2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix
Date: 4 October 2009
Circuit: Suzuka International Racing Course
Location: Suzuka-shi, Mie-ken, Japan
Distance: 53 laps
Tyre choices (red): SS / S / M / H
Coverage: BBC One with BBC Radio 5 Live audio
Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Analysts: David Coulthard (DC) and Eddie Jordan (EJ)
Interviewers: Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie
R5 commentary: David Croft (Crofty) and Anthony Davidson (Ant)
R5 interviewer: Holly Samos
Coverage begins at 5am UK time. I recorded the pre-race show and watched it back after the race, on race day I got to the TV at 5.58am just in time for the start. BBC pre-show is good, but not that good.
Three races to go including this one. Button has a 15 point lead over Barrichello, that needs to become a 20 point lead to win the title today. Red Bull need to score 6 more than Brawn to stay in the Constructors’ hunt.
BBC guys essentially giving the Constructors’ title to Brawn already, even if they outscore Brawn here they have a lot to do over the next two races. Have to say I agree.
Fernando Alonso has joined Ferrari, here’s a word from him:
“Ferrari has dominated F1 for the last ten years. The most popular team in teh world, the most famous team in the world you become a legend when you drive that car, whatever the performance is it is very attractive to drive for Ferrari.”
Eddie though says McLaren are about to overtake Ferrari in the table and they need to up their game. DC says Kimi is now the key to the driver market, will he go to McLaren or take the money at Toyota?
Qualifying Report with Ted Kravitz
– Friday Practice was run in the wet so by they time they got to quali on Saturday, the drivers didn’t know what cars they had underneath them.
– Webber had an accident in Saturday practice, the repairs ruled him out of qualifying so he starts from pitlane.
– Accidents from several drivers, the worst of which was Glock heavily into the tyre barrier which rules him out of the race today. He should be back for Brazil.
– Buemi caused controversy by returning to the pits after a heavy crash instead of parking it, this meant yellow flags when several drivers set their personal best (and in some cases only) lap time. For this reason several drivers were moved back five places, including Buemi.
– Vettel and Trulli line up on the front row, Hamilton and Sutil took 3rd and 4th – until Sutil had to change a gearbox and was moved back 5 places.
Not starting: Glock
Jake says there were so many penalties the final grid was not announced until 10am Sunday! Overnight he saw six potential grids from six teams.
Glock says he has a cut in his leg 5-10cm long. Says he can walk, not perfectly, and it makes no sense to drive. The mechanics have the car ready, he just can’t drive it. He says it was his misjudgement on the exit of the corner.
Good stuff from Timo, admitted his error and a real shame he can’t drive this race.
DC claims the medical helicopter landed at the wrong hospital though, it had to take off and go to another..
The Buemi accident – DC says it was totally unacceptable that he didn’t stop the car and get out of the way after his crash, and instead chose to spoil the laps of those still qualifying.
Obligatory Recorded Button Interview
Says he didn’t think of slowing down for the stewards, trots out some excuse that he didn’t know what would happen with cars behind if he’d slowed down. Well if everyone obeyed the flags they would have slowed down too.. he does have the point that four other drivers did not slow down so he would’ve been in danger, but that’s crap, they should always obey the yellows, they are there for a reason.
Says for the championship the next two circuits suit their car more than this one so it is looking good for him. For this race though he’s got cars ahead which are heavier on fuel so he’s not sure how that’ll turn out, says it’ll be a fun race.
Back to the pitlane. Ross Brawn appears. He says the team will take this race as it comes. [Very philosophical because they know Red Bull has a car advantage here].
Eddie tell Ross he wants a promise: If Brawn wins this race he wants a rendition of ‘My Way’ in the karaoke club tonight – Ross agrees!
Ross says they’re fortunate that Webber had his accident and it takes pressure off them, ‘we don’t need a huge number of points here’.
Lee has recorded a piece with Vettel.
He’s talking us through his pole lap. Says the car is ‘a bit more lazy’ with race fuel onboard. This is the “5th gear through here, turn right here” sort of thing.
Lee says he has a good strike rate of converting poles to wins, but he says he doesn’t care about statistics. #SorryGavin
He’s looking back to 2007 when Kimi was 17 points down with 20 on the table, two races to go, and Kimi still won the title.
DC walking around the merchandise area! This weekend you can buy Jenson Button themed cushions and Jenson Button themed cookies.. okaaay..
Gridwalk with Martin Brundle
Vettel, P1: “Jarno is next to us [and Lewis behind], the run to turn one is not that long. We should be alright against both of them.”
Hamilton, P3: “I’m racing for the team, want to get the result. We’re in a good spot, there’s a lot of road before turn one so hopefully on the clean side I’ll get a good start. I was looking at the replays of the last few years and the outside of turn one doesn’t look a good place to be, so go for the inside.”
[Odd that he says there’s a lot of road and Sebastian says there isn’t.. a clue to their mindset?]
Heidfeld, P4: “So far so good, luckily I did lift in qualifying and others didn’t so they got penalties and I didn’t. I’d like more top speed, we’re slowest in the ranking because our 7th gear is too short.”
Martin: That’s ‘ranking’, everyone, make sure you get that right. [Heidy has a lisp]
Quick stop at Ferrari to get a good look at it while no-one is around, Martin says the cars are starting to look more like they were last year with all the aero developments being added.
Martin points up to his commentary box which is a ten minute walk from the grid so he has to get out of here, quick time for one more person..
Andy Shovelin, Button’s engineer: “Gonna be a difficult start, if we get off the line well we can do something in the race, definitely a tough afternoon. We think we’ve got a speed advantage in a straight line. He’s always relaxed on race day, that doesn’t worry him too much.”
Japanese National Anthem
Track guide with Martin and Rubens Barrichello. Rubinho says this place is special, along with Spa it is one of the top two circuits F1 visits. 130R is easier than it used to be, the entry is the same ‘wow’ as before but they’ve widened the exit. Keep off the astroturf all around the track, it slows you down.
Ted Kravitz says Sutil will be the first to pit, lap 14. Race win contenders on laps 17 or 18, with a long stint of 28 laps for Kubica.
Eddie, pick a winner: Trulli. [interesting choice, outside chance, could do it]
David, the title? Brawn will get the Constructors’ but not Drivers’. [I agree]
Formation Lap. 53 lap race.
Awesome stuff on the first lap, very fast and frantic and yet everyone is through! Amazing. I swear the cars look 2x faster here than at the likes of Bahrain or Shanghai.
Buemi very slow away at the back.
L1 (Lap 1 completed) – Vettel leads Hamilton, Trulli, Heidfeld, Kimi, Rubens, Sutil, Rosberg, Kovy, Kubica, Button.
Alonso passes Liuzzi. Webber pits despite starting from last, he’s changing from soft to hard tyres.
L3 – Webber pits again, his headrest has come loose and he goes a lap down while they try to fix it.
L4 – Lots of replays. Jenson passes Kubica! 10th.
Fuji TV directing this race, not FOM as per usual, so we’re getting a very odd choice of camera shots.
L6 – Webber pits again, guess this is now a test session for him.
L8 – Vettel is 3.3sec up on Hamilton, then a 1.9sec gap to Trulli and 3.1 to Heidfeld.
L9 – Vettel gets another half second up.
L12 – Button’s radio: Kubica is still a threat behind.
I can’t hear JB’s response. Something about Sutil.
L14 – Sutil vs Kovalainen – SPIN! Adrian spins around, Heikki runs wide and Button passes the pair of them for 8th and one point!
L15 – Buemi retired for some reason. He’s with Holly:
“We had a problem on the start with the clutch, and it finally failed.”
L16 – Hamilton pits and takes the harder tyre.
Sutil also pits from 12th.
L17 – Trulli is in, he’s out between Hamilton and Button.
L18 – Button pits and takes the harder tyre. Out in clear air. Fisichella also in.
L19 – Vettel pits from the lead, he’s taking hards as well. Barrichello, Heidfeld, Raikkonen also in.
Webber has picked up a penalty for ‘unsafe release from the pits’. Not his day.
L20 – Not a stellar race so far.. for Suzuka I’m disappointed, this race usually has drama – maybe we used it up yesterday. Most of the racing was on the first lap.
L21 – ALG complains about Rubens holding him up. Davidson, 5Live: “Well PASS HIM THEN!”
L22 – Rosberg pits, was running just behind Vettel and drops down to 9th.
L25 – Lewis radio.”OK Lewis, you need a 3 second gap to Trulli.”
“OK Lewis..” his engineer always starts like that. “OK Lewis, an anvil is going to be dropped on your head at turn 4, turn 4.”
Strategy races. Meh. Wonder if we’ll be clamouring for them back next year when refuelling is banned, just so fuel stops give us a break.
L29 – Groskjean runs wide at Spoon Curve. Loses a place.
L31 – Vettel sets fastest lap on lap 30. Alonso was very heavy on fuel, he’s the only one yet to stop.
L32 – Liuzzi passes Nakajima! Front straight. Kaz tries to run him off the road or into the wall by swerving over, Tonio’s having none of it, love it Tonio – we like Tonio.
L33 – Fastest Lap from Raikkonen in 5th. Catching Heidfeld quickly.
L36 – Raikkonen pits from 5th and is out in 8th.
L37 – Heidfeld in…and out, Raikkonen beats him! They made that work. Nick is out in front of his team-mate and holds him up massively.
L38 – Hamilton pits.
L39 – Kubica tries to pass Heidfeld at Spoon! Can’t do it, loses time but by the chicane he’s caught him again.
L40 – Trulli pits, quick stop, he’s beaten Hamilton!
Fisichella and Kovalainen pit, Fisi beats him on strategy but Heikki pushes his way through in turn 1 – Fisi was caught sleeping by a Finn at turn 1 at Suzuka… I’ve heard that before somewhere.
L41 – Vettel pits from the lead, slight problem on the right front but he’s so far ahead it doesn’t matter.
L42 – Kubica pits. Wonder how much time he lost behind Heidfeld.
Of the current frontrunners, Barrichello and Rosberg have yet to stop.
Oddly, this race hasn’t been great yet it seems to have gone by very quickly. Only 10 to go.
L43 – Barrichello pits and is out ahead of Button! Change of running order for the team-mates. Title-deciding?
L45 – big accident for Alguersuari. SAFETY CAR
Spin at 130R. Radio – he says he’s fine.
Rosberg pitted and is out ahead of the Brawns, he did that because the Brawns were running slow under yellow before everyone caught the Safety Car.
Hamilton is reporting a KERS issue just like in Singapore. He got it cleared then, can he now?
Replay: Alguersuari took the inside of 130R and got on the grass, through the advertising hoarding and on to the gravel – the gravel sends him into the tyre barrier.
Longish hold while he is recovered in the ambulance and the barrier is fixed.
L50 – Restart. Seems nobody made a move.. until the chicane at the end of the lap, Button takes a look, not close enough. Kubica too. Nah.
L51 – Kubica very good on braking, looking to pass Button.
Webber gets fastest lap… in last after 5 pit stops..
Kubica trying.. nope.
Lights to flag, flawless run.
Trulli 2nd, Hamilton 3rd.
Title fight? Barrichello 7th and Button 8th. Jenson made up a lot of places but Rubens fell back, not sure why, but he still got a point nearer to Button – not sure it will be enough. Vettel took a nice chunk of points out of the pair of them.
Query over Rosberg’s position – BrawnGP say Nico went too quickly on his in-lap for his second pit stop, when he stopped under the Safety Car. On the lap they catch the SC they have to hit a computer-generated lap time readout on their dashboard for safety reasons and Brawn say he failed to do so, and was too quick.
“What a race. With pole position and strategy-wise we were the favourites but first of all we have to do the start. We were pretty confident, we’ve had good starts in the past, it was closer than I thought it would be in turn one, all of a sudden I saw a Silver Arrow on the inside. I tried to push every lap, the car was fantastic. With strategy we were 2 laps longer than Lewis in the first stint. It was pretty much in control until the soft tyres in the last stint, I was taking care of my tyres apart from the fastest lap. Finally we made it, the last couple of races were a little bit up and down. Good to be back in 1st position.”
“I knew the start would be the hot spot of the race and most difficult, Hamilton is strong on the start with KERS, this time the car pulled away pretty well but obviously came by. From then it was fantastic, qualifying laps with Lewis, closing the gap and pushing again. After the first stop again chasing closely, I was really enjoyed it because the car was strong. Eventually thanks to the strategy we got him at the last pit stop. Really happy.”
“We had a great race, tried to get both of them at the start but they both got a really good start which is not always the case. Sebastian drove a good race and pulled away into the distance, Jarno and I were battling with our times, after our first stop I lost KERS. I had to have a 3 second gap before our last stop and I lost half a second or something, good job by these two and we’ll battle until the last race.”
“Tactic was to get a good start, after that look right look left, quickly I noticed I had a decent start so I stayed in the middle. Fortunately apart from that I didn’t have wheel-to-wheel racing this race. The speed of the car was fantastic, this circuit is unbelievable. I really enjoyed myself today.”
There was a query on Rosberg’s position – but after the race it was confirmed he would not receive a penalty because his dashboard showed a low-fuel warning rather than his lap time delta for the SC period, this was a fault with the common ECU everyone uses and so not the fault of Williams or Rosberg.
Vettel closes in! Can he pull a Raikkonen and fight his way back into contention? Rubens could still take it too, but the odds are still in Button’s favour.
All over bar the formalities, Brawn are 35.5pts ahead of Red Bull with only 36 available. This title should be won in Brazil. Keep an eye on Ferrari vs McLaren though, just two points in it for 3rd and the resultant extra squillions in TV money next season!
The next race is the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, Sao Paulo on 18th October – the penultimate round. As it is Brazil it is an evening race for us in the UK, 5pm start (4pm-ish on TV) which is a great time for a title decider- and remember Interlagos, where ANYTHING can happen.
That’s it from Japan. I am moving house during the week of the 12th and it might run into Brazil weekend, if my internet is restored in time I’ll be live-tweeting and live-commenting the race as usual with blog notes appearing later in the week.