Another turn one showdown for Hamilton and Rosberg

2016 Japanese Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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“We have done 70% of the job today”: Sergio Perez’s verdict on Force India’s performance on Saturday was a revealing indication of how important qualifying position is at Suzuka.

But it’s not the whole story, and if anyone knows that it’s Nico Rosberg. He started from pole position at this track in the previous two seasons but was beaten to victory by Lewis Hamilton on both occasions.

Felipe Nasr, Sauber, Suzuka, 2016
Japanese Grand Prix qualifying in pictures
And if qualifying accounted for 70% of the job, then the next 29% will be done in the few seconds after the red lights go out just after 2pm at Suzuka. This was where Hamilton won the race last year by forcing Rosberg wide as they went from turn one to two, leaving him powerless to prevent Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas drawing ahead.

A repeat of the same circumstances tomorrow is something the Mercedes pit wall will be eager to avoid. Rosberg has been rather more feisty in his wheel-to-wheel encounters this year and while the incidents in Spain and Austria (with Hamilton), Germany (with Max Verstappen) and Malaysia (with Kimi Raikkonen) didn’t always work out to his benefit, he has less to lose from a collision which puts both drivers out.

Both Mercedes drivers have had variable getaways this year. Other cars may get involved in their fight for victory: in 2013 Romain Grosjean burst through from fourth on the grid to take the lead on the drag to the first corner. Incidents are also common at turn one: last year Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez all picked up damage.

Teams are required to have two sets of hard tyres per car for the race. Ferrari look set to run a soft-hard-hard strategy on both their cars, while their rivals will have the option to incorporate a stint on mediums if they choose. The condition of the track will strongly influence this decision. Note that drivers are required to use at least one set of hard tyres.

A considerable amount of rain is expected on the morning of the race. Although it is expected to dry out before the race starts it will affect the grip levels and ‘reset’ the surface. That plus the anticipated cooler conditions may make the medium tyre a better bet.

Those who choose not to start on the soft tyres will be scrutinised closely by those on the pit wall. The position of the Williams drivers is particularly interesting, as they occupy the ‘new tyre front row’, and in Malaysia Valtteri Bottas was able to use this to his advantage to jump the Force India drivers.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’31.8581’30.714 (-1.144)1’30.647 (-0.067)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’32.2181’30.758 (-1.460)1’30.660 (-0.098)
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’31.6741’31.184 (-0.490)1’30.949 (-0.235)
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’31.6591’31.225 (-0.434)1’31.028 (-0.197)
5Max VerstappenRed Bull1’32.4871’31.229 (-1.258)1’31.178 (-0.051)
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’32.5381’31.240 (-1.298)1’31.262 (+0.022)
7Sergio PerezForce India1’32.6821’32.237 (-0.445)1’31.961 (-0.276)
8Romain GrosjeanHaas1’32.4581’32.176 (-0.282)1’31.961 (-0.215)
9Nico HulkenbergForce India1’32.4481’32.200 (-0.248)1’32.142 (-0.058)
10Esteban GutierrezHaas1’32.6201’32.155 (-0.465)1’32.547 (+0.392)
11Valtteri BottasWilliams1’32.3831’32.315 (-0.068)
12Felipe MassaWilliams1’32.5621’32.380 (-0.182)
13Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’32.6451’32.623 (-0.022)
14Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’32.7891’32.685 (-0.104)
15Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’32.8191’32.689 (-0.130)
16Jolyon PalmerRenault1’32.7961’32.807 (+0.011)
17Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’32.851
18Kevin MagnussenRenault1’33.023
19Marcus EricssonSauber1’33.222
20Felipe NasrSauber1’33.332
21Esteban OconManor1’33.353
22Pascal WehrleinManor1’33.561

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg32.241 (2)40.719 (1)17.545 (1)
Lewis Hamilton32.233 (1)40.837 (2)17.549 (2)
Kimi Raikkonen32.302 (4)40.928 (4)17.663 (3)
Sebastian Vettel32.412 (6)40.844 (3)17.724 (4)
Max Verstappen32.285 (3)41.093 (6)17.769 (7)
Daniel Ricciardo32.326 (5)40.953 (5)17.867 (12)
Sergio Perez32.766 (8)41.358 (8)17.785 (8)
Romain Grosjean32.708 (7)41.436 (10)17.767 (6)
Nico Hulkenberg32.830 (10)41.293 (7)17.797 (9)
Esteban Gutierrez32.809 (9)41.510 (13)17.731 (5)
Valtteri Bottas32.866 (11)41.463 (11)17.850 (10)
Felipe Massa33.108 (14)41.414 (9)17.858 (11)
Daniil Kvyat32.964 (12)41.632 (16)17.947 (17)
Carlos Sainz Jnr32.987 (13)41.635 (17)18.016 (19)
Fernando Alonso33.208 (16)41.534 (14)17.892 (14)
Jolyon Palmer33.122 (15)41.504 (12)17.884 (13)
Jenson Button33.307 (18)41.646 (18)17.898 (15)
Kevin Magnussen33.356 (20)41.584 (15)18.046 (22)
Marcus Ericsson33.288 (17)41.903 (19)18.029 (20)
Felipe Nasr33.338 (19)41.964 (22)18.030 (21)
Esteban Ocon33.513 (21)41.904 (20)17.917 (16)
Pascal Wehrlein33.529 (22)41.939 (21)18.003 (18)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes315.5 (196.0)
2Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes315.1 (195.8)-0.4
3Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari314.4 (195.4)-1.1
4Pascal WehrleinManorMercedes314.0 (195.1)-1.5
5Esteban OconManorMercedes311.9 (193.8)-3.6
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari311.8 (193.7)-3.7
7Esteban GutierrezHaasFerrari311.7 (193.7)-3.8
8Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari311.4 (193.5)-4.1
9Jolyon PalmerRenaultRenault310.7 (193.1)-4.8
10Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes309.4 (192.3)-6.1
11Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes309.4 (192.3)-6.1
12Kevin MagnussenRenaultRenault309.1 (192.1)-6.4
13Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes309.0 (192.0)-6.5
14Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes308.6 (191.8)-6.9
15Felipe NasrSauberFerrari307.6 (191.1)-7.9
16Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer307.4 (191.0)-8.1
17Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari306.7 (190.6)-8.8
18Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer305.9 (190.1)-9.6
19Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoFerrari304.9 (189.5)-10.6
20Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda304.4 (189.1)-11.1
21Daniil KvyatToro RossoFerrari303.6 (188.6)-11.9
22Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda302.6 (188.0)-12.9

Drivers’ remaining tyres

Lewis HamiltonMercedes110112
Nico RosbergMercedes110112
Sebastian VettelFerrari110013
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari110013
Felipe MassaWilliams111013
Valtteri BottasWilliams200113
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull200103
Max VerstappenRed Bull200103
Nico HulkenbergForce India201003
Sergio PerezForce India201003
Kevin MagnussenRenault111022
Jolyon PalmerRenault111013
Daniil KvyatToro Rosso200014
Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso110014
Marcus EricssonSauber112012
Felipe NasrSauber202012
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren200014
Jenson ButtonMcLaren200032
Pascal WehrleinManor201013
Esteban OconManor201013
Romain GrosjeanHaas200004
Esteban GutierrezHaas200004

Over to you

How will the latest round between the two Mercedes drivers be resolved? And will the Red Bull or Ferrari drivers play a role in the outcome?

Share your views on the Japanese Grand Prix in the comments.

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Keith Collantine
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    38 comments on “Another turn one showdown for Hamilton and Rosberg”

    1. As i understand from RBR the difference between Medium and Hard is very small. The harder tire has the advantage of a longer time to react on changes in the race.
      Btw it looks that the engine mappings play a big rol in the quali results. F.i The Ferrari engines did good today.
      [q] Note that drivers are required to use at least one set of hard tyres. [/q] They need to use two different sets at least. There is no requirement for the use of Hard tyres!

      1. Actually the rules are slightly different this year, in that the drivers have to use a nominated (by Pirelli) prime tyre in the race. The Hard for this race is the mandatory tyre.

        1. Good point. Also with the chance of rain, choosing to go for long runs might not pay off.

        2. @ijw1 I don’t think that’s true. I thought the rules required drivers to use at least 2 different compounds during a race. Soft-Medium or Soft-Hard, doesn’t matter which one they use.

          1. Hard IS mandatory that is why is still stupid rule even if we have 3 compounds. When 1 is mandatory every talk about strategy is more less over. We should have 3 compounds but let teams race what ever they want.Then we would see different strategy.

            1. @dex022
              “When 1 is mandatory every talk about strategy is more less over.”

              Is it? Pirelli nominated two sets of hards for Malaysia as well, and I didn’t get the feeling that the tyre strategies suffered by any means.

          2. @gdewilde Then, we are both right! :-) They have to use 2 different sets of tyres AND use the mandatory prime tyre for one of those sets.

          3. @gdewilde I checked the notes from Pirelli while writing this: Each driver must have at least two sets of hard tyres available for the race and must use at least one of them.

    2. I believe that since Mercedes can not race in cruise mode anymore now RBR is closer, races will get closer and Mercedes might start to fail again. At least 1 MER has been struggling in the latest races.

      If RBR gets stuck behind FER it will benefit MERC. I believe RBR is faster in the race then FER and can challenge MER.
      So start will be very important. FER has very good starts unless VET starts doing crazy things again.
      Strategy, strategy tomorrow.

      1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
        8th October 2016, 16:36

        FER is Alonso?

        1. @omarr-pepper I believe @ia meant Ferrari (who don’t have a cute three-letter abbreviation).

          1. Isn’t it usually SF for Scuderia Ferrari?

          2. I think he was joking :-)

            1. Ah, missed that :-) @spoutnik

              Nice one @omarr-pepper

            2. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
              9th October 2016, 0:56

              @spoutnik for a moment the acronym FER blocked my mind… I wasn’t joking, I really struggled to try to understand his comment.

    3. Not sure about this. Last season’s race (and indeed the past too) shows overtaking at Suzuka is definitely possible. Sure, you have to be one of the better overtakers, but we have quite a few good ones in this field. Not so set on this being a race where mainly tactics decide the winner, if the cars are as closely matched as practice and quali suggested, I can see some overtakes determining the winner.

      1. Use of different tire strategy will help you to overtake too. And it doesn’t wear on your tires that much.

    4. Hopefully we actually see the Mercedes racing each other for once as it’s hardly happened in the past 3 years but if we have rain and pitstops everything could change and I wouldn’t mind seeing the red bulls, or ferraris, fighting for the lead again.

      1. If we can have qualifyings like this all year then probably it would make us more exciting… we want some HYPEE!!

    5. I was just talking to a Facebook friend about the start. With the Mercs on row1, Kimi and Max on row2, 5th might just be the best grid slot going…

      1. Could be. Quite alarming how much those guys infront tangle this year.

    6. Here’s one thing I don’t get:
      “Teams are required to have two sets of medium tyres per car for the race. […] Note that drivers are required to use at least one set of hard tyres.”

      In my opinion, the second phrase makes perfect sense, as Pirelli has nominated two sets of hard tyres as mandatory. But how does this affect the mediums? Vettel has only brought a single set of mediums for the entire weekend for instance ( Something’s not quite right here.

      1. It must be a mistake in the article.

    7. Ferrari, Toro Rosso, Haas and Mclaren apparently all decided not to bring any “mediums”, thus limiting their strategic choices. This was either a short-sighted mistake (hard to believe that four teams would independently make the same mistake), or there’s something that’s not obvious… Setup options? Tyre life and safety car possibilities? Weather predictions?

      1. @paul-a it can also be about car characteristics and previous year data.

    8. Front 2 rows and I’d only bet on Kimi making a clean start unless he gets caught up in other people’s mess. Hamilton is edgy and on the back foot, Verstappen can be reckless anytime and it’s in Rosbergs championship interests to take Lewis out even if he can’t finish himself.

      Other scenarios?

      1. Vettel is so stressed about not making another disaster that he will do something wrong again crashing into the front rows.

        1. I dont think Vettel is stressed at all.

      2. Rosberg is on a leash from his team I don’t see him doing anything crazy to Lewis. Lewis’ judgment in T1 has always been awesome. Seb will be trying really, really hard not to touch anyone and Kimi always does. Max will weave to keep whoever behind him and Ric is pretty sane. I reckon the action will be behind the top 6 – 2x Haas + 2x FI looks like an explosive cocktail to me…

        1. Rosberg is on a leash from his team?
          I think all he needs to do is make it clear to the team and Lewis that he won’t be forced off track.
          Push the issue at your own peril…

    9. “And if qualifying accounted for 70% of the job, then the next 29% will be done in the few seconds after the red lights go out…”
      …and the 1% account for the fate set by a ‘higher power’ :)

    10. With Lewis’ mindset at the moment I could totally see him getting a bit of red mist in the first corner and doing something he’ll regret. I hope he doesn’t, but it wont surprise me if it happens.

      1. And if he does, people will blame Nico.

        1. Well, Nico is responsible for Lewis’ famous “understeer”.

      2. @fletchuk I know where you are coming from re. mindset. Though, I don’t think Lewis feels he’s been wronged by Rosberg. I’d say even Lewis is impressed with Nico’s commitment and consistency.

    11. I wouldn`t rule Vettel either at the start, if he can turn those frustrations in motivation that is ;)

      1. *rule out*

    12. I must admit, a small part of me is hoping for a Senna/Prost-like collision at turn one. The onus is on HAM to keep his nose clean if he wants to keep his championship hopes alive.

    Comments are closed.