2019 Japanese Grand Prix Review

Mercedes will have a sixth consecutive driver/constructor double but can Lewis Hamilton seal his sixth F1 title in Mexico? (Image credit: Steve Etherington)

As Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes closed in on a sixth driver and constructor title, Formula One headed to Suzuka, Japan for the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix.

This weekend however wouldn’t be like any ordinary weekend as Typhoon Hagibis washed out Saturday’s schedule, forcing two days of non-stop drama as Qualifying was moved to the Sunday morning, just hours before the race.

Teams therefore faced various challenges throughout the weekend so here’s how each team fared this weekend.

 

Mercedes

Embed from Getty Images

Race results: Lewis Hamilton – 3rd, Valtteri Bottas – 1st

With a sixth constructor title in sight, all eyes were on Mercedes this weekend and they made the perfect start with a dominant display throughout Friday Practice, even if Bottas did spin out of the Casio Triangle before continuing to go on and top the day.

Qualifying however saw the Silver Arrows stunned by a surprise Ferrari turnaround in pace, only to have their revenge later on in the race. 

Bottas got a brilliant start and blasted past both Ferraris to lead into turn one before controlling the pace, whilst overcutting Vettel where required to retain his lead once Hamilton made his two stops. 

Speaking of Hamilton, he surprisingly struggled throughout this race weekend to match Bottas and nearly got stuck behind McLaren’s Carlos Sainz at the race start before settling into a nice pattern behind Bottas and Sebastian Vettel. 

Degradation however proved to be an unusual issue for the Brit but some clever strategy play from Mercedes almost earned Hamilton a hard fought second, which evaded him by slender margins despite picking up the fastest lap point. 

Nevertheless, Mercedes managed to secure their sixth consecutive driver and constructor double because only Bottas can now challenge Hamilton for the drivers’ title, which could be settled next time out whilst the teams championship was won here in dominant style. 

Mexico however will be a tougher test given the altitude challenges which hasn’t suited Mercedes in recent seasons around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. 

 

Ferrari

Embed from Getty Images

Race results: Charles Leclerc – 7th, Sebastian Vettel – 2nd

This has been a tough weekend for Ferrari because they looked absolutely nowhere after a pair of dire Friday practice sessions, only for Typhoon Hagibis to rescue their skin because they clearly did their homework and produced one of the shock turnarounds in qualifying.

Both drivers were dominant throughout qualifying to lock out the front row and Sebastian Vettel’s stunning pole lap ensured that all five qualifying sessions to be held on a Sunday has resulted in a German on pole.

That performance however was undone in seconds as Vettel jumped the start before stalling briefly, whilst Leclerc tangled with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen which damaged his front wing before irresponsibly continuing for a few laps, which consequently wrecked Lando Norris’ race.

His silliness therefore justifiably earned him a 15s post race time penalty after a wonderful charge through the field to sixth, so he is lucky that the penalty didn’t drop him out of the points.

Vettel however did a great job in clinging onto second before executing his two stop strategy perfectly, as he eventually beat Hamilton to second.

Overall, this was a poor weekend at the Scuderia by recent standards and if we had had qualifying on Saturday, it could of easily been worse if Red Bull had continued to improve and potentially beat them.

 

Red Bull

Embed from Getty Images

Race results: Max Verstappen – Retired, Alexander Albon – 4th

Red Bull will be disappointed by a lacklustre performance at Honda’s home race because they didn’t once look capable of challenging Mercedes.

For their drivers though, this race was one of two halves because Verstappen was unlucky to find himself on the receiving end of Leclerc’s first lap antics, before eventually retiring with too much damage after trying to carry on for 13 further laps.

Albon meanwhile had luck on his side because he could of very easily also retired if he had wiped out Norris at the entry of the Casio Triangle on lap four, although he did recover via a great undercut to take his highest F1 finish of fourth.

We must also mention the fact that both drivers in Q3 did a 1m 27.851 which is great credit to Albon, who is clearly finding his best feet at Red Bull and a positive sign ahead of Mexico which should suit their car.

 

McLaren

McLaren Japan
McLaren enjoyed a strong start before Norris’ race unravelled. (Image credit: McLaren)

Race results: Carlos Sainz – 5th, Lando Norris – 13th

McLaren should be chuffed with this weekend because they were best of the rest throughout every session, with not much separating their drivers even if their races didn’t turn out as expected. 

Sainz however enjoyed a great drive to fifth after pushing Hamilton for fourth initially at the start before delivering a calm but assured drive to ten valuable points despite falling foul of Albon’s undercut strategy. 

Norris meanwhile should feel hard done by how his race unravelled because he was a victim from irresponsible moves by Leclerc and then Albon but 13th is a great recovery drive from the back, having had to pit to clear debris from Leclerc’s incident which has blown into his brakes. 

This weekend however has been a valuable lesson in term of performance and future potential, so McLaren really just need to keep going in the right direction because this was their strongest Japanese GP in years. 

 

Renault

Embed from Getty Images

Race results: Daniel Ricciardo – 6th, Nico Hulkenberg – 10th

Like Ferrari, Renault will be relieved at the turnaround in their fortunes because Friday was atrocious with both Ricciardo and Hulkenberg off the pace.

It however wasn’t helped by their quali simulations in FP2 being ran too early, which could of set the grid if qualifying hadn’t taken place although they did end up in similar positions anyway, after a hydraulics leak cost Hulkenberg a final Q2 run after Ricciardo had exited in Q1.

Their race pace was however simply stunning in the race itself as they came through the pack to pick up a double points finish, whilst bravely battling the Racing Point cars and managing contrasting strategies of their drivers.

In fact, this has to be their most impressive race fightback yet this season because they were lurking around the points quite quickly whilst the action was focused up front, which made their performance all the more impressive.

Their results however are in question after Racing Point lodged a protest in regards to an alleged pre-set lap distance dependent brake bias adjustment system being operated on both Ricciardo and Hulkenberg’s cars.

 

Toro Rosso

Embed from Getty Images

Race results: Pierre Gasly – 8th, Danii Kyvat – 12th

FP1 saw Naoki Yamamoto make his F1 debut as he took over Pierre Gasly’s seat for the opening session, in which he performed impressively well against Kvyat as he finished just 0.098s behind the Russian for a great rookie result. 

Pierre Gasly then returned to his car in FP2 and did a great job in putting the Toro Rosso P9 on the provisional grid, which a tremendous achievement after missing FP1 amidst the possibility of no qualifying. 

He then followed that with ninth in qualifying itself on Sunday before driving a solid race to improve a position into eighth, which currently keeps him in the fight for sixth despite a mid season team swap. 

Kvyat meanwhile seemed to struggle on one lap pace in both practice and qualifying compared to Gasly and Yamamoto, which is slightly concerning in the long-term if he doesn’t improve his qualifying head to head performance against Gasly. 

His race however was relatively quiet and was unlucky to miss out on points but a decent performance overall as a team at Toro Rosso. 

 

Racing Point

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault R.S.19 and Sergio Perez, Racing Point RP19
Sergio Perez battling Daniel Ricciardo during the 2019 Japanese GP. (Image credit: SportPesa Racing Point F1)

Race results: Sergio Perez – 9th, Lance Stroll – 11th

A weekend of promise for Racing Point because they were impressive throughout Friday practice, despite again slipping up in qualifying which ultimately benefitted them with the ability to split strategies. 

Both drivers however produced great race starts as they improved like Renault and spent the entire race battling for the lower points, which produced plenty of great midfield battles. 

Perez however was lucky that the checkered flag graphic fell a lap early because he picked up two valuable points, despite finishing his race in the barrier after colliding with Gasly on what was supposedly the final lap. 

Those two points are ultimately more important than a singular point which Stroll would of picked up if the race had completed full distance, and could prove crucial come Abu Dhabi. 

 

Alfa Romeo

Embed from Getty Images

Race results: Kimi Raikkonen – 14th, Antonio Giovinazzi – 16th

Suzuka didn’t suit the Alfa Romeo cars at all this weekend despite Raikkonen outperforming the car’s ability throughout Friday’s practice sessions. 

Both drivers however did a solid job to get their cars into Q2, which was as high as their Sunday would get because they just fell away throughout the race to record quiet finishes. 

Alfa Romeo however should take whatever positives there are from this race because Mexico could very well suit them on race pace like it did last season. 

 

Haas

Embed from Getty Images

Race results: Kevin Magnussen – 17th, Romain Grosjean – 15th

I definitely have no clue what is going on at Haas because they have had their worst F1 season yet

Both drivers just seem to lack pace although Grosjean did well to get the car into Q3, thanks to having a Ferrari power unit in the Haas whilst Magnussen spun out of qualifying, despite getting going again under his own power once the red flag had come out.

The race however was dire with next to non existent race pace which is a massive shame because they have failed to improve on the previous season for the first time, although they hopefully will be back fighting in 2020. 

 

Williams

Embed from Getty Images

Race results: Robert Kubica – 19th, George Russell – 18th

Williams once again propped up the field but Kubica did well to better Russell in a chaotic FP2, only to throw that small confidence boost away straight away in qualifying when he got his front left onto the grass and powerlessly went spinning into the barrier to bring out a red flag. 

Williams therefore deserve credit for managing to repair his car in time for him to start the race.

That ultimately was the only positive of race day because both drivers finished well adrift at the rear, although Russell continues to outperform Kubica in their qualifying head to head of 17-0 which is incredible for a rookie, especially at a struggling team like Williams. 

Mexico probably won’t bring much improvement but Williams need to ensure that next season’s car can deliver Russell the opportunity to showcase his full potential. 

 

If missed the opening 16 rounds of this season, get up to date with our race reviews below along with our half-term report.

Advertisements

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.