(updated at 14.34) In a matter of hours the Japanese Grand Prix concentrated all the beauty of this Formula 1 into full grandstands, a splendid battle fought on the edge of thousandths of seconds between Mercedes and Ferrari that unexpectedly managed to take pole position with Vettel and all the front row, as well as good overtaking and struggles. For Ferrari this was the fifth consecutive pole and the eighth for the season.
Unfortunately the masterpiece was wiped out by a mistake by both drivers, something that had not happened for some time. Vettel stalled at the start, staying however within the tolerance of the sensor and thus avoiding a penalty by the marshals, while Leclerc was let off in the scuffle with Verstappen that led to the Dutchman going off track. After the end of the race the marshals made the right decision to inflict a 15” penalty on the driver from Monaco which slid him down to seventh place. Vettel’s second place saved the weekend, also thanks to a risky strategy by the people on the wall, with the German driver managing to stay ahead of the charging Hamilton and giving us a good duel.
With Bottas’ win and Hamilton’s third place, Mercedes equalled Ferrari’s record by winning its sixth consecutive Constructors’ title, while the British driver is a step away from his isxth title that he could already celebrate in Mexico. He confirmed that he is a true team man. He was exemplary and Mercedes confirmed it is better than Ferrari.
Today’s result showed how much Ferrari and Mercedes are war machines where the slightest mistake truly makes the difference between a great result and a placing. This should make us think about the near future. It is not enough to develop the car well but it must be absolutely perfect, drivers included.
It was also a good result for Albon and Sainz who finished the grand prix with all the laps to bring home important points for their respective teams.
The post grand prix twists and turns have not yet finished as a strong dispute arose between Racing Point and Renault with Lawrence Stroll’s team that presented a technical protest that, due to its complexity, will be analyzed over the next few days.
Gian Carlo Minardi