2010 Japanese Grand Prix
|2010 Japanese Grand Prix|
|Race 16 of 19 in the 2010 Formula One World Championship|
|Date||October 10, 2010|
|Official name||XXXVI Japanese Grand Prix|
|Location||Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Mie, Japan|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
|Course length||5.807 km (3.608 mi)|
|Distance||53 laps, 307.573 km (191.224 mi)|
|Weather||Heavy Rain (practice), Sunny (race)|
|Driver||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|
|Time||1:33.474 on lap 53|
The 2010 Japanese Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 10 October 2010 at the Suzuka Circuit, in Suzuka, Mie, Japan. It was held as the sixteenth round of the 2010 Formula One season. Contested over 53 laps, the race was won by Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel after starting from pole position. Mark Webber finished second in the second Red Bull car, and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso completed the podium, in third place.
As a consequence of the race, Webber extended his lead in the World Drivers' Championship – despite finishing behind Vettel – to fourteen points over Alonso, who was classified ahead of Vettel in the standings on a tie-break situation as he had recorded four race victories to Vettel's three. The McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton, who finished fifth, and Jenson Button, who finished fourth, fell further behind, dropping to 28 points and 31 points behind Webber with three races left in the season. In the World Constructors' Championship, Red Bull's one-two finish allowed them to extend the championship lead over McLaren to 45 points, with Ferrari a further 47 points behind in third position.
Five drivers arrived at Suzuka within one win of seizing the championship lead, but a disappointing display in Singapore that saw Lewis Hamilton retire for the third time in four races and Jenson Button struggle to finish fourth meant that McLaren had a lot of ground to catch up; in Button's case, he would need to win the race and see his four rivals fail to score a point simply to draw level with championship leader Mark Webber. In response, McLaren brought a modified version of a new floor they had been intending to run in Singapore, but had delayed after initial feedback was disappointing.
After the revolving door of driver changes that had affected Hispania Racing in Singapore, the team found some stability by returning Sakon Yamamoto to the cockpit of car number 20 despite vague and confusing statements from the team early in the week about which drivers would be appearing during the weekend.
Renault were also the centre of a minor controversy over the status of their second seat ahead of the 2011 season, with 2007 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen repeatedly linked to the seat held by Vitaly Petrov. After several statements from the team about Räikkönen's interest, Räikkönen angrily hit back, criticising Renault team principal Éric Boullier for using his name and image in an attempt to market the team to new sponsors. Räikkönen's outburst ended with the assertion that he would not be driving for Renault in 2011 under any circumstances, though the team claimed they were only ever answering questions posed to them by the media, with the potential return of Räikkönen being the source of interest to the press.
The first practice session was dry, though several predictions of wet weather over the weekend were made. The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were widely touted as favourites for the weekend, particularly following their dominant display in 2009, and quickly moved to the top of the timing sheets. They spent most of the session half a second faster than third-placed Robert Kubica who himself was half a second faster than the rest of the field. The early stages of the session were interrupted by Lewis Hamilton crashing out at the Degner Corner – the scene of several practice accidents in 2009 – fifteen minutes into the session, damaging his suspension. Fellow championship contenders Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso languished outside the top ten, whilst Heikki Kovalainen once again led the newcomers, half a second ahead of Timo Glock. For the second race in succession, Virgin replaced Lucas di Grassi with Jérôme d'Ambrosio in the first practice session, the only line-up change among the twenty-four cars. Following reports that Dutch GP2 driver Giedo van der Garde had been in talks with Virgin about a possible 2011 seat, the decision to replace di Grassi with d'Ambrosio was interpreted by some as Virgin phasing out di Grassi's involvement with the team.
The damage to Hamilton's car was critical, and the 2008 World Champion was forced sit out the second session, save for a brief run in the final ten minutes. Jenson Button made up for McLaren's slow start, putting his car into the top ten with half an hour to go. Like McLaren, Ferrari experienced a slow start to the weekend, but quickly showed their hand in the second session to prove that their pace in Monza and Singapore was genuine; Alonso was quoted in a press conference stating he was now the favourite for the title after Ferrari's recent resurgence. Vettel and Webber maintained Red Bull's pace, unchallenged at the front end and nearly a second faster than anyone else. Renault were the only team to consistently keep in touch with them, first with Vitaly Petrov half a second slower and then Robert Kubica. Petrov was also the fastest driver through the speed trap, followed closely by Kubica, Adrian Sutil and Sakon Yamamoto. The Lotuses of Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli were once again the fastest of the newcomers, with Virgin's Lucas di Grassi the slowest man on the circuit for most of the session upon his return to the cockpit before surpassing the Hispanias ten minutes before the end of the session.
The third and final session was a washout following overnight rain with heavy storms predicted ahead of qualifying. The water on the track was so heavy that the FIA sent the safety car out for an assessment of the circuit. Although the one-hour session went ahead, just two drivers – Jaime Alguersuari and Timo Glock – recorded a lap time; Alguersuari, the fastest of the two, set that time that was twenty seconds slower than the fastest laps set by Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber during Friday practice. Several drivers reported that standing water on the circuit made driving very dangerous, while others complained about water running over the circuit that made the cars aquaplane. Michael Schumacher drove as far as the pit exit before aborting the session in what he called "impossible" conditions as the rivers of water were "pretty much everywhere". Jaime Alguersuari was later joined on-track by team-mate Sébastien Buemi, where the two drivers practiced a standing start on the rain-soaked main straight, though if conditions prevailed into the race, a rolling start would be used.[unreliable source] Both drivers performed this dummy start after the chequered flag had dropped, leaving the team open to penalties for possibly breaking the rules (the sporting regulations do not account for this scenario). In the face of the atrocious conditions, many of the teams amused themselves by building toy boats and racing them down pit lane or playing poker.
Qualifying was postponed until Sunday morning in the face of worsening conditions that were deemed unsafe for the drivers to attempt flying laps. This also occurred in 2004 after the encroaching typhoon Ma-on threatened the circuit. The rescheduled session was due to finish just four hours before the race began. Although the weather forecast predicted clear conditions for the race, Article 36.2 of the sporting regulations sets out a system in the event of qualifying being abandoned altogether (such as in the case of further heavy rain), with the grid being decided on a priority system. Cars that attempt to set flying laps are to be given first priority, followed by cars that do not leave the pit lane and cars that do not leave their pit garage. In the event that several cars fall into one or more of these categories, their grid position is decided by numerical order.
The wet weather that had hampered Saturday running had cleared overnight and the circuit was largely dry for qualifying, though a few damp patches could be found off the racing line. Although the circuit was declared dry, whatever rubber had been laid down by the drivers during free practice and support races had long since been washed away, leaving the circuit in a virgin state. As the damp patches dried out and the circuit began to rubber in, lap times quickly began to fall, spearheaded by Vettel and Mark Webber, as per the predictions of Red Bull dominance. By the end of the first period, Lotus, Virgin and Hispania Racing had each locked out one of the final three rows of the grid, with Jarno Trulli out-qualifying team-mate Heikki Kovalainen to lead the six new cars. Sébastien Buemi took away the unenviable title of the only regular runner to be eliminated in the first period. Buemi later claimed that he had been held up by one of the Hispanias.
Buemi's Toro Rosso team-mate Jaime Alguersuari soon joined the Swiss driver on the sidelines and the young Catalan failed to make an impression during the second session, finishing sixteenth between the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi as Force India experienced yet another disappointing qualifying session. The twin BMW Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld were also eliminated, with Heidfeld demoted to eleventh after a last-minute lap from Michael Schumacher bumped him down into the elimination zone. Felipe Massa qualified twelfth ahead of Renault's Vitaly Petrov, after a slow middle sector on his final run spoiled a lap time that would have otherwise been fast enough to advance to the final session.
After Fernando Alonso broke Red Bull's stranglehold on pole position in Monza and Singapore, the Austrian team returned to the front row of the grid, with Vettel leading Webber to pole position, half a second quicker than Lewis Hamilton, who had only completed a handful of laps over the weekend after his heavy accident in the first practice session that sidelined him for most of the second and the monsoonal conditions in the third. Hamilton went into the qualifying hour knowing that he was to take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change after the team discovered damage from his retirement in Singapore. Hamilton's grid drop promoted Renault's Robert Kubica up into third place, separating the Red Bull drivers from their title rivals. Alonso in the sole remaining Ferrari duelled with Jenson Button, who once again adopted an unorthodox approach of setting his fastest lap time on the harder compound tyres. Alonso joined the grid fourth behind Kubica, with Button fifth. Nico Rosberg once again out-qualified Schumacher with sixth, followed closely by Rubens Barrichello. Hamilton's penalty meant that he is sandwiched by the Williams drivers, though the ninth-placed Nico Hülkenberg claimed he had been held up at the chicane by Hamilton and complained to the stewards. This protest was later thrown out, preserving Hamilton's eighth place.
Twenty-three drivers started the race after Lucas di Grassi had a heavy accident on the way to the grid, leaving the track at the entrance to 130R, fishtailing wildly and spinning out across the run-off area and hitting the wall. There was enough time between the accident and the start to clear the track, so the start took place without any delay.
When the race finally began, Sebastian Vettel led the pack away, with Robert Kubica able to take championship leader Webber on the approach to the first turn. Further down the order, two separate incidents unfolded; starting from thirteenth, Vitaly Petrov got the best start and was able to clear the two rows immediately in front of him. By contrast, Nico Hülkenberg, starting in ninth, made a poor start and crawled away. Petrov moved over to avoid contact with another driver on his right just as Hülkenberg started to accelerate, and the Renault collected the Williams. Petrov's car spun into the outside barrier, whilst Hülkenberg came to a halt on the inside of the first corner with broken suspension. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa made a poor start from twelfth and was forced to go right in order to avoid the Petrov–Hülkenberg incident as he was swamped by the rest of the grid. His Ferrari bounced over the kerb on the inside of the first corner before collecting the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi, and the two cars spun into the outside gravel trap. The safety car was deployed as the four cars were cleared away.
Suzuka claimed another victim on the second lap of the safety car. Sebastian Vettel was spotted following the safety car with a significant gap behind him; Renault's Robert Kubica was unaccounted for, only to be spotted coming to a halt after the hairpin. The right-rear tyre had come free of the Pole's R30, forcing him into retirement. As Kubica had been the only driver to split the championship contenders during qualifying, his retirement had a significant effect on the race as it meant the five candidates were all within range of one another. Vettel led the cars away at the restart, followed by Webber, Alonso and the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Popular opinion divided the five drivers into two separate races: one between the Red Bulls for line honours, and the other between Alonso and the McLarens for the final podium position.
Elsewhere in the field, Nico Rosberg, Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Bruno Senna pitted during the safety car with a view to making up time when everyone else pitted, though Rosberg was the only driver who could reasonably challenge the rest of the field. The first round of pit stops was triggered by Adrian Sutil, which prompted Williams to bring Rubens Barrichello in; Barrichello's stop had been the move the front-runners were waiting for. Lewis Hamilton pitted whilst Button stayed out in an attempt to make his strategy work, but the Red Bulls were able to maintain a close distance to Button to nullify his strategy. Further down the order, local driver Kamui Kobayashi passed five drivers with some aggressive moves – likened to an ambush by commentators – at the hairpin. Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil, and Rubens Barrichello were all passed by the Sauber driver, with Kobayashi taking Alguersuari twice. Alguersuari was criticised for his response to the Japanese driver's second pass, as the two cars hammered into one another, damaging both and forcing the Toro Rosso driver to pit. Force India left Japan pointless after Adrian Sutil's engine expired, releasing a sheen of oil across the track through the high-speed 130R as he attempted to return to the pits.
Lewis Hamilton's dramatic weekend continued when he lost third gear whilst pursuing Alonso on a circuit dominated by third-gear corners and was told to use fourth gear and higher. Jenson Button lost the lead and was demoted to fifth place, but quickly caught his team-mate. He briefly attempted to chase Alonso, but the Spanish driver responded with a series of quick laps that were enough to cover Button's speed on fresh tyres, and the reigning World Champion instead consolidated fourth place. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg - who had been engaged in a fight with team-mate Schumacher from the moment Schumacher emerged from his pit stop - exited the race when his rear wheel came off through the final bends of the Esses. Yellow flags were waved, but the safety car was not deployed and the stricken Mercedes was cleared away quickly.
Sebastian Vettel won the race by just under a second from team-mate Webber, who claimed the fastest lap in the process, with Fernando Alonso rounding out the podium. Jenson Button finished fourth ahead of Hamilton, with Schumacher sixth and Kobayashi home seventh. Heikki Kovalainen was the first of the new teams to cross the line, his twelfth position helping to consolidate Lotus' tenth position in the championship.
The final positions meant that Mark Webber extended his lead over his championship rivals, but Sebastian Vettel's win meant that he drew level with Fernando Alonso on points. Fourth and fifth positions for Button and Hamilton respectively meant that while both McLaren drivers were still a mathematical possibility of winning the championship, with three rounds to go they would need some results to go their way.
The separate first-lap incidents between Petrov and Hülkenberg and Massa and Liuzzi were later investigated by the stewards. The Russian driver was given a five-place penalty at the next race for causing an avoidable accident, but Massa was not penalised after going on the grass.
|Pos||No||Driver||Constructor||Part 1||Part 2||Part 3||Grid|
|1||5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1:32.035||1:31.184||1:30.785||1|
|2||6||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1:32.476||1:31.241||1:30.853||2|
|11||22||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber-Ferrari||1:33.011||1:32.187||11|
|14||23||Kamui Kobayashi||BMW Sauber-Ferrari||1:32.783||1:32.427||14|
|15||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.186||1:32.659||15|
|16||17||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:33.471||1:33.071||16|
|17||15||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.216||1:33.154||17|
|18||16||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:33.568||18|
|21||25||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin-Cosworth||1:36.265||21|
Championship standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
- Bold text indicates competitors who still had a theoretical chance of becoming World Champion.
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