjean to hold his position until Sebastian Vettel wheeled his Ferrari around Grosjean at the kink in turn 12, between the hairpin and Spoon corners.

Grosjean returned to the top-five on lap eight when a charging Vettel clashed with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, sending Vettel into a spin. Fifth place was short-lived, however, as the other Red Bull piloted by Daniel Ricciardo, passed Grosjean for fifth in the turn-16 chicane.

Grosjean continued to pinball between fifth and sixth as Kimi Räikkönen pitted his Ferrari on lap 17, allowing Grosjean to retake fifth. But as soon as Räikkönen emerged from the pit lane, he filled the mirrors of Grosjean’s Haas VF-18. Räikkönen eventually passed Grosjean for position on lap 23, sending him back to sixth.

With the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires Grosjean started the race with thoroughly used up, Grosjean pitted on lap 29, switching to a new set of White medium tires that would carry him to the finish. He lost only one spot, emerging from the pit lane and back onto the racetrack just ahead of the Force India of Sergio Perez.

Grosjean retook sixth place when Carlos Sainz Jr. pitted his Renault on lap 32, but in a case of déjà vu, it didn’t last long as a resurgent Vettel grabbed sixth when the duo entered Spoon, jettisoning Grosjean to seventh.

A brief Virtual Safety Car period came on lap 41, but racing resumed on the following lap, whereupon Perez quickly challenged Grosjean. Perez made his move in the chicane to take seventh. Shortly thereafter, Perez’s Force India teammate, Esteban Ocon, was eyeing Grosjean for eighth. Grosjean was able to hold him off to secure Haas F1 Team’s 11th points-paying performance of 2018.

The four points earned by Grosjean in the Japanese Grand Prix gave him 31 on the season, the most he has scored in his three years with Haas F1 Team. Grosjean scored all 29 points in the team’s inaugural 2016 season and 28 points last year.

Lewis Hamilton won the 30th Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka from the pole to earn his 71st career Formula One victory, his series-leading ninth this season and his fourth in a row. Hamilton beat his Mercedes teammate and second-place starter, Valtteri Bottas, by 12.919 seconds to take his fourth victory at Suzuka and maintain Mercedes’ recent dominance at the track, as no other team has won the Japanese Grand Prix since 2013. Hamilton also won in 2014, 2015 and 2017 while former teammate Nico Rosberg won in 2016.

Hamilton’s win, combined with Vettel’s sixth-place finish, allowed Hamilton to extend his lead in the championship standings to 67 points over Vettel, with the Scuderia Ferrari driver being Hamilton’s closest pursuer in this year’s title chase.

Magnussen is eighth in the driver’s championship with 53 points and Grosjean is 13th with the aforementioned 31 points.

Only four races remain, with the next event being the United States Grand Prix Oct. 21 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

“We need to analyze what happened with the Virtual Safety Car restart. I was right on my delta time and Perez, when the gap was 2.4 seconds before, overtook me straight away. We need to check and see if there is not a problem in the system there. I thought I had done the job on my side. We did our best. We had a few technical issues on the car, which didn’t make our life easy. I think without those, we clearly had the pace to be in front of all those guys. Onto the next one.”

“Well, I passed Charles (Leclerc) around the outside of 130R, then through the last chicane he kept close and slipstreamed down the main straight. I went to the right, I think he followed for a bit and then went back to the left and clipped my left-rear tire, causing the puncture. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what happens sometimes. The tire delaminated and ripped all the floor. It damaged the rear wing, the brake ducts, etc., so we had to retire.”

“Not the best of our days. The incident with Kevin, where Leclerc ran straight into him, took him out of the race, so we were one car down. Grosjean had a few issues with the car, with the telemetry, and with the handling of it. The car was pulling on the straights. At one point we thought he had a puncture, but luckily we didn’t. Then we had the incident with Perez overtaking us at the Virtual Safety Car, which we still need to look into. The good side is we closed the gap to Renault by three points, and I hope we make the rest up in the next four races.”

Round 18 of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship is the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Practice begins Oct. 19, qualifying takes place Oct. 20 and the race runs Oct. 21.