Japan’s Suzuka circuit is always a thrilling affair and is certainly one of my favourites on the calendar. However this weekend it seemed like no-one actually wanted it to happen. Firstly the weather played it’s role, delaying qualifying to the Sunday (and kudos to the BBC’s Lee McKenzie for filling those two uneventful hours). Then Lucas Di Grassi decided he would play no further part, slamming his Virgin Racing car into the barrier on his way to the grid. And just in case that wasn’t enough incident for you, a further four cars came together at the start of the race, with Robert Kubica’s wheel flying off behind the safety car. Crazy!
Eventually the race did get going and was unfortunately a little dull at the start with the Red Bull’s predictably pulling away from Fernando Alonso who wasn’t really hassled by Hamilton and Button just behind. As the race panned out, the Red Bull’s really showed their dominance and Alonso’s Ferrari proved that it’s still a strong match, certainly stronger than the McLaren’s.
And this is where I refer back to the start of this article. I think the McLaren drivers are now out of the championship battle. Both Hamilton and Button didn’t really sow anything today. They stayed 4th and 5th for the majority of the grand prix, the third best team, firmly behind the Red Bull’s and Ferrari. Yes, Button did start winding Alonso in at one point, but it was never really to be, with that raw pace more down to Jenson’s fresher tyres. I just feel that now Lewis and Jenson are both over 25 points behind championship leader Mark Webber, it’s really game over. Of course they can mathematically still win, but I think realistically, especially with recent pace, the chance has gone.
Aside from the top five, the race was very eventful. I was pleased to see the legend (because he is still a legend) Michael Schumacher finally have a good race. It’s a shame he was unable to pass Rosberg (well until his tyre mysteriously flew off), but he gave us a bit of racing, a glimpse of the man we used to know. I still think there’s life in Schumacher’s career and given a decent car again, he could be winning races next year.
But the man of the race was undoubtedly Kamui Kobayashi who provided his home crowd with a stunning display. Those last gasp moves at the hairpin were some of the best I have ever seen in the sport. Kobayashi was both daring and precise, making perfect moves on his opponents. Now if only he could do that every week, he’d be a massive star and who’s to say he won’t be a star of the future, it’d be great to have a Japanese champion!
So the championship race has narrowed down to just three, but it’s still close and still almost impossible to call. Today both Vettel and Webber drove faultless races, but Alonso has Massa (well normally) to take those valuable points off the Red Bull’s. It’s still a very open championship.
And I’ll leave you with a comment on this weeks commentary. Viewers who saw the early morning running of the race experienced a sound problem roughly half way in, where Jonathan Legard and Martin Brundle were replaced with 5Live commentators David Croft and Anthony Davidson. I’ve never listened to the 5Live comm before, but I was suitably impressed. Crofty and Davidson just brought and excitement to their presentation which I think both Legard and Brundle lack. Now I do like the current BBC1 commentary team, but with Jonathan Legard’s job supposedly on the line, I do wonder if Croft may be awarded his time to shine.
Just a thought!