Lewis Hamilton won the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel, after the pole-sitter suffered from a poor getaway and allowed Hamilton to take the lead coming out of the second corner.
From then on it was a case of controlling the pace for Hamilton, after Rosberg dropped to fourth and had to find a way past Vettel who drove his way up to second and Valterri Bottas in third. Williams were first to pit out of the leaders, which prompted Ferrari to pit Vettel the next lap in order to not lose time to Bottas and potentially track position.
Mercedes meanwhile opted to keep Rosberg out, however it turned out to be for too long as he emerged back in fourth despite the Mercedes pit crew pulling off a swift stop. It wasn’t long however before Rosberg was onto the back of Bottas’ gearbox, making a bold move up the inside into the penultimate chicane after catching the Williams driver napping on the exit of 130R.
The next set of stops allowed Rosberg to perform the undercut strategy, which gave him the necessary clean air to overtake Vettel as he exited the pits during his final stop the next lap, securing second position as he kept a health gap to the chequered flag.
Bottas meanwhile lost out further in the final stint, when he got held up behind Maldonado who was yet to make his second stop. That allowed Ferrari to pit Raikkonen and make him emerge in fourth place and ahead of his fellow compatriot.
Hulkenberg also managed to emerge ahead of the two Lotus’ in the final stint, after undercutting them both during the pitstop phase to finish 6th, whilst Grosjean and Maldonado finished 7th and 8th respectively.
Further back the two McLarens were having a nightmare home race. Despite Alonso getting a good start after Massa and Ricciardo made contact and both gained punctures which sent them outside the top ten, the McHonda was a sitting duck on the straights as cars went by and he – along with Button – tumbled down the order.
The feisty Spaniard voiced his displeasure over the team radio, quipping that his McLaren was like a GP2 car compared to the others around him. Alonso was 11th at the chequered flag whilst Button was 16th after pitting three times.
Ahead of Alonso was the two Toro Rosso’s who looked like they were on another comeback drive this weekend after Verstappen got bumped back for dangerous driving in Qualifying and Sainz messed up his first stop after clipping the bollard on entry to the pits which damaged his front wing and cost him extra time.
First Verstappen was behind Alonso who made it difficult for him to overtake before he realised he didn’t have the power to defend on the straights. Then it was a case of making a move on Sainz who worked his way back up in the second stint after being helped by a slower Daniil Kvyat, who was struggling with his brakes and had no ‘overtake’ button for extra boost.
Verstappen lined a move into the penultimate corner, however it looked like Sainz moved over to wave him through after realising he was on older tyres.
Elsewhere a battle pride rather than points in P12 occurred in the closing laps between Perez and Ericsson, with Kvyat lingering behind and Ricciardo who was nursing his RB11 home with floor damage from his lap one contact. Ericsson defended well, but ultimately Perez made use of Raikkonen who came to lap them both heading into the penultimate corner, to snatch the position off the Sauber.
That then put Ericsson in the clutches of both Red Bull’s, and was told to defend at all costs. Kvyat was close on occasion heading through the ‘S’ Curves, but made the move in the next three laps into turn one using DRS with three laps left.
Attention then turned to Lewis Hamilton. We hadn’t seen much of him, but that was because he checked out by lap three and took his 41st career victory – equalling his hero Ayrton Senna.