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Rosberg wins in Japan as Mercedes claims team title

NEWS STORY
09/10/2016

Over the years the Suzuka circuit has played host to a number of epic showdowns, not least those bruising bar brawls involving Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

How sad therefore that once again the title will probably be decided within the soulless confines of the Yas Marina, rather than a true racing circuit such as this.

And how sad that the Japanese fans, without doubt among the most passionate in the world, are robbed of such a showdown.

While there is passion Italy and Mexico, Britain and Australia, it is here in Japan where fans actually get involved.

Where else do the fans politely present the drivers and mechanics with gifts, make intricate banners, dress up and wear ridiculous hats and outfits, totally immersing themselves in the sport?

And no matter who wins today and who joins him on the podium, there will be no booing, the Japanese don't do booing.

Even though the title will not be decided today, fans may well get the race they deserve however. Though Nico Rosberg starts from pole for the third successive year, Lewis Hamilton has twice won this race (in 2014 and 2015) from the position he starts today, second.

The German has looked in control all weekend, while, it has to be said, Hamilton appears to be going through one of his phases.

Last week's retirement kicked it off, and his behaviour since then, not least yesterday's refusal to talk to the media, suggests a troubled soul. Rosberg will play on this... he has to.

The late decision to change the gearbox on Kimi Raikkonen's car is as good news to the Red Bull duo as it is bad to the Finn, especially with teammate Sebastian Vettel also penalised following his first lap silliness in Sepang.

As in Malaysia, the Red Bulls (and Ferraris) are strong on long runs, while the move to lower the settings on all the Mercedes runners following the Malaysia failure will also play into the hands of Ricciardo and Verstappen.

Grey clouds that surround the circuit following heavy overnight rain mean that the weather gods could play a part again today, and we all know that when it rains here, it rains.

Other than the in-team fight at Mercedes, and the German outfit's battle with Red Bull and Ferrari, this could also bring Force India and Haas into the equation.

The almost perfect symmetry of the grid not only shows the basic team order, it also highlights how close it is between teammates, and the need to secure a seat for 2017 will provide some added spice this afternoon.

Tyre choices are the same as Sepang, hard, medium and soft, the leading ten all starting on the yellow banded rubber. With ever changing temperatures and overnight rain washing away yesterday's rubber, strategy will be everything here, as will the need to make it through a first corner that has seen many come to grief.

Ahead of today's race, Rosberg enjoys a 23-point advantage over his teammate, as the championship continues to swing in one driver's favour then the other. There is no arguing however the Sepang was a milestone in the German's career, for the first time he looked a champion. Meanwhile, not for the first time, Hamilton's demons appear to get the better of him.

As ever we will try to avoid the hyperbole as to what a great race this will be, rather we will hope that our twenty-two heroes can give their gracious hosts the race thy deserve.

The pit lane opens and the drivers begin making their way to the grid.

The air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 24 degrees.

Button glad hands with a number of Honda dignitaries, all putting on a very brave face under the circumstances. The Briton has made no secret of the fact that he hopes for rain today.

Overhead shot during the (haunting) national anthem reveals the numerous wet patches on the grid. Indeed, Hamilton is closely inspecting his grid spot, which is slightly damp. He is not a happy bunny (or fox).

Despite the skies, especially in the distance, race control advises that there is 0% chance of rain. 0%, not even 10 or 20?

Rain or no rain, the damp patches following last night's rain could still play a part, not only in terms of Hamilton's grid spot, but the racing line in T1 and beyond.

All are starting on the soft bar Bottas, Massa, Palmer and Ericsson who are on mediums and Magnussen, Nasr and Button who are on hards.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap, all getting away cleanly.

The grid slowly forms, Rosberg in place long before his rivals, Hamilton, no doubt, playing his part in the delay.

They're away, Rosberg leads but it's a dreadful start for Hamilton who loses place after place as he fails to get away. First Ricciardo the Vettel have to take avoiding action, the German almost colliding with his Ferrari teammate in the process.

As they jockey for position heading towards T1 they are five abreast at one stage, Grosjean having to lock-up heavily to avoid a slow Hulkenberg ahead.

Out of S1 Rosberg heads Verstappen, Perez, Ricciardo, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Grosjean and Gutierrez. Other than the poor start by Hamilton there are no incidents.

At the end of the first lap, Rosberg already enjoys a 1.5s lead, with Hamilton 7s down on his teammate.

As Ricciardo nips at the heels of Vettel, the German is all over Perez, nailing the Mexican in T1 at the start of lap 3.

Hamilton apologises to his crew. "Sorry guys," he says forlornly. "Don't stress," he is told.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Suzuka, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Ianc, 10/10/2016 7:19

"The TV crew shouldn't even bother filming in the ante room. The atmosphere could be cut with a knife and the silence is very uncomfortable. Rather show crowd reaction etc, not the prima donnas."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by F One, 09/10/2016 16:05

"Mediocre race. As usual DRS robbed us of any real battles. They need to remove it ASAP."

Rating: Negative (-1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by Stitch431, 09/10/2016 8:16

"Max did not move under braking other than positioning for the curve. Lewis tried a move that was not possible on that position in the first place. Rather than admitting his mistake he points the finger at Max Verstappen. Like Sebastian Vettel last week: bad loser!"

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