With Nico Rosberg firmly in control of the drivers championship, Lewis Hamilton really needed a win to reignite his fight.
He took a controlled victory at the Circuit of the Americas, beating Rosberg by four seconds and taking seven points out of his lead. It was Hamilton’s 50th career victory in F1 and at a circuit where he has won three times previously.
Hamilton took pole position on Saturday and was never really challenged for the lead of the race. Daniel Ricciardo got the jump on Rosberg at the start but the championship leader was able to come back at the Red Bull driver to finish second. Ricciardo had to settle for a distant third when his strategy was compromised by his team-mate’s retirement.
Sebastian Vettel finished in fourth for Ferrari ahead of a spirited Fernando Alonso in fifth. The Spaniard had qualified outside the top ten but drove a superb race to finish in the points. He went wheel to wheel with Felipe Massa which eventually led to a stewards investigation due to contact but ultimately no action was taken. In the closing laps of the race he also fought hard with fellow countryman Carlos Sainz who lost out to his childhood hero in the end. Sainz finished in sixth place ahead of Massa, Sergio Perez, Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean. Button and Grosjean had both dropped out of qualifying in Q1 but enjoyed good races to pick up some points.
Daniil Kvyat was 11th, ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer, Marcus Ericsson, and Felipe Nasr. Valtteri Bottas didn’t recover from an early puncture, eventually finishing 16th, ahead of the Manor duo of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon.
Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire when he left the pits with a tyre not secured properly. Max Verstappen was also a retirement when he suffered transmission issues having already had a pit stop blunder during the race. He pitted when his crew were not ready for him – claiming to have thought that the team had called him in. While that cost him a lot of time, it was ultimately a car failure which led to his retirement. He pulled off at an awkward part of the track which led to the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car which in turn hampered Ricciardo’s strategy. Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Hulkenberg were the other retirements.
Formula One heads stateside with the US Grand Prix in Austin this weekend.
With just four races remaining Nico Rosberg heads his team-mate by 33 points – more than a race win – with Mercedes having secured the constructors championship last time out in Japan.
Lewis Hamilton has won three of the four previous outings at the Circuit of the Americas and he was the winner of the 2007 US Grand Prix when it was held at Indianapolis for the last time. He will be hoping to win his first race since the German Grand Prix earlier this year.
Circuit: Circuit of the Americas
Number of Laps: 56
Circuit Length: 5.513km
Number of Corners: 20
Lap Record: 1:39.347 Sebastian Vettel 2012
Previous US GP (in Austin) winners still on the grid: 2
Most Successful Team: Mercedes (2 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft
The track has become a firm favourite amongst fans and drivers over the past four years due to its mixture of high and low speed corners, elevation changes, and ample overtaking opportunities.
The run to turn one is uphill meaning drivers arrive at the first corner blind. Drivers will reach top speeds of 340km/h with around 54 gear changes per lap. The first sector of the lap is fast and flowing while the second half of the lap features more low and medium speed corners.
Last year the weather conditions played a big part with torrential rain delaying qualifying until Sunday morning. Forecasts for this weekend look more promising and similar to the three other holdings of the US Grand Prix in Texas.
Rosberg is firmly in control of the championship with a 33 point lead over Hamilton. He has won nine races so far this season, including four of the last five. Hamilton is no stranger to overcoming points deficits to his team-mates however he is running out of time to do so. While Mercedes may have won the constructors, Red Bull have proven in the last few races that they can be a force to be reckoned with. Daniel Ricciardo won in Malaysia and has been on the podium at Austin before while Verstappen has finished second at the last two races. They now have a 50 point advantage over Ferrari. The battle between Force India and Williams remains close with Force India currently 10 points ahead of Williams. McLaren are pulling away from Toro Rosso while Haas are solidly eighth. Sauber are the only team yet to score in 2016.
Following the Malaysia Grand Prix, which saw the championship swing very firmly in Nico Rosberg’s favour, it is time for the Japanese Grand Prix – a firm favourite race amongst drivers and fans alike.
Daniel Ricciardo led home a Red Bull 1-2 in Malaysia when Lewis Hamilton’s engine blew, causing him to retire from the lead. Rosberg now leads the championship by 23 points having finished in third place.
Number of Laps: 53
Circuit Length: 5.807km
Number of Corners: 18
Lap Record: 1:31.540 – Kimi Raikkonen (2005)
Previous Japanese Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: McLaren (9 wins)
DRS Zones: 1
Pirelli Tyres: Hard, Medium and Soft
The Suzuka track is a unique figure of 8 configuration and features a number of high speed corners. Drivers spend about 65% of the lap at full throttle with 42 gear changes. There is a mix of fast, medium and slow corners with the only significant braking event happening at the chicane at the end of the lap. The track is narrow and features little run-off. Like Malaysia, track temperatures and the threat of rain are something to consider over the weekend. As it’s an older established track, grip is high but with high levels of degradation.
McLaren are the most successful team at the Japanese Grand Prix but it is Hamilton and Mercedes who have won the last two races. Before that it was Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull who won two in a row. Red Bull were the best of the rest in Malaysia behind Mercedes, and took a 1-2 in the race when Hamilton retired. This is a track they have gone well at in the past so could be ones to watch this weekend.
Hamilton will be wanting to overcome his difficult weekend at the Malaysia Grand Prix and he is the form man at Suzuka. He had dominated qualifying and much of the race before his engine gave up on the 40th lap in Malaysia. Rosberg now leads the championship by 23 points – nearly a race victory – and with only five races in the year left, Hamilton will be wanting to start eating into that lead as soon as possible.