D he title duel is practically decided after the Japanese GP. Lewis Hamilton is unstoppable. In contrast, nothing comes together at Ferrari. Our race analysis.Would Vettel have had to back off?
For Sebastian Vettel, the race was actually lost before the start. Ferrari paid for a strategy error in qualifying with eighth place on the grid. At the start, Vettel grabbed the two Toro Rosso from Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, and later on the lap Romain Grosjean in the HaasF1. Namely around the outside in the spoon curve. Then the World Cup runner-up benefited from the Raikkonen-Verstappen incident and was suddenly fourth in front of his team-mate.
Vettel was hoping for more. The big goal was the Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton at the top. So he took full risk, which is understandable in his situation. Seven laps later, Vettel was last. A collision with Verstappen in the spoon curve threw his Ferrari off track. As in Monza, then against Hamilton, his rival fell by the wayside. After Mexico 2016 and 2017, Singapore 2017, Silverstone 2017 and China 2018, it was the next rough encounter between the aspiring Dutchman and the four-time world champion. Verstappen compared Vettel's maneuver with his in Shanghai. “Even the most experienced pilots make mistakes. At this point you don't overtake an opponent. I left space for him and still we collided. He should have just waited. His Ferrari is much faster on the straight. ”Red Bull Motorsport Coordinator Helmut Marko said:“ Racing accident. Vettel was certainly optimistic and very motivated. '
Vettel welcomed the fact that the race stewards did not issue a penalty in either direction. However, in his opinion, it was Verstappen who was to blame. “I had full batteries and got out of my hairpin really well. The Red Bull charged the battery on the straight. I sucked in the slipstream and poked into the gap. When I braked, we were tied. Then he released the brake, kept pushing inwards and left me no space. ”Vettel did not consider waiting an option. “You have to take every chance. I was in a good position. If I had stayed behind, Verstappen would have driven away again in turns 13 and 14 because I would have been in its turbulent air. There would never have been an attack on theBack straight enough ', judged Vettel. The experts were divided. Mika Häkkinen defended the time of the Vettel attack. Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve felt the attack was premature.How is Verstappen's thrust against Raikkonen to be assessed?
Verstappen gave the commissioners around Le- Mans record winner Tom Kristensen already at the end of the first lap of work. The 21-year-old braked himself in the chicane, swept through the grass, rumbled over the curb and punched the left side box of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari. On the Ferrari, the wings around the side box broke off. The damage pattern was similar to that of Vettel's car later. The Heppenheimer missed the same wing elements on the right side.
The stewards punished Verstappen with five seconds, which had to be served at the only pit stop. The pilot was not aware of any guilt. “The punishment is a joke. I didn't get back on track quickly. Kimi could have seen it. He chose the wrong line in the chicane. He could have simply waited. ”In the opposite case, Verstappen would not have waited either. Helmut Marko expressed himself diplomatically. “I am a racing dinosaur. That's why I advocate letting the drivers drive. But if you want to give the five seconds, please. “Why was Bottas lucky?
Lewis Hamilton was inviolable with Valtteri Bottas at his back . Both Red Bull and Ferrari had to accept that. “We should have cracked it at the start. Then we could have put pressure on Hamilton. You could see that he had tire problems even at a slow pace, ”said Marko. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff reported blistering on the rear tires of both cars. The strategists made the pit stops based on the opponents. There was no risk of an undercut. Hamilton's problems with upshifting weren't real. 'If you are in the lead and the World Cup turns into the home straight, you hear all kinds of noises,' says Wolff.
The race winner checked. His shadow man, on the other hand, had to tear it down after the change from soft to medium tires. In lapping traffic, the front tires on the number 77 car cooled down. Within 14 laps, the lead on Verstappen evaporated from over ten seconds to just one second. The Red Bull driver sensed his chance, despite a battered car. “The collision with Raikkonen damaged the underbody. That took 20 points of contact pressure off the car, ”reported Marko. In addition, as in Singapore, Red Bull complained at times of misfiring in the Renault V6. Nevertheless, the Red Bull worked well on the soft tires. Verstappen prepared a final attack. The batteries were charged for the last lap, but then he braked himself and Bottas rolled to the finish line in second place.
Vettel believes that he could have landed on this place if he had passed Verstappen unscathed. “I would have packed at least one Mercedes,” said the World Cup runner-up after the race. Vettel managed the fastest race lap, despite the wrecked car. Without an intact aero package, Vettel lost about half a second per lap. “It took me a few laps to adjust. The tires still held up well. ”At least a small ray of hope for Ferrari. The Italians wonder why Mercedes was so superior in the last few races. The defending champion justifies it mainly with a better understanding of the tires.How did Perez get past Grosjean?
Force India decided the fight in midfield . Sergio Perez overtook Romain Grosjean on lap 42 in the chicane. The HaasF1 pilot scolded the radio: “He has to give me the seat back.” Grosjean believed that Perez was too open-minded during the VSC phase, that is, that he was too fast. The Mexican wasn't. On the contrary: Grosjean gave two seconds. “When the race management released the race again, Romain was still coldTires. With his soft rubbers, Perez had an advantage over our medium, ”reported HaasF1 team boss Guenther Steiner. As a result, Perez left Grosjean, who almost fell into the clutches of Esteban Ocon.
The second HaasF1 driver was involved in a sensational duel. Charles Leclerc thundered into the rear of Kevin Magnussen on lap two on the home straight. “He's stupid and will remain so,” complained the Sauber pilot. Steiner: “That wasn't a brake test or anything. Leclerc just hit him in the back. ”The commissioners did not impose a penalty because they could not blame anyone for the rear-end collision.