Formula 1™ and the FIA have come under close scrutiny after a dramatic Japanese Grand Prix began and ended behind the Safety Car on Sunday. The race was red flagged on Lap 44/53 after both the Medical Car and the Safety Car were dispatched.
Initially, only Adrian Sutil's stricken Sauber was visible on the live FOM feed as it was hauled out by a JCB tractor. Moments later it was evident from bits of body work being removed – that the crash site had witnessed another accident. Jules Bianchi’s Marussia had aquaplaned in an almost identical fashion to the Sauber. Only he wasn’t as lucky.
The Frenchman, is believed to have submarined into the rescue vehicle at speeds in excess of 100mph! An ambulance was on the scene quickly and he was soon shifted out by road to the Mie University Hospital, where he is currently declared to be in a critical but stable condition. [Updates from Marussia F1]
When the Japanese Grand Prix did get underway, pole-sitter Rosberg pulled away cleanly from the rolling start behind the Safety Car. Hamilton kept the gap down to under two seconds from his teammate, ducking out of Nico’s spray every time he could. Jenson Button pitted first for intermediate tyres. A choice which almost rewarded him a podium in the end. He had to settle for P5.
The Williams team watched their Mercedes power advantage disappear as the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo made short work of them in the span of a few laps. Christian Horner remained quietly confident post-qualifying on Saturday – both his RB10s were set up for a wet race. This thinking paid off against the superior Mercedes-powered teams who qualified in higher positions. And they ended up P3 and P4. Fernando Alonso suffered his second DNF in three races with the F14T shutting down all systems on the formation lap. With Kimi Raikkonen finishing down in P12, Ferrari recorded their first non points-scoring finish in 82 races!
In stark contrast, the Mercedes factory team with their massive downforce advantage this season, were in a race of their own. And Hamilton, a cut above that. After a failed DRS attempt on the earlier lap he then found some extra grip on the outside line passing Rosberg going into T1 on Lap 29 never to look back again. He built up a gap of almost 10s to car #6 before the Safety Car was deployed again. This time for the Marussia crash.
By winning in Suzuka for the first time Hamilton joins 7 other Formula One greats after taking his 30th career win. It was his 8th win this season, Rosberg's 8th second place and Mercedes' 8th one-two of the season! Next up is the inaugural Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.
With three consecutive wins now, Hamilton is back firmly in command on top leading Rosberg by 10 points. He has double the number of wins than his German rival. But with the FIA's new double-points being awarded in the final round this year, there’s everything to race for till Round 19. At this point it might be worth looking back at Nico's father's title winning year – 1982. Keke Rosberg registered just a single victory the whole season but was crowned champion for his consistency.
Lewis will be wary of that stat!
P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1hr 51m 43.021s
P2 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG
P3 Vettel – Red Bull Racing
Ajit Devadason is an Advertising professional who is passionate about "all things racing, all things fast." Follow his blog at www.racingline.effwon.com