Red Bull’s pace and Hamilton’s fumble (Japanese Grand Prix analysis)

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Vettel routed the field at Suzuka - but it should have been a Red Bull one-two

A look at the data from the Japanese Grand Prix just how far ahead Red Bull were – and how they should have had a one-two at a track that suited the RB5 perfectly.

See below for the analysis in full, including the battle between Jarno Trulli and Lewis Hamilton and how Jenson Button salvaged a point.

The start

Japanese Grand Prix lap 1 (click to enlarge)

As we’ve seen before at Suzuka, the short run to the first corner and the long sequence of bends that follows it makes it difficult to gain places at the start.

Hamilton got passt Trulli thanks to his KERS, and Sebastien Buemi fell to the back of the field as he was left standing at the start. Other than that it was pretty much follow-my-leader.

How Trulli passed Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton vs Jarno Trulli (click to enlarge)

McLaren told Hamilton he needed a three second lead over Trulli
before his final pit stop to ensure he would stay ahead of the Toyota.

The lap before Hamilton came in Trulli was 3.09s behind. But Hamilton’s stuttering getaway from the pits cost him 1.7s. A shame, because the Trulli came out 1.3s ahead. We missed what would have been an side-by-side dash into the first corner…

Red Bull’s pace

Red Bull's pace at Suzuka (click to enlarge)

As we’ve seen before this year, show Red Bull a track with a lot of high-speed corners and they’re very difficult to keep up with.

Sebastian Vettel‘s pace was obvious as he scorched away at the start and led every lap of the race.

But further back, Mark Webber was also impressive – look at the consistently fast laps he ground out during his longest stint.

Unfortunately for Red Bull, Webber binned it shortly before the end of the third practice session, consigning him to the back of the grid and ruining his weekend. With a top four start for him this would have been a straightforward one-two for Red Bull.

Race charts

Japanese Grand Prix race chart (click to enlarge)
Japanese Grand Prix race chart (average lap times) (click to enlarge)

Button’s pass on Robert Kubica early on may have been assisted by the fact that the BMW was 27.5kg heavier – but it was still another of those crucial early-race passes we’ve seen Button make before this year.

Without it he wouldn’t have been in a position to profit from the Adrian SutilHeikki Kovalainen collision, and ultimately climb into a points position having started tenth.

Button may have voiced his objection to the advantage Nico Rosberg got under the safety car. But privately he may reflect that had the race run its course, the Williams could easily have come out between the Brawns, costing him a precious point.

Here are more details on the stewards’ investigation into Rosberg’s driving during the safety car period.

Japanese Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

Japanese Grand Prix

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Red Bull’s pace and Hamilton’s fumble (Japanese Grand Prix analysis)”

  1. Thanks Keith, I can watch the race and the repeat but this is what helps really understand it.
    Poor Rbr if only Webber had been able to participate in qualifying…
    Ham and Trulli could have been entertaining to watch but even without it I am very happy for Toyota, it may make them more confident in the future but for the long term they really need a win and more consistency during the season.

  2. good to mention is that Hamilton lost his KERS just before or after his second stop!

  3. About the Sutil-Kovalainen collision, at first I thought Heikki needed a slap on the face for that.. but it looks like Heikki bounced off the kerb since he probably didnt have enough room and in the process hit Sutil and span him around. .. anyway that was disappointing. But at least he did a good pass on Fisi..

  4. I have to say bravo to Trulli. He and Glock are about equal in race outcomes excluding DNFs, and Trulli can put a fast car on the front row. I hope that this result, combined with Glock stuffing it in the wall in qualifying, shows the team who has the real speed and maturity to fight for a championship.

    Move of the race goes to RedBull marketing department. Immediately after Algersuari crashed on a straight, we cut to the STR wall. Instead of people flinging down headsets in disgust, we see an engineer calmly crack open a can of sugar-free Redbull. Very smooth. The FIA should investigate this camera-time fixing.

    1. The person seen drinking a Red Bull was actually Franz Tost. I guess with the 4th crash of one of his cars since the beginning of qualifying, he really needed a drink.

      1. Carlos in Oz
        5th October 2009, 2:39

        I thought it ironic the can he drank from had a dent in it. Probably came from the fridge on Webber’s side of the garage if the truth is known!

  5. Regarding the SUT and KOV tussle. Either one of those drivers could have done more to avoid the crash but they both wanted that position (AKA Racing). In other words, just let them race.

    1. I’ll go with that Brian,Looking at it that way, Heikki was one of the few who actually was ‘racing’ For the rest it was more like a track day meeting, from a spectators point of view. Suzuka may be a ‘drivers’ track, but the clever ways around the aero restrictions are still making it difficult to drive closely, therefore maximising any overtaking opportunities, unless that is, your seat is under threat, or you are looking for a new contract…….

  6. anakincarlos
    5th October 2009, 1:21

    This must surely prove that webber is the unluckiest driver around. Hopefuly next year with a fully recovered leg he should fair better.

    1. Yeh as Brundle said during commentary, if Webber doesn’t have bad luck then he has no luck at all.

      1. Crashing in free practice is bad luck ?

  7. Brazil will suit Red Bull so hoping Vettel wins & Brawns struggle then the title may go to round 17

  8. i beg to digress, just curious. was there ever a GP wherein the drivers that finished 1-2-3, finished also in that order the following year? sorry my thirst for F1 knowledge is unquenchable as of the moment

  9. good to mention is that Hamilton lost his KERS just before or after his second stop!

  10. Alonso is a brilliant driver, but he clearly is prepared to do anything to achieve victory – even this weekend he stated that he ‘lifted that during the qualy yellow flag and others didn’t’ when it turns out he didn’t lift and was penalised.. he should fit into the Ferrari set up perfectly..

  11. Its not Alonso thats the problem, its his fans.

    1. Well said. I think tha same can be said about Hamilton. Good thing there are exceptions in both cases.

  12. I was disappointed that the saftey car situation that left grosjean in between vettel and trulli possibly spoiled an attack by trulli on vettel for the race win.
    why did nobody ask grosjean to get out the way as soon as he crossed the start finish line , he ended up moving over at a trickier part of the track .
    i thought we were on for a dramatic finish .

    1. I thought that situation would’ve been an appropriate one to let a lapped cars unlap. Let Grosjean go past Vettel and the safety car and rejoin back at end of the train, and Vettel and Trulli to fight it out.

      1. totally agree , i thought we were going to see a scrap for the win .

  13. Hi Keith, very interesting analysis as always. Just one point, I think that the GP lap chart is not totally correct as F. Alonso started in the 16th position of the grid in front of R. Grosjean. Anyway, fantastic job!

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