Race Notes: Japanese Grand Prix 2009

2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix
Date: 4 October 2009
Circuit: Suzuka International Racing Course
Location: Suzuka-shi, Mie-ken, Japan
(PitlaneFanatic) (GoogleCircuits)
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.

DVR Notes

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.

Grid:
Vettel, Trulli
Hamilton, Heidfeld
Raikkonen, Barrichello
Rosberg, Sutil
Kubica, Button
Kovalainen, Alguersuari
Buemi, Fisichella
Nakajima, Alonso
Grosjean, Liuzzi

Pitlane: Webber
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]

Live Notes

Formation Lap. 53 lap race.

1.2.3.4.5..Go!

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.”
Kovalainen pits.

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..

Last Lap

Kubica trying.. nope.

VETTEL WINS!
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.

Parc Ferme
Podium
Anthems
Champagne!

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.

Conference

Vettel, P1:

“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.”

Trulli, P2:

“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.”

Hamilton, P3:

“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.”

Vettel:

“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.”

Race Result

Driver Gap Pts
1 Vettel 53 laps 10
2 Trulli 4.8sec 8
3 Hamilton 6.4sec 6
4 Räikkönen 7.9sec 5
5 Rosberg 8.7sec 4
6 Heidfeld 9.5sec 3
7 Barrichello 10.6sec 2
8 Button 11.4sec 1
9 Kubica 11.7sec
10 Alonso 13.0sec
11 Kovalainen 13.7sec
12 Fisichella 14.5sec
13 Sutil 14.9sec
14 Liuzzi 15.7sec
15 Nakajima 17.9sec
16 Grosjean 1 lap
17 Webber 2 laps
DNF Alguersuari Accident
DNF Buemi Clutch
DNS Glock Accident

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.

Drivers’ Championship

Driver Prev JPN Total
1 Button 84 1 85
2 Barrichello 69 2 71
3 Vettel 59 10 69
4 Webber 51.5 51.5
5 Räikkönen 40 5 45
6 Hamilton 37 6 43
7 Rosberg 30.5 4 34.5
8 Alonso 26 26
9 Glock 24 24
10 Trulli 22.5 8 30.5
11 Massa 22 22
12 Kovalainen 22 22
13 Heidfeld 12 3 15
14 Kubica 9 9
15 Fisichella 8 8
16 Sutil 5 5
17 Buemi 3 3
18 Bourdais 2 2

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.

Constructors’ Championship

Constructor Prev JPN Total
1 Brawn 153 3 156
2 Red Bull 110.5 10 120.5
3 Ferrari 62 5 67
4 McLaren 59 6 65
5 Toyota 46.5 8 54.5
6 Williams 30.5 4 34.5
7 Renault 26 26
8 BMW 21 3 24
9 Force India 13 13
10 Toro Rosso 5 5

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!

Next Event

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.

Flag courtesy of 4 International Flags

Race Notes: 2008 Japanese Grand Prix

2008 Fuji TV Japanese Grand Prix
Fuji Speedway, Sizouka, Japan
4.563km (of which 1.5km is the main straight!)
Scheduled distance: 67 laps

ITV1 *live*
Anchors/Analysts: Martin Brundle & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

Martin is pulling double-duty this weekend, Steve Rider was at Wembley yesterday for a football World Cup qualifier against the mighty Kazakhstan. England won 5-1.

The usual one hour pre-race show got under way at 4.30am UK time, obviously I said “screw that” so I’m joining coverage just before the cars leave for the formation lap (it’s now 5.25am or so).
There will be no long preamble from me today and I might struggle to get all the usual details. I don’t do mornings well.
(I later came back and edited for spelling, results and penalties)

START ORDER

Q3: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kovalainen, Alonso, Massa, Kubica, Trulli, Glock, Vettel, Bourdais
Q2: DC, Piquet, Webber, Nakajima, Rosberg
Q1: Heidfeld, Barrichello, Button, Sutil, Fisichella

Massa is starting on soft tyres, everyone else on the hard. It is not raining.

5.4.3.2.1.go!

Kimi takes the lead but is immediately passed by Hamilton who pushes through.
BIG impact, Coulthard hard in the wall, car is destroyed and he’s out. Nakajima is damaged in the same incident. Safety Car? There was a lot of debris.

Starting Lap 2 Kubica somehow leads?? Kimi was pushed wide and lost positions. Naka pits for new wing.
Hamilton on Massa, gets him but Massa had nowhere to go and spins Hamilton around! Martin Brundle called it half a second before it happened. Lewis has to wait for the field to pass and rejoins last, and actually he pits.

Lap 3 – replays: Martin says Massa was always going to come back over, Lewis didn’t give enough racing room even though Felipe was a long way across.

Lap 4 – Kubica, Alonso, Kova, Trulli, Kimi (who sets Fastest lap), Bourdais(!), Massa, Glock, Piquet, Vettel, Sutil, Button, Heidfeld, Webber, Barrichello, Fisichella, Rosberg, Hamilton, Nakajima

Replay of the start – Lewis locked the brakes in turn one, which pushes both Ferraris and McLarens wide, which is how they all lost positions. Coulthard’s suspension was broken before he hit the wall. Failure or contact in turn one?
Lap 5 – Glock pits for a slow stop – his team didn’t expect him.

Lap 6, short laptimes here – ITV are taking ad breaks already?
Lap 7 (ads) – can see on live timing that Glock is in again. The text says he’s getting out of the car.
We’re back on lap 8. NO replays or mention of Glock. We do get a replay of Kimi passing Trulli for 4th.

Lap 9 – Sutil pulls off the road with big damage to the right rear wheel. Tyre failure Brundle thinks, maybe caused by debris from the Coulthard crash.

L10 – Martin says Lewis Hamilton did the whole start badly and ‘we hear he flat-spotted his tyres down to the canvas’ – hence the pit stop.

L11 – Replays of Fisi, Rosberg, Button. We see a lot debris on the main straight which is very dangerous, the cars are at top speed, top downforce. Martin says this actually must be where Sutil’s tyre failure came from as he pulled over at pit exit.
L12 – Caption: “Incidents involving cars 1, 2, 22 under investigation.” Kimi, Massa, Lewis, prompts further replay. Martin says Massa was always going to come back but James says “but you’re supposed to stay on the track” which Massa did not, his opinion is Massa just drove off road and took out Lewis.
L14 – Hamilton one minute behind the leaders but catching the back of the field at 2 seconds per lap. He’s up to 16th due to early attrition.

Kovalainen and Raikkonen are not making in-roads on Kubica and Alonso. BMW struggled in qualifying, Heidy started 16th and Kubica was nearly out early in qualifying as well, he scraped through each session and did a decent lap in the last one.

L15 – Louise with Sutil. Lots of debris in the road from the Coulthard incident, he went wide in turn 6 and over the grass, caused it to jump in the air (the car not the grass), when it landed it broke the suspension.
Rosberg passes Fisichella for 13th, they’ve now dropped Button.

L17 – ad break as they cross the line and Kimi’s timing goes purple, he’s still fastest out there but only 0.1s better than the 3 ahead.

L18 – We’re back just as Kubica and Raikkonen pit and we’re told Massa and Hamilton have been given McDonalds penalties. Drive thru. Kubica beat Raikkonen in the pits.
Hamilton takes his penalty.
L19 – Alonso pits after leading one lap. Massa pits for his stop. We’re not being shown where cars come out, other than Massa who is ahead of Barrichello meaning he’s 10th.
Heikki is slow.. he pulls over! He was running quickly up front and taking points from Massa, helping Hamilton. McLaren did NOT need this.
L20 – Massa takes his penalty.
Hamilton’s penalty was for forcing a car off-track at turn one. Massa’s penalty for colliding with Hamilton.

L21 – Lewis is lapped by Trulli who leads. Alonso is told “Kubica is 5 laps longer, fuel 4, push like hell mate”. Martin reckons ‘fuel 4’ is the quickest setting. Not sure how he knows as each car is different.
L22 – Trulli pits. Ted says we don’t often see a penalty for pushing a car wide, Martin says he needs to see another camera angle, the stewards have more angles available than we do.
Should note here that ITV do not control the pictures unless they interject with their own camera in pitlane/paddock, they don’t do that often.

EDIT – Fuji TV is doing the TV work here, not the usual FOM, which is why we missed pit exit a lot today. This is a hangover from the old days when each country would have a ‘host broadcaster’ providing pics and a director who would invariably focus on that country’s ‘star’ driver or team. When Renault were winning a lot in 2005, we sat through an entire GP of just looking at Renaults. FOM only took over in the last 2 years as the contracts ran out. Japan and Brazil I *think* are the only two remaining. Notice how we looked at Nakajima a lot in qualifying.

L24 – Fisichella is pushed into the garage. Bourdais Leads! Piquet is 2ND! Vettel 3rd, no, he pits. This would be why teams run longer..

Vettel is out alongside Heidfeld, defends the position. He’s now 8th.

Recap top 10: Bourdais, Piquet, Alonso, Kubica, Kimi, Webber, Trulli, Vettel, Heidfeld. Alonso is the leader in the clubhouse, those who have stopped for fuel. Massa 13th, Hamilton 14th. Championship contenders will not score at this rate.

Louise with Heikki as Rosberg passes Rubens: Heikki says it was an engine failure.
Rubens re-passes Nico! Bourdais pits and drops to 7th.

L27 – Hamilton unlapped himself when the leaders pitted and he’s catching Massa quickly – Massa is behind Button and losing time. Piquet leads because he’s not stopped.

L29 – Piquet is in, rejoins.. 6th, Bourdais goes to pass him! Doesn’t make it.
Louise with Coulthard now: ‘I went inside of Bourdais, found myself between two cars, lots of bumping.’ ‘We were all bumping together.’ Whatever damaged was caused there sent him out.
Massa takes Button. We go to an ad break to avoid hearing Alonso’s radio again. Alonso leads from Kubica and Raikkonen.

L33 – We’re back and hear Alonso asking who they are racing, maybe that was the call we missed. Renault reply: “Kubica!” ITV disagree – Kimi is only 5sec behind Kubica and is quick. I agree with ITV.
L34 – Hamilton passes Button for 13th on the straight, candy from a baby. Webber pits, the only frontrunning guy not to have done so. Ted says his rear tyres are very worn. He’s out in 10th but shouldn’t need another stop.

L37 – Martin: If the results stay like this McLaren will have to worry about Kubica (in the points), add 8 points to his score and he’s only 12 behind Hamilton.
L38 – Nakajima pits.
More adverts! I swear they didn’t used to have this many in the early morning races.

We’re back on L40. Nothing has changed other than the Hondas pitting, nobody cares about that.
James tells us that Alonso is setting identical laptimes consistently. 1:19.2 every. single. lap. Says something about ‘the drive of a champion’.

L41 – Heidfeld pits. Massa takes Webber for 10th! Hamilton pits. The green grooves were wearing off of Hamilton’s tyres. Martin says Lewis has completed his stops, Massa has one more to make and points are definitely on – also mentions Massa will have to pass Webber again because Mark isn’t planning on stopping again.

L43 – Raikkonen had fallen back from Alonso but is now quicker again. Rosberg pitted unseen by us. Hamilton passes Barrichello.
L44 – Alonso pits from the lead. “Tweak of front wing” says Martin. He’s out behind Bourdais who was lapping a Honda at the time.

Kubica radio: How’s the balance? “Understeer, understeer, poor traction.”
Martin: “That’s both ends sliding then, that’s tough to fix.”
I missed the second part of the radio while typing that..

L46 – Kimi sets new fastest lap. He’s got 10 this year already, if he gets his 11th at this race that’s a new record for fastest laps in a season.
L47 – Kubica pits so Kimi leads. Robert is out behind Vettel, 7th.
James says ‘Alonso is now looking good for the win’. Martin says ‘good stop from BMW, now Kimi has to nail his out-lap to beat Kubica for 2nd.’
L49 – Kimi pits. Kubica JUST beats Kimi! Pulls away a little with momentum. Massa has just set fastest lap.
Martin mentions that Piquet and Bourdais have done a very good job today and are going to be rewarded. They are up front but yet to stop, Bourdais is pretty fast too.
L51 – Trulli pits. Massa sets a 1m18.8 – oh no! Bourdais exits the pits and hits Massa! Replay: looks like Massa cut across into Bourdais – Sebastien had nowhere to go, he was on the inside line. Massa’s fault.
L52 – Raikkonen has caught Kubica. Piquet pits. Kimi tried to pass Kubica into turn one, Robert defends that one. Not sure where Piquet is now.

L54 – Kubica and Raikkonen side by side! Kimi gets pushed wide.
Massa pitted during that, we don’t see where he gets out. Timing shows Piquet is still up in 4th, good run from him.
L55 – Caption – Incident involving cars 2 and 14 to be investigated after the race. Massa and Bourdais..
Piquet had passed Trulli in those stops and is CATCHING the Kubica/Raikkonen fight! We go to ads again. I reckon Piquet is driving for his career, there have been rumours di Grassi or Grosjean will replace him.

L58 – Piquet radio: “you’re 1 second quicker than Raikkonen, let’s see if we can overtake him”

10 to go: Alonso, Kubica, Raikkonen, Piquet, Trulli, Bourdais, Vettel, Webber, Heidfeld, Massa, Rosberg, Hamilton, Rubens, Button, Nakajima.

L61 – Martin can see that Kimi’s rear tyres have gone away, the fight now is Massa vs Heidfeld, we cut to it – Massa passes Heidfeld on the main straight! P9 now, Webber is next up but is somewhat slower after chewing up his tyres one-stopping.
Slowmo close-up of Webber’s front tyres, he’s worn the grooves away! No wonder he’s slow.

L63 – Piquet has dropped away from Raikkonen. Ted reports Lewis has been slow all day due to damage to his bargeboards and other aero devices on lap one.
L65 – Massa passes Webber for 8th position and one point, bit of a risky move against the pitwall, he could have gone the other side of Webber. Martin says that’s what Raikkonen should have done against Kubica!

L66 – Renault guys run across pitlane to climb on the wall. Hamilton unlaps himself from Alonso. Martin: It may seem pointless but if anyone breaks down on the last lap he’ll gain a position or two.

L67 – ALONSO WINS!

Two in a row. Well driven. Kubica 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd, Piquet, Trulli, Bourdais, Vettel, Massa, Webber, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Hamilton, Barrichello, Button, Naka.

Cars roll into pitlane. Alonso climbs on to his car in his usual style. Ted is with Alan Permane, the guy on Alonso’s radio. “We’re going for four in a row!”
Top 3 are making their way upstairs. Bit of water.. that’s right make sure you tidy up your overalls, get that money in.. and outside to the podium..
Spanish anthem for Alonso.
French anthem for Renault (though the cars are made in Britain). Alonso chatting to Kubica through this one.
Points mean prizes, Alonso gets given something so big he can put his 50″ plasma screen on it.
Champagne!

7:30am, I’m going back to bed. I’ll add full results and points later. I might even watch the afternoon rerun to watch the pre-race and post-race talking. I half-listened to the post-race, ITV did get out of there pretty quickly, I was speedily re-reading this for errors but I can’t take in any more information.. will proofread again later!

EDIT – Provisional Race Results
(from autosport.com)
01. Alonso 67 laps in 1h30:21.892 [10 points]
02. Kubica +5.283 [8]
03. Raikkonen +6.400 [6]
04. Piquet +20.570 [5]
05. Trulli +23.767 [4]
06. Bourdais +34.085 [3]
07. Vettel +39.207 [2]
08. Massa +46.158 [1]
09. Webber +50.811
10. Heidfeld +54.120
11. Rosberg +1:02.096
12. Hamilton +1:18.900
13. Barrichello + 1 lap
14. Button + 1 lap
15. Nakajima + 1 lap
DNF Fisichella
DNF Kovalainen
DNF Sutil
DNF Glock
DNF Coulthard

Fastest Lap: Massa 1:18.426 (Kimi will have to wait to claim that record)

World Driver’s Championship Points
01. 84 Hamilton
02. 78 Massa
03. 72 Kubica
04. 63 Raikkonen
05. 56 Heidfeld
06. 51 Kovalainen
07. 48 Alonso
08. 30 Trulli [+1]
09. 29 Vettel [-1]
10. 20 Glock & Webber
12. 18 Piquet

The title gap reduces by 1 point. Kubica is still closing in on the main protagonists. Alonso is rapidly catching Kovalainen.

World Constructor’s Championship Points
01. 141 Ferrari [+1]
02. 135 McLaren [-1]
03. 128 BMW
04. 66 Renault
05. 50 Toyota

McLaren scored zero here, Ferrari get 6 and BMW 8 to gain on the pair of them. The biggest points haul was Renault with 15.

UPDATE AFTER PENALTIES
Sebastien Bourdais has been given a 25-second penalty for causing a collision with Felipe Massa on exiting the pitlane. I wish I was making this up because that’s bullshit! He wasn’t given the racing room, Massa tagged him not the other way around.

This drops Bourdais from 6th to 10th and gives Vettel, Massa and Webber an extra point each. The affected section of the results:

06. Vettel +39.207 [3]
07. Massa +46.158 [2]
08. Webber +50.811 [1]
09. Heidfeld +54.120
10. Bourdais +34.085 + 25.000s = +59.085s

Revised WDC Points
01. 84 Hamilton
02. 79 Massa
03. 72 Kubica
04. 63 Raikkonen
05. 56 Heidfeld
06. 51 Kovalainen
07. 48 Alonso
08. 30 Vettel & Trulli
10. 21 Webber
11. 20 Glock
12. 18 Piquet

Vettel places ahead of Trulli on ‘quality of results’, i.e. if you are on the same points the decider is your best finishing position.

Revised WCC Points
01. 142 Ferrari [+1]
02. 135 McLaren [-1]
03. 128 BMW
04. 66 Renault
05. 50 Toyota
06. 36 Toro Rosso
07. 29 Red Bull
08. 26 Williams
09. 14 Honda
10. 0 Force India & Super Aguri

The next race is the Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai next weekend, the penultimate round of the Championship!

Preview: 2008 Japanese Grand Prix

Preview: 2008 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix

This weekend sees the second visit to the revised Fuji Speedway (owned by Toyota) after many successful years at Suzuka (owned by Honda). I always enjoyed the racing at Suzuka. It was unique for being the only figure-of-8 layout in major motorsport as well as being a demanding circuit for the drivers. This was because it was designed as a test track for Honda in the 1960s by the same guy who did the original Zandvoort (not the current Zandvoort).

F1 visited Fuji twice before, in 1976 and 1977. These races I know very little about except that one of them was held in appallingly wet conditions and that one of them was a title decider between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. It might have been the same race because I remember Lauda pulled out of the wet race saying it was too dangerous.

Fast forward to 2007 and the return to a massively redeveloped Fuji for a race held in appallingly wet conditions. Modern safety rules being what they are, the cars circulated behind the Safety Car for the first 19 laps (yes, 19 out of 67, not a typo!), and it was the right decision – the conditions were dreadful with almost zero visibility. If the 70s guys had the same stuff I don’t blame Lauda for stopping in those pre-Safety Car days.

The conditions were such that we didn’t actually see a lot of the circuit redevelopment on TV, there was just too much spray. I hope we’ll get to see it this time so that we can properly criticise it on Sunday. I mean really, ditching Suzuka? What were they thinking?

The distinguishing features of Fuji are that is has a 1.5km main straight, possibly the longest in F1? I’m not sure because next week we go to Shanghai which also has a ridiculously long straight. The rest of Fuji is made up of unremarkable corners with acres of run-off, from what I recall. To be fair to the designers they wanted to stay reasonably close to the original design, and the topography of the land didn’t offer many options. The track is very close to Mount Fuji so it is in a mountainous region. We didn’t see anything of the mountain last year because of the clouds blocking the view, I really hope we get to see the place at its best this year despite my reservations about the circuit layout.

We’ll see the cars back at Suzuka in 2009 as the two circuits have agreed to alternate, just as Hockenheim/Nurburging do in Germany. I hope this doesn’t set a trend where we’ll alternate the entire calendar in future!

The 2008 Japanese Grand Prix gets under way at 13.30 local time which is 05.30am here in the UK. At this time of year I have no idea what DST is doing around the world, I think that makes it 00:30 Eastern in the US but you should check.
Wherever you are * remember it starts on the half hour *.

Qualifying is at 14:00 local, 06:00 UK, and that is on the hour as usual.

F1 News
Bridgestone have added green grooves to all tyres this weekend to promote eco issues. That’ll work, well done boys. It won’t really mean the majority of fans asking “why is there green paint all over the tyres?”, and “isn’t all this extra paint very much eco-unfriendly?”.
The softer compound will continue to be marked with a white groove as well as the green. We can add this to the long list of reasons why I’ll be glad to see slicks again next season!

Just days after I was wistfully remembering the late 90s and the days of the rumoured engine deals among the mid- and back-field teams, Force India is rumoured to be switching from Ferrari to Mercedes engines! I swear I can see the future in my dreams. I AM Isaac off of Heroes, although I blog instead of paint. Painting with words.

Ferrari has announced they will no longer use their ‘traffic light’ pit signalling system for the remainder of the year – meanwhile Honda have erected a different design at their pit boxes in Fuji for use this weekend, I’m not sure if they are testing it in practice or if they intend to use it in the race too.

Blog News
Sorry for the delay in writing this preview, I was shattered yesterday after a long and boring day learning about tax and financial statements – I will attempt to do the Chinese preview on Wednesday unless I’m still doing homework by then!

I ditched the clock thing because it didn’t work well for this site, and I rewrote the bottom panel. I now have flags of my county, nation, country and continent because unlike most people in this country I am actually proud to represent all of those things rather than just one or two.

See you Sunday.