Following Lewis Hamilton's 41st victory which equalled Ayrton Senna on the all-time list, F1i looks back at how the Japanese Grand Prix unfolded and revisits its podium prediction
The race in 100 words
The race for victory was won and lost at the start, where Lewis Hamilton got up the inside of Nico Rosberg and forced his team-mate wide at Turn 2, dropping Rosberg back to fourth. Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo touched wheels and both got punctures, ruining their races. Sebastian Vettel ran second ahead of Valtteri Bottas for a while, but Rosberg was too quick, passing Bottas at the chicane and Vettel in the pits. Fernando Alonso was in the top ten for a while but passed easily by a number of cars and angrily complained of a “GP2 engine”.
Driver of the weekend
Quite often the race winner gets this accolade, but we’re going to look a little further down the field to praise Max Verstappen this weekend. Penalised for the way he parked his car in qualifying, Verstappen climbed through the field from 17th on the grid to finish in ninth place, again ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz. Suzuka is not an easy track to overtake on, with good traction out of the final chicane the main requirement to defend, but Verstappen carved his way through and pulled a strong move around the outside of Fernando Alonso at Turn 1 before he passed Sainz in to the chicane and disappeared up the road.
Move of the race
For once Verstappen is not the only man in this category, but he still features. At the start of lap 4, Verstappen was using DRS to close in on Felipe Nasr’s Sauber, but Nasr was also within range of Jenson Button. The McLaren - without DRS - was slow in a straight line and Verstappen and Nasr arrived quickly on the run to Turn 1, with Nasr having to take to the outside with the Toro Rosso on the inside. The Brazilian pulled an excellent high-speed move in to Turn 1 while Verstappen also passed Button on the inside in a show of supreme driving from all three. Not quite Schumacher, Hakkinen and Zonta at Spa, but close…
Podium: 1. Lewis Hamilton, 2. Nico Rosberg, 3. Sebastian Vettel
F1i’s pre-race prediction: 1. Lewis Hamilton, 2. Sebastian Vettel, 3. Valtteri Bottas