Lewis Hamilton has won the Japanese Grand Prix and in doing so has stretched his championship advantage to 10 points.
The race was overshadowed, however, by a serious accident involving Marussia’s Jules Bianchi. In the closing stages of the race, after the rain started to become heavier, Bianchi lost control of his car in the difficult conditions and hit a recovery vehicle that was in the process of removing Adrian Sutil’s stricken Sauber following the German’s own aquaplaning moment. The safety car and medical car were quickly deployed and it soon transpired that Bianchi was very seriously injured. The FIA released the following statement:
On lap 42, Adrian Sutil lost control of his car, spun and hit the tyre barrier on the outside of Turn 7. The marshals displayed double waved yellow flags before the corner to warn drivers of the incident. A recovery vehicle was dispatched in order to lift the car and take it to a place of safety behind the guard rail. While this was being done the driver of car 17, Jules Bianchi, lost control of his car, travelled across the run-off area and hit the back of the tractor.
Once the marshals reported that the driver was injured, medical teams were dispatched and the safety car was deployed. These were followed by an extrication team and an ambulance. The driver was removed from the car, taken to the circuit medical centre and then by ambulance to Mie General Hospital.
The CT scan shows that he has suffered a severe head injury and he is currently undergoing surgery. Following this he will be moved to intensive care where he will be monitored.
“Mie General Hospital will issue an update as soon as further information becomes available.
It has since been revealed that he is currently breathing by himself following his surgery and has been placed in intensive care. These are incredibly difficult times for all involved in the sport – in particular Bianchi’s family, friends and team – and the main concern is that Bianchi makes a recovery, rather than the results of the race.
It was understandably a sombre mood following the conclusion of the race when it was red flagged on lap 46 of 53. The race had started behind the safety car and was red flagged after two laps due to the very wet conditions. The delay was not a lengthy one and when the race got started again Fernando Alonso became an early retirement when his car completely lost power. The safety car returned to the pits on the ninth lap and Jenson Button – regarded as one of the best wet weather/mixed conditions drivers – was the first to move onto the intermediate tyres. He was joined by Pastor Maldonado who, having started down the order, had nothing to lose. While initially dropping down to 20th, Button moved up to eighth after everyone else pitted. The Mercedes duo at the front of the pack stayed out a couple of laps longer than everyone else before taking on the inters. The Williams pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa seemed to be struggling in the wet conditions and lost track position to both the Red Bull drivers who in stark contrast were enjoying the wet track.
Button’s McLaren team-mate Kevin Magnussen struggled with electrical problems throughout the race and had to change his steering wheel at one of his stops. Button had to do the same later and it cost him track position to Vettel at the time. As the track continued to dry DRS – which is not activated in very wet conditions – was enabled. On the 35th lap of the race – with just five laps to go until full points would be awarded should the race be red flagged – more rain started to fall and Magnussen spun as he ran wide at Turn One, something that became a bit of a common occurrence for many drivers. Some drivers chose to pit for full wets – such as Button and Vettel – but the safety car deployment and subsequent red flag due to the aforementioned accidents meant that they were not necessary. Up at the lead of the pack, Rosberg had surrendered the lead to team-mate Hamilton admitting that “Lewis just did a better job today” and deserved the win. Ricciardo crossed the line in third place but it was team-mate Sebastian Vettel – who yesterday announced that he is leaving Red Bull at the end of the year – on the podium due to the positions being counted back to the last full racing lap. This also saw Nico Hulkenberg benefit after he stopped at the end of the pit-lane but was classified in eighth place ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez.
Racing continues next weekend in Russia.