Title number four beckons number 44

2017 Japanese Grand Prix review

Posted on

| Written by

“We can never be fully confident of having solved the problems we’ve got,” said Ferrari’s chief technical officer on Friday when asked about the twin failures which had struck his cars down one week earlier in Malaysia.

He was right to be cautious. For on the grid in Japan Ferrari endured a repeat of their Malaysia nightmare. But while in Sepang it was Kimi Raikkonen whose car was sidelined before the race even started, this time it was their championship contender.

And so instead of a highly anticipated duel between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, the Japanese Grand Prix was the race in which the championship contest fizzled out.

Vettel’s race wrecked

Vettel’s race was over in a few laps
For all the sophistication of the modern Formula One turbo-hybrid power systems, it was a component as a spark plug which caused Ferrari’s grief on the grid. Amid the confusion as the team’s mechanics scrambled to replace it Vettel failed to make it to the podium ceremony on time, earning a reprimand, but this was the least of his problems by far.

Although much of the ban on radio communications was rescinded last year, the restrictions on communications during the formation lap remains. So it was clear something was still amiss at Ferrari when Vettel told them, “I know you’re not allowed to talk to me but if there’s anything for safety or reliability let me know.” Obviously the concern was more the latter than the former.

Vettel was given the inevitable list of switch changes. But as soon as the race began it was clear they hadn’t worked. Although he held second position through the Esses, Max Verstappen pounced on him at the hairpin and was through into second behind Hamilton.

Ferrari had a few laps to regroup after the Safety Car appeared. Carlos Sainz Jnr, eager for a good send-off in his final race for Toro Rosso, had stuck his car in the barrier at the first corner.

But when the Safety Car pulled in Vettel quickly fell prey to a string of cars behind him. They were led by Esteban Ocon, the Force India driver having opportunistically split the Red Bulls at the start.

Finally, Vettel succumbed to the inevitable. He conducted the bare minimum of his media obligations before high-tailing it out of Suzuka without waiting to see if Hamilton was going to inflict maximum damage on his fading championship hopes. “It hurts,” he admitted before leaving.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

Hamilton in control

Sainz left Toro Rosso on a low note
Despite the early Safety Car, and the added complication of a Virtual Safety Car shortly afterwards to recover Marcus Ericsson’s crashed Sauber, Hamilton edged clear of Verstappen. By lap 20 he was five seconds to the good, protected from any undercutting attempts.

By this stage it was clear that despite the considerably hotter track temperatures – 20C up from Saturday – the majority of drivers were going to stick to one-stop strategies. A degradation-troubled Felipe Massa set the ball rolling by pitting on lap 17, setting himself up for a tough second stint.

Further ahead Kimi Raikkonen, having lost time by tangling with Stoffel Vandoorne and then running wide at Spoon, had been picking off the midfielders with DRS. Once he passed Sergio Perez Force India responded by bringing their leading car in.

Ocon had been defenceless against Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas in the DRS zone, and an early stop gave him a slim hope of staving off Raikkonen. But a slow tyre change cost him around a second in the pits and more still as it meant he emerged behind Fernando Alonso.

Although Ocon picked off Alonso and, soon after, Jolyon Palmer as well, the delays added up. Raikkonen emerged from his pit stop on lap 28 ahead of the Force India.

The pit stops left most of the drivers in the order they ran in to the flag. But Massa had taken on too much with his early stop and came under pressure from the Haas pair. On lap 42 Kevin Magnussen produced the move of the race, forcing his car between the Williams and the turn two apex to claim eighth. Romain Grosjean followed him by into ninth.

Late drama at the front

Verstappen chased Hamilton home
After ditching his super-softs for softs Hamilton sustained his lead into the second stint. But Lance Stroll’s departure from the race due to a front-right puncture caused a problem for the race leader.

The VSC was deployed again but immediately afterwards Hamilton found it difficult to warm his worn front tyres. His problems were compounded by the fact he was running in traffic. Verstappen was managing heavy front-left tyre degradation but took 1.4 seconds out of Hamilton’s lead as Alonso waited too long to let him by.

But Verstappen knew his chances of being to pass the Mercedes anywhere around narrow, winding Suzuka were slim. And as the final lap began both had to work their way around Massa, who did just as he had in Russia, separating the leading duo on the final lap. While some mist point to the common engine in Massa and Hamilton’s cars as a reason for Massa’s ‘generosity’, it helped him no end in keeping Alonso behind.

Ricciardo took third as Bottas, running on super-softs at the end, ran out of time to pass him due partly to the disruption of the VSC. Raikkonen was more than 20 seconds further back.

Nico Hulkenberg had run sixth for a while after gambling on a long first stint. But he was forced out by an unusual fault which caused his DRS to jam open. The Force Indias moved up in his place, followed by the Haas pair, the Massa and Alonso.

Hamilton has title in sight

Hamilton has a 59-point championship lead
Before the summer break the championship fight had ebbed and flowed between Hamilton and Vettel by small degrees: A few points this way or the other each weekend. Suddenly Hamilton has taken 56 points out of Vettel in three races, and the title could be his at the next round.

Unsurprisingly, Hamilton played down any talk of him having ‘one hand on the title’ after his victory. “There’s not really any need for me to change the approach,” he said.

“I’m not really particularly taking crazy risks in order to be in the position I’m in. I think we’re just going to try and continue to do what we’re doing.” The only concern for Hamilton – and glimmer of hope for Vettel – came as the Mercedes driver reported an engine vibration on the slow-down lap.

Fans don’t want to see championships decided by technical failures. Nor does Liberty Media. Anyone wearing Ferrari red will have despaired at today’s events, no doubt recalling 1998 and 2006.

And even Hamilton himself would probably prefer the satisfaction of beating Vettel in a straight fight. But unless fortune turns against him, a fourth world championship is now Hamilton’s to lose.

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

118 comments on “Title number four beckons number 44”

  1. I can’t wait for 2019. Whoever it is, Ricciardo or Verstappen. It can’t come soon enough.

    I predict 2018 will be equally boring.

    1. Whoever it is? I think Hamilton has the better of Ricciardo.

      1. That’s what everyone thought about Vettel. Don’t think Hamilton would be able to do to Vettel what Riccardio did in 2014. I think Riccardio with his racecraft and consistency would be more than a match for Lewis.
        That in turn makes Verstappen’s potential terrifying!!!

      2. How so? Because he’s beating Bottas who was on average 0.15s faster than Massa?

    2. Unles Ricciardo massively improves his qualifying performances, I can’t see him beating Lewis over the course of a season. Max would be interesting though.

      1. Think it says more about how good Max is

  2. Reliability aside Hamilton has simply been superior to Vettel this season. His superior 1 lap pace has regularly put him in positions to beat the much better Sunday package of Vettel.

    1. @blackmamba True, but Hamilton’s starts and race craft have been far superior too. Or rather Vettel’s have been poorer than most in the top 5.

      1. @blackmamba I agree with @patrickl actually. While Hamilton is a qualifying beast, the first and foremost reason that has put Hamilton in a better position is due to the quali engine mode of the Mercedes.

        It’s the race where Hamilton himself makes the difference, just look at Bottas (and I don’t mean the most recent races where he’s been off the pace). There were just one or two races where Hamilton lacked the pace, all others he has beaten his teammate by some margin.

        Hamilton has also been the smarter driver of the two, never taking unnecessary risks like Vettel does from time to time (Baku, Singapore) and choosing championship points over a single victory (Malaysia) when he knows he’ll definitely score more points than his only championship rival.

    2. Mercedes’ superior 1 lap pace has regularly put him in positions to beat the better Sunday package of Vettel.


      Also, having a 15-25 kph advantage on straights, effectively negating DRS, also isn’t bad when you’re in front.

      1. its not that much. even if it is that was ferrari’s strategy to go with a higher downforce setup.

      2. Also, having a 15-25 kph advantage on straights, effectively negating DRS, also isn’t bad when you’re in front.

        25KPH?! 🤣

        I’m guessing you haven’t looked at any of the speed trap data this year then?


        Yes that’s a Ferrari engined car with the highest top speed on the longest straight in the calendar. You completely fabricated that number.

        1. Top speed has no meaning. It is about the time it takes to get to that speed. Merc engines are quicker. Ferrari gearing maker them faster.

          The quicker car at a peak speed wins races. The faster car makes overtaking harder on the straights.

        2. When I’ve looked at the speed trap data in the past it seemed to me it was quite common for the race winner to not have the highest speed trap measurement. Even in this race I think I saw Lance Stroll had a higher speed than Lewis Hamilton. I’m not sure why this is, because you’d think the person with the least lap time would also have the highest speed, but not so. The person who wins the race obviously has the fastest average speed, meaning those with higher speed trap measurements than the race winner must also have slower lowest speeds as well.

          1. The FIA did lock the gear ratios for the season. So while Merc may not have the highest speed they have done their homework and made the ratios better for the cornering speed and exit.

          2. downforce = drag

            faster on the straight means they’re running less downforce so there is less drag. The tradeoff is that they’re slower in the corners. Somewhere there is a balance between fast enough in the corners and not too slow on the straights to make a perfect lap.

        3. @offdutyrockstar, whilst, as others have noted, there is a bit of a flaw in that the speed trap data can be influenced by slipstreaming and availability of DRS, I do agree that the claims of a 15-25kph speed advantage are complete rubbish.

          In Japan, the speed trap figures there – albeit with the speed trap being at the start-finish line – showed that there was only a 0.4kph difference between Bottas and Kimi, with Kimi recording a higher end of straight speed (1.3kph higher than Bottas).

          Let’s put it this way – the only car over whom Mercedes had a 25kph straight line speed advantage over in Japan was Vettel’s car, and that was a car running on only five cylinders.

          1. Well said.

      3. Mercedes’ superior 1 lap pace HAM gets has regularly put him in positions to beat the better Sunday package of Ferrari that Vettel gets

        @Baron much better :p

        1. Hi David.. @davidnotcoulthard, please do not ‘tag’ the untaggable..

          1. @baron Well, wrong baron.

            Tagging the untaggable hoping that it’s not an actual username seems to just be the best way to go here though (maybe I should put a space next time) :(

    3. His superior 1 lap pace has regularly put him in positions to beat the much better Sunday package of Vettel.

      @blackmamba I’d put that part (both points) more to the car.

      But about the drivers….yeah. Only one has done a Baku – I still think Singapore might be a wee bit of a stretch but fair enough, it’s not like VES or RAI deserves more blame than VET there (personally I wouldn’t blame any of them)

      1. but yeah, HAM has done something right by not having had a start like that (VES, VET, RAI SG) for as long as most of us can remember

      2. Yeah, Singapore, the more I watch it, was just unlucky, and no one’s fault. Every single time, whether its Hamilton or Vettel or someone else, the guy in first covers across to block the guy in 2nd. Just on this occasion, the guy in 4th got a great start and was alongside the guy in 2nd, and Vettel couldn’t see him.
        But Baku yeah, that was stupid. It wasn’t dangerous as they were going so slowly, so I think the penalty was fine, as it wasn’t worse than say what Magnussen does at much higher speed, but it was so immature and bad for the image of the sport, and I think he should’ve had to pay a large fine (not sure if he had to or not).

      3. @davidnotcoulthard Yes it’s just the way the F1F system works. Tagging an unregistered account goes nowhere so it’s a pointless exercise. Keith has addressed this by adding “If the person you’re replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using ‘@username‘.” to the reply box but I don’t think people read it. I don’t know if anyone else is affected by it but I am puzzled that if you are a regular contributor to the comments, why wouldn’t you register with the site? There’s no penalty for it and it’s free. It’s a mystery to me.. Sorry for the ‘post drift’. Had another thought: it’s probably just laziness. That’s it.

        1. Tagging an unregistered account goes nowhere so it’s a pointless exercise

          despite that it’s still become the preferred way of many here (OK, maybe just me??) to specify who I’m replying to @baron :)

          1. Good point @davidnotcoulthard, but if they’re unregistered just leave the “@” off. Otherwise the system tries to send an email nowhere, waste of bandwidth, or in my case, to the wrong person. With your “handle” it’s an issue that won’t affect you ;) I suspect that some people don’t bother to register so they can have multiple usernames and argue with themselves unless Keith has a system that detects multiple or duplicate IP addresses. Hey ho..

          2. @baron obviously I can only speak for myself but I don’t have an account purely because I like to limit the amount of active accounts I have registered anywhere online for security purposes. Less accounts means less chance of having account details leaked and I am one of those less secure people that reuses passwords across sites.

            F1F allows me to post without an account and so I will continue until that option is taken away.

            Each time I post I supply an email address to F1F so the reply system could work for anons, F1F has enough info there, I guess it just isn’t a priority.

  3. While some mist point to the common engine in Massa and Hamilton’s cars as a reason for Massa’s ‘generosity’

    That’s a reasonable argument, tbh, specially after watching how Ocon defended hard against Ricciardo and the next time by, he basically let Bottas go.

    It’s amaizing how things turned up in the last couple of races. Singapore was hard to believe, Malaysia was incredible too but 3 in a row? Lewis had this one done and dusted. And I’m glad to see Ferrari fail again, it’ll be fun to see the consequences… I suppose Marchionne will have a word or two with more than one engineer… the usual chaos at Maranello!

    1. Yeah, Vettel might be getting a taste of all of Alonso’s frustrations.

      1. Alonso would probably be close to winning this championship if he’d be driving the Ferrari. He wouldn’t have lost the points Vettel has through poor decision making anyhow.

        1. Japan 2012. When he drove through Kimi’s car at the first corner. He would have won the championship with those points.

          Yes there was Spa. But he was a passenger in that one.

        2. @david-br

          poor decision making anyhow.

          Which seems to be something ALO seems to almost be an expert at off-track. Almost funnily, but I guess never as much as sadly, so.

          1. @davidnotcoulthard No almost about it! I really hope we see a swan song from Alonso, one last season in a car at least with some chance of winning him the title.

      2. Chris (@tophercheese21)
        10th October 2017, 10:37

        It’s funny you should say that, I was literally thinking during the race that Alonso must have chuckled to himself when he found out about Vettel’s problem after the race.

        Alonso’s slipped through his fingers largely due to lack of pace in the car, but with Vettel it’s almost entirely been down to reliability. Either way it seems Ferrari have become rather good at losing championships.

    2. @fer-no65

      I don’t think there’s anything suspect in that. Force India were hopeful of giving Red Bull a hard time but realistically knew they weren’t in a fight with Mercedes.

      Ocon gave fighting Ricciardo a go but inevitably DRS made that pointless. Bottas was setup for even more straight-line speed due to his grid penalty so there was no hope keeping him behind. I think Ocon was just being pragmatic.

      1. @philipgb It was weird tho, that he picked up one fight but not the other. I expected him to just let both of them go, ala Perez with Seb in Malaysia.

        1. @fer-no65

          I think he probably fancied his chances holding off a Renault powered Red Bull down the straight. Once that failed the prospect of comprising his face further against an even faster Mercedes probably made no sense to him.

    3. And I’m glad to see Ferrari fail again,

      Come on.. your not a F1 fan if this is your real attitude.
      Let them fight on the track and not as a result of mechanical errors.

  4. While some mist point to the common engine in Massa and Hamilton’s cars as a reason for Massa’s ‘generosity’, it helped him no end in keeping Alonso behind.

    I have to disagree with this, there’s no love lost between Massa and Lewis, even in the qually for this very race there was some tension.

    And Massa has zero to gain from buttering up Mercedes, he won’t get a better engine or a drive for 2018.

    1. True. Also think Massa’s primary concern was to ensure he beat Alonso, who must be even further down his Christmas card list than Lewis. So he wasn’t going to let Verstappen past at a non-ideal time.

      1. Precisely. And I like the Xmas card list analogy 😂

  5. Last Year Hamilton had:
    An ERS failure at the start of qualifying in China, relegating him to 22nd on the grid. He finished seventh.
    An ERS failure during Q3 in Russia, restricting the Mercedes driver to 10th on the grid. He finished second.
    An engine mode issue during the European GP. He finished fifth having started in 10th following a crash in qualifying.
    Used all 5 of his season engine allocation by the mid way point Race 12 Spa, forcing him to start from 22nd on the grid, finished 3rd
    A hydraulics fault during Practice Two in Singapore which was cited as a critical factor in his defeat to Rosberg. He finished third.
    An engine blow-out in Malaysia which cost him 25 points since he was 22seconds ahead of the Red bull in 2nd
    At the end of the season the engine usage statistics were
    Hamilton: ICE: 6 TC: 8 MGU-H: 8 MGU-K: 6 ES: 5 CE: 5
    Rosberg: ICE: 5 TC: 5 MGU-H: 5 MGU-K: 5 ES: 4 CE: 4
    f1technical (.) net/news/21099
    Only Alonso had worse reliability than Hamilton.
    All Rosberg had season had was a minor gearbox issue which cost him 3 points at Silverstone after getting demoted from 2nd to 3rd for driver coaching which was banned at the time and a grid penalty for a gearbox change at Austria.
    He was effectively bullet proof all season.

    But they said (you know who you are) Reliability didn’t decide the championship…………

    This season 2017:
    Hamilton had:
    A grid penalty at Austria for gearbox change.
    Vettel had:
    An electrical problem in quali at Malaysia forcing him to start 20th, he finished the race 4th.
    A spark plug/engine failure/retirement from the Japanese GP.

    Yet somehow reliability is deciding this championship?


    1. @ldg95 Isn’t it amazing, how selective the memory can be?

      I have been sitting here quietly waiting for this “reliability deciding this championship” chatter to start.

      Like you, all I can say is…….. HILARIOUS!!

      1. @stubbornswiss @ldg95 well…..wouldn’t last year’s failure-decided championship be more of a reason to hope not to see that this year?

        Don’t assume everyone who said that said

        But they said (you know who you are) Reliability didn’t decide the championship…………

        , or that they hope HAM loses the WDC (some explicitly said otherwise)

        Besides, Massa lost the Hungarian GP in 2008 to a blown engine with THREE laps to go. He was leading. Am I suddenly going to go “2008 was a RELIABILITY-DECIDED championship!!!!!”? Of course not. But that doesn’t make it unfair to say after that race that it would be a bit of a shame if the championship got decided by that as a significant (I do realise not only) factor. Besides, it left us with a much more emotional end of the season (though I am looking at it from a post-Hungary 2009 POV). Most of us wouldn’t trade anything for that ending.

        That said….so far this season I definitely wouldn’t call the WDC table reliability-decided myself. (excuse the all-caps, hope I kept them few enough)

        1. @davidnotcoulthard
          I understand reliability is part of the sport. My problem is I have seen many of the same people on different forums who completely refused to accept the differences in reliability between Hamilton and Rosberg do a complete U turn and say Seb is losing/lost this championship because of engine unreliability, despite Seb having nowhere near the amount of engine problems Hamilton had in 2016, while also not acknowleging Hamilton gearbox penalty at Austria and his headrest failure at Baku. I have said many times cognitive dissonance is strong among F1 fans/ followers without much proof. Now I have all the proof I need.

    2. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
      8th October 2017, 22:17

      @ldg95 excellent post.

      It should also be said about this season that Vettel threw away 38 points: 13 in Baku and 25 in Singapore, giving Hamilton a 28 point lead even before the Ferrari driver’s woes in Malaysia and Japan. With the title fight so close, Vettel was never likely to outscore Hamilton by that margin after Singapore – without, of course, benefiting from the good fortune of future Mercedes engine failures! So, barring a bit of a fluke, Vettel had already lost the title on merit.

      All things being equal, Hamilton had already done enough to secure the title, the last two races have just served to rubber stamp it.

      1. Perfectly said. The maths don’t lie! And ultimately when this season is done and dusted. 4 wins for Ferrari and no Championships with the best car Ferrari has produced since 2008, is the failure of the drivers! Ferrari need to get Verstappen in there!! Instead of putting all their hopes on Vettel, a driver who in Ross Brawn’s words was whooped by Ricciardo in 2014!

        1. Come on, that is a bit harsh on Seb. With the exception of Baku, and Singapore, what other errors can you say was his fault this year? Most of the point dropped have been from decisions made on the pit wall. If they can regroup over the winter, and sort out the embarrassing reliability issues, 2018 should be better. After all, if you had said before the season started, they would have won races, and maintained race development throughout the season, I think they would have accepted that.

          1. He’s had the pace to be on pole at least two times when he hasn’t converted. & that’s by his own admission, not my opinion. They’ve often had the best car on Sunday, so it’s not unreasonable to assume he had a good chance of winning those races if he had started from the front. He has to own those too.

      2. @thegrapeunwashed

        This is kinda how I feel about it. While reliability has finished Vettel off, Hamilton has (so far) driven far better.

        Vettel just made mistakes this year in Baku and Singapore.

    3. Rough day for the Sebfosi, the excuses are coming thick and fast and the saltiness is peaking. Extremely well said @ldg95

    4. Great analysis.

      1. Jake (@jagged-jake)
        9th October 2017, 9:47

        Lewis was told to man up about the reliability issues during the 2016 F1 season, that car breaking down is part of F1 by both esteemed F1 columnists and and anti Hamilton brigade and that Rosberg won the title fair and square…..but the same people who were celebrating Lewis misfortunes are the same now telling us that reliability issues from Ferrari are an awful thing….for a title fight, and the excuses are truly coming thick and fast indeed.

        1. the same people who were celebrating Lewis misfortunes are the same now telling us that reliability issues from Ferrari are an awful thing

          @jagged-jake are they really the same people though? Besides, most posts here nowadays seem to be rants aimed the other way around so surely that indicates more consistency?

    5. Absolute COTD.

    6. Roger Irrelevant
      9th October 2017, 10:35

      Had those two mechanical failures not happened and had Vettel won both races he would now be leading the championship by 1 point instead of 59 points down, ergo it’s not unreasonable to say reliability has played a major part.

      1. No Roger it is unreasonable, especially if you are one if the people who refused to accept that reliability decided the championship last year. And I don’t buy this Vettel would be in the lead by 1 point, that’s assuming you ignored Hamiltons headrest failure at Baku costing him a race win and his gearbox grid penalty at Austria all of which happened before Vettel had his first mechanical problem of the season 2 weeks ago.

        1. Incontinent Boxing Tortoise Hero
          11th October 2017, 11:03

          Reliability didn’t decide the championship. Every race contributed equally toward deciding. Reliability just played a part. Lrn2consistent.

    7. Excellent post.

    8. So, let me guess, you DON’T think Hamilton deserves this championship?? Or you do think Rosberg deserves last year’s WDC?

      Can only be one or the other?
      It is funny seeing Hamilton fans calling their driver the best when last year the constantly slated Rosberg for being ‘lucky’.

      1. As33
        It’s funny the point of the comment just flew over your head.
        The point is Hamilton isn’t in the lead of this championship because of reliability.
        Vettel reliability problems only came in the last 2 weeks while he was already behind in the championship.
        Hamilton had problems earlier in the season, Baku – 15 points lost because of the head rest failure. Gearbox penalty a Austria.
        The point is the people who said last year won fair and square are the ones that are saying Vettel is losing because of reliability.
        As the Facts in my comment i’ve presented prove that Rosberg won because his engine was bullet proof and Hamiltons wasn’t.
        Yes Rosberg was lucky last year. It’s a known fact.

  6. It’s odd how the focus seems to be on how Alonso and Massa supposedly ruined a last ditch attempt for Verstappen to overtake Hamilton. In reality it was Alonso who held up Hamilton so much that the situation arose to begin with.

    Alonso was penalized for holding up Hamilton for almost a whole lap. That’s the reason why the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen suddenly disappeared.

    1. @patrickl

      Alonso was penalized for holding up Hamilton for almost a whole lap. That’s the reason why the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen suddenly disappeared.

      That is in the article along with a link to the earlier piece which explains it more fully.

      1. @keithcollantine Just look up a bit higher here or read the comments under the article why Massa came in between Hamilton and Verstappen. People on this forum and also the commentators on TV are going on and on about how they lost this potentially great battle at the end because of Alonso and Massa.

        1. It’s the TV director who is responsible for that. Everyone saw how Alonso put his car between HAM and VER and it looked (and was) a stupid action. He already did more but it was not shown on TV.

    2. In reality it was Alonso who held up Hamilton so much that the situation arose to begin with.

      Actually VER was already closing in on HAM before they caught up with ALO.
      The gap was roughly 3s when the VSC finished (start of lap 50) and VER closed this down to 1.1 when ALO received the first blue flag (end of lap 51).

      The Mercedes cars are struggling a bit more when in dirty air – also when HAM was behind BOT – but even VER mentioned that it would have been nigh on impossible to pass HAM.

  7. A fantastic season for Hamilton so far. Who could have guessed he would win a championship of one. Stuff of legends.

    1. Stuff of legends

      Quoted for truth. Hamilton has really shown Vettel the way this season. Even if you account for car issues Hamilton would still have a point cushion greater than one win.

    2. Stuff of legends.

      Errr….not as much as many previous seasons (2007 as we had it – or even as 2007 had HAM won it (I blame McLaren for HAM losing it…if anyone), 2008 for the ending, 2004 for the domination would be my idea of recent “stuff of legends”)

  8. It’s fustrating that it is only 4th WDC.

    He should already be on the cusp of beating MS

    2016, poor reliability and a changed clutch did for him compared to Nico.

    2007, I believe was political

    2012, McLaren should have given more attention to Lewis instead of concentrating on fixing JBs issues, but whitmarsh had a crush on JB. Though if they had done, he might not have moved to Merc.

    2010, lost opportunity was all on Lewis.

    1. 2007 was political? What? No McLaren lost both championships in 2007 because 1. Ron Dennis is an idiot and 2. McLaren keeping Hamilton out in China with a wrecked tyre and 3. Hamilton’s gear box fault in Brazil.

      1. I think they throw it, probably on insistence from Mosley

        1. Roger Irrelevant
          9th October 2017, 10:39

          Mosley never had that kind of influence. It must have been David Icke.

    2. ‘Only 4th WDC’ :D

    3. Yes, and obviously schumacher shouldn’t have won 1997, 1998 and 1999, no, let’s only count one driver’s near misses.

      1. Obviously 99 due to the broken leg, not considering 2006 cause it was even car and reliability.

        1. And 2014-2017 if they wouldn’t have kicked him out ;)

      2. Good Observations – you can always say “what if” in F1. For example (for Alonso):

        2007: 1 point away from the title, if he hadn’t gotten caught up in some much controversy and focused on his racing instead of blackmailing, he could have won it…

        2008: Screwed over by career move

        2010: Screwed over by Ferrari tactics (career move)

        2012: Screwed over by crashes

        2014: Screwed over by car

        2015: Screwed over by career move

        You could bring up cases like this for every driver on the grid, but who comes out on top in the end is unfortunately what matters, not who “could have”.

        1. 2012 screwed over by McLaren more likely

        2. Thus the tally so far is:
          – HAM 8x WDC’s
          – ALO 8x WDC’s
          – MSc 15x WDC’s
          – SEN infinite WDC’s

    4. More frustrating that he has as many as 3 already and is likely to be gifted yet another to be honest!

      1. gifted


    5. Yes Lewis is the only driver to suffer bad luck!!!

      It is almost as if he isn’t being gifted another WDC due to superior reliability to his rivals (also see 2008 & 2014) yet his fans still think he is ‘unlucky’

      Give me strength!!

  9. Even though he didn’t win, and the result overshadowed by the championship story, this may be the beginning of a Verstappen era. He has smoked Ricciardo now two races in a row straight up, and let’s remember that Ricciardo was supposed to be the real deal after he beat up on Vettel at RBR. Now that the car is looking fairly strong all-around, he could pick up a few more wins, especially with Hamilton not wanting to scrap with a young guy way out of the points lead now.

    1. Alright calm down. He won 1 race and finished 2nd and both them things probably don’t happen if Ferrari don’t have all them problems.

    2. Well, he’s been outdriving ricciardo all year long, doesn’t take that much to read through results that would’ve happened when you take away both drivers’ reliability issues.

      1. That supposition relies on the assumption that Verstappen would have always stayed in the positions he was in when he retired, which is very hard to judge when, in a lot of those races, he retired very early on and at a point where strategy could have brought Ricciardo back into position.

        I have to agree with Adam here – I know that Max’s fans wish that a “Verstappen era” is just around the corner, but a handful of races does not make an era.

        1. Roger Irrelevant
          9th October 2017, 10:47

          Some people said the same about a Ricciardo era after he had a more successful season than Vettel when they were team mates at Red Bull. It should be self-evident that far more goes into the disparity between a driver’s results and those of his team mate than a comically simplistic view of him just being “better”. Surprising how easily people switch their brains off when their most favourite and/or least favourite driver are under discussion.

        2. I can see it happening though.

          OTOH a lot of people probably predicted a McRae after one actual championship win. Didn’t really happen.

        3. the assumption that Verstappen would have always stayed in the positions he was in when he retired,

          Unlikely, he was on the move to greater and higher places.

    3. Agreed he is dynamite

  10. Although it’s a shame that reliability plays a major part in the championship outcome, it’s part of racing. I’d rather see Vettel and Hamilton (or any pair of drivers) fight it out on track the last few races than this happening, but combined with the statistic I read on F1.com today it says something about the increased pressure on both Mercedes and Ferrari this season.

    Red Bull followed up their one-three in Malaysia with a two-three in Japan – the first time they have taken back-to-back double podium finishes since 2013.

    This is not just because Red Bull has been developing their 2017 car, but also because of reliability issues mainly at Ferrari. To me this is a result of Ferrari losing the upper hand roughly since the summer break. They seem to take more risks to develop their engine, but they only have a startup team (Haas) to which they deliver it. Not much can be learned from that regarding performance improvements.
    Mercedes also has had their issues, especially with the battery and so-called de-rating, plus tyre wear seems to effect them a lot every couple of circuits. Finally, it’s become more prevalent this year that the design of the Mercedes car has been to lead the race and not look back. The easiest indicator of this is the rake of the car and their complex aero package, due to which the Mercedes is a much more difficult car to closely follow others (including their teammate as Hamilton proved today). This is where especially Red Bull shines. They were ridiculed at the beginning of the year by their almost ridiculously simple aero package and although they’ve come a long way since then, some of the essential design choices still hold. It’s both easier to drive on the limit (it behaves predictable) and is also able to follow other cars closely as both drivers have shown throughout the whole season.

    So yeah, all the reliability issues aside, Hamilton deserves the world championship and I’m already hoping for 2018 to at least have a 4th team joining the battle for podiums, regardless of whether it’s Renault or McLaren. And just to mix things up, let Mercedes for once start on the back foot next year. ;-)

    1. Although it’s a shame that reliability plays a major part in the championship outcome

      Even if you take car issues into account Hamilton would still have a clear championship lead. I make it:

      Starting with Hamilton’s current 59 point lead

      Baku: +17 points to Hamilton
      Austria: + 3 points to Hamilton
      Malaysia: +28 to Vettel
      Japan: +18 to Vettel

      Which would leave Hamilton with a 33 point lead and still able to win the championship even with 4 wins for Vettel in the last for races. Reliability has affected the points totals definitely but it certainly hasn’t yet affected the positions or outcome.

      1. @Martin: agree completely, same exact results I get when discounting the reliability problems, only debatable one is the puncture at silverstone, but even if you consider that as a reliability problem, hamilton’s advantage would go down to 27.

        1. Wait, I don’t actually understand malaysia, vettel got 12 points there, hamilton 18, even if vettel had won that’s +13 and would’ve demoted hamilton to -3, that’s 16 points lost for vettel, it’s not enough to explain your 28, even if you put raikkonen in too.

          1. Whoops yes I gave Vettel +25 for Malaysia when it should have been +13 you are right big mistake from me.

            That would actually leave Vettel 45 points behind.

    2. Mercedes started on the back foot this year in a major way though. I find it hard to believe they would be having this problem I their hydraulics system wasn’t banned so close to the season. This left them scrambling for a solution to a system that was attributed in several sites as being a cornerstone of their previous championship winning cars and for this year’s challenger.

      They came into the year overweight and eating their tires up faster than Ferrari. Of course they still had the engine superiority but that didn’t matter in the first few races when Ferrari was clearly the better car and only a fortuitous VSC in China kept Vettel from taking the win in the first 3 races of the calendar. Heck, Vettel/Ferrari could have realistically started the year with 6 wins on the bounce(Bottas somehow kept them behind in Sochi which is clearly his best track on the calendar because he hasn’t performed like that before or since, and again a VSC and strategy help from Bottas helped Hamilton keep in touch with Vettel who had driven into the distance in the first stint.)

      Mercedes and Hamilton have the lead of this championship essentially because they have taken every opportunity that has come their way while Ferrari have squandered theirs through reliability issues or driver error. Only place I can think of where Merc/Lewis have squandered an opportunity is Baku with the headrest. But when given the opportunity to take points they have often seized the opportunity with both hands. I guess that is that 3 year championship winning pedigree that comes into play while it’s been a while since Ferrari or Seb have won a championship.

      It could also be that Mercedes dominance has forced Ferrari to push all their chips into the middle all year and take too many risks and that is finally catching up with them towards the end of the season.

      1. I agree with your comment, it really has been a tale of two contrasting halves so far this season with Seb and Ferrari superb in the first half, setting the bar for race to race performance & consistency and a couple of blips for Hamilton & Mercedes in reliability & performance saw Seb leading into the summer break.

        Starting with Spa we saw peerless driving from both Vettel and Hamilton, I’m certain we all expected the margins to remain very tight into the last third of the season. However starting from Monza the swing towards Hamilton & Mercedes started with Vettel and Ferrari not performing in the Wet conditions. Hamilton has also been able to get on top of and drive around the variability in the car compared to the first part of the season, especially in Singapore where the car was third fastest in qualifying but was more than comparable with Ricciardo’s Red Bull in the race.

    3. @addvariety, you do realise that the simple aero package that Red Bull launched their car with was mainly because Red Bull lost about two months of development time during the off season because of wind tunnel correlation issues?

      1. Roger Irrelevant
        9th October 2017, 10:55

        Didn’t Red Bull themselves admit that a simple i.e. low drag aero philosophy was a conscious choice and that they simply misjudged the amount of downforce others would be running?

    4. Although it’s a shame that reliability plays a major part in the championship outcome

      Why is that a ‘shame’?
      F1 is not a sport finding the fastest driver, but a team sport to find the fastest package (PU, Chassis, Driver).
      Reliability of the mechanical bits is as important as skill/fitness of the driver.

      1. Because reliability at the end of the day comes down to luck.

        Besides, @addvariety said it’s part of racing (it is – we’re not going to mourn for Lauda’s 1984 season are we? And that car won the WDC so it’s not like Project 4 failed to come up with a reliable car). Why are commenters going after them?

        1. I mean 1985. damn.

      2. That’s exactly what I mean. Because reliability is as important as driver skill, it’s a shame that something like that can be a deciding factor in a World Driver Championship. Although I’m not a fan of Vettel, I’d love to see him fight Hamilton up until the last couple of races instead of two major reliability issues.

        To put it into perspective: it’s different than it was 20-30 years ago when lots of cars were failing every now and then. Of course also then some were more reliable than others, but in general reliability issues happened all the time. Now it’s almost non-existent in the way that a failing Mercedes is breaking news. However, this also makes even 1 DNS/DNF or starting from the back of the grid due to grid penalties has that much more of an impact on the whole year. Even if Vettel now wins all remaining races (he won’t) and Hamilton becomes 2nd, he’ll make up just 32 points on Hamilton and not be WDC.

        Final hypothetical: let’s say you have by far the fastest car and win all races, but you’re car is quite unreliable, the other team is hugely reliable and only scores 2nd places when you win and wins when you fail to score, then in a 20 race season one would score 500 points, the other 360. All it would take for the 2nd driver to become WDC is 5 results without points. So let’s say Hamilton wins 15 races, but fails to score in 5 of them, he would then have 375 points. If Vettel always scores a 2nd place behind Hamilton and a win when Hamilton fails to score, that would mean he will only win 5 races and only because of reliability issues of the other driver, but still win the WDC with 395 points because he’s so reliable.
        I know this sounds extremely weird and both Hamilton and Vettel went almost equal up until two races ago, but that just goes to show what an impact those 2 bad results have for Vettel, it’s roughly as bad as 5 DNF’s and 15 wins.

  11. The impressive aspect of Hamilton’s season do far is that he has ironed out the mistakes compared to past seasons. He seems to relish not having to worry about his team mate as with Nico Rosberg,so he can focus on threats from elsewhere.
    Driving for Ferrari has different pressures. We saw at Baku that Vettel can crack, he can lose his cool, and that is just what Hamilton would want. Far from the cool, professional four time world champion,we saw petulance from Vettel, and frustration. His third season at Ferrari has yet to yield the title he craves, the title with the very team his hero Michael Schumacher dominated with.
    Mercedes look more balanced. Gone is the infighting that plagued them when Rosberg and Hamilton were locking horns, in Valteri Bottas they have the perfect foil inwhich to protect Lewis’ title aspirations.
    I expect the autopsy at Maranello will be extensive, and heads will roll if the
    championship is dead. This is not unchartered territory for them, Fernando Alonso lost the 2010 title for them by the narrowest of margins. At that moment in Abu Dhabi seven years ago, Vettel romped to his first title. How the worm can turn!
    As for Verstappen I think we are seeing greatness on the cusp of exploding. If this man gets his hands on a fast car that has reliability to match, watch out.
    ‘You were quick today, man!’, Hamilton himself proclaimed in parc ferme to the Dutchman. Quick today, and no doubt many times in the future. This guy has a heavy right foot, and it has nothing to do with his clogs.

    1. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
      9th October 2017, 8:17

      This guy has a heavy right foot, and it has nothing to do with his clogs.

      LOL! I think Vettel’s on a hiding to nothing if he thinks he can emulate Schumacher – what made Schumacher so special in Ferrari is that he was part of a triumvirate with Team Principal Jean Todt and Engineering Principal Ross Brawn – they occupied three of the most important roles in the team and were indivisible, making it impossible for Ferrari top brass to threaten one individually – and it meant all the power and the decisions rested with the triumvirate. Since the team broke up, Ferrari went back to their old ways – and the team principals habitually wear a haunted expression.

      1. with the triumvirate

        @thegrapeunwashed which BTW was imported from team Enstone. That and there was Byrne.

      2. I think Vettel’s on a hiding to nothing if he thinks he can emulate Schumacher

        @thegrapeunwashed Does he though? (not sure either he or HAM really cares about that)

        1. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
          9th October 2017, 14:49

          @davidnotcoulthard My understanding is that Vettel wants to emulate Schumacher, by which I mean build Ferrari into a winning team and win multiple WDCs with them. But I can’t see him achieving it. Byrne was vital talent for Ferrari, but I believe Schumacher’s (or in reality Brawn’s?) real coup was installing an executive team capable of keeping Ferrari’s meddling top brass at arms length.

      3. I agree, looks as if his Ferrari career is going exactly the way Alonso’s did and utimately I can see the relationship eventually turning sour.

        Hopefully Riccardio can get into a Ferrari seat, if only to see Max vs Lewis at Mercedes. Think that is the only way Ferrari can win against Mercs as Hamilton allows his team-mates to get under his skin if they get close to him (see Alonso, Button and Rosberg) and Toto will struggle to deal with the pair of them.

  12. I think Lewis had it easy this year. Almost as if no one else wanted it. Raikonnen and Bottas poor number twos. Vettel hasn’t matured and has shown he isn’t the complete package.
    He will keep winning championships until Verstappen or Alonso get decent cars.

    1. Bottas is still getting used to the Merc – which has been referred to as a diva. So let us give him till next year to make his mark.

    2. It’s been far from easy!, people seem to be forgetting the first half of the season where Vettel and Ferrari were the favourites and lead into the summer break. Second half of the year, Hamilton and Mercedes have been fantastic, even accounting for Ferrari’s issues (various theoretical point situations covered by other posters).

  13. This season feels like a game of football that was 2-2 going into the last 15 minutes only for one of the teams get a man sent off and score two own goals.

    Ferrari need to be perfect from now to the end of the season, hope Red-Bull can continue their form and for at least one DNF for the Mercs. Sadly I cannot see all three happening.

  14. F1 fan? i don’t think so!, it wont be Riccardo nor Verstappen, it will be Lewis Hamilton again!!! Boring? I bet you’ll say last year wasnt. why because someone other than Lewis Hamilton won. Funny how so called F1 fans say how bored they are with F1. wher was your ass in the 80’s and 90’s? , when the sport was dominated by just a few teams and racers. Was it boring to see Michael Schumacker when 5 straight titles under Ferrari? What about 2010-2013, was F1 boring then? Im sure you would say no!, not because thats true , but because of the face of the winning drivers. Just say what you really want to say, dont hold back, dont the play political correct game, just say how you really feel. Be a man!! when its all said and done, at the end of the day, Lewis Hamilton will be the best driver in history, with the stats to confirm. 91 wins are around the corner. he owns poles, and poles to win!! Just keep hoping, one day when he is retired someone will step up and give it go, till then keep hoping!!

Comments are closed.