Grand Prix 2016 Japanese Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

As the 1976 season drew to a close, the F1 teams were packing away their kit from the US GP at Watkins Glen and getting ready to return home. James Hunt had won the race and carried a 3 point cushion going into the final round which for the first time would take place in Japan in 2 weeks time.

The teams had all agreed that they would not test in Japan however, at the last minute, McLaren saw an opportunity, packed their gear up and managed to get it on an early flight which would enable them (despite the Gentleman's agreement) to get a couple of days testing at the Mount Fuji circuit prior to the other teams getting there.

So the story goes that the Ferrari mechanics got wind of what McLaren were up to and tried to get their own kit on the same flight. Unfortunately, there was only one phone in the pits at Watkins Glen and when Maranello called to try and confirm the arrangements, it just so happened that the person who answered the phone handed it to a McLaren Mechanic. The mechanic in question realised what the call may be about, stalled the caller and then handed the phone to another team member who claimed no knowledge of what the caller on the other end wanted. Apparently this went on for some time and by then it was too late to book the earlier flight and McLaren were the only team who made it to Japan early for some crucial testing.

On race day itself, as most of us know, it was pouring with rain. Another story, which alongside the above, Ron Howard left out of his film Rush, goes that after the race was postponed for a few hours, the drivers disappeared from the grid. When it was time for them to return, there was no sign of James Hunt. McLaren, starting to panic, sent mechanics searching everywhere for him. It was however, Patrick Head who stumbled across James Hunt in an empty pit garage receiving some attention from a Japanese pit girl who, to put it politely, was knelt before James and I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

What else was special about that race? Well, until then Motorsport had never really made much impression on television. Unless there was a spectacular crash or tragic death (of which there were many in this era) it tended to be off the front pages. Hunt however, was a new type of driver, flamboyant, charismatic and, in his rivalry with Lauda, had captured the imagination of the British public. The BBC caught on to this and for the first time would have cameras at the circuit to cover the race. This led to a regular slot on BBC2 the following season covering the highlights of each race in a show called 'Grand Prix'. So from a British point of view, the 1976 Japanese GP really was the start of modern formula one as we know it.

So what of the current race? Well, the Suzuka circuit, first opened in 1962, hosts the 27th Japanese Grand Prix. It would be impossible to complete any review of the circuit without mentioning the fact that it is the only circuit on the calendar that runs in a figure of 8 configuration. Popular with drivers and fans alike, this thread could run into many thousands of words just covering some of the incidents that have occurred at this track over the years.

One driver who will be looking to show bouncebackability here will be Lewis Hamilton. After the heartbreak of losing a nailed on win in Malaysia he now finds himself 23 points behind his team mate going into the final 5 races. In 2015 and 2014 Hamilton finished on the top step of the podium with Rosberg in second however, on both occasions Rosberg had qualified on pole. Given the way this momentum has been swinging between the Mercedes drivers this season, this one is definitely too close to call.

We can definitely say the Red Bull team are now back in the mix. While not quite there on pace they have a really solid car and two drivers who know how to use it to its best. With Ricciardo winning in Malaysia, Verstappen will be looking to fight back and it will be another great inter team battle to watch.

Then we come to Ferrari, oh dear, oh dear, what a season it's not been for the Scuderia. Without a win since Singapore last year, they haven't won a Japanese GP since 2004. The team seem to be tactically inept whenever they get the car right or just fail to get the car right at all. They aren't quite having as bad a season as 2014 but Vettel really must be wondering now if he made the right choice.

McLaren are finally showing signs of being able to compete in the top ten. Alonso's performance in Malaysia to fight through from the back shows he still has 'it' and I would expect both McLarens to run well here and challenge for points.

As for the rest of the field, as we move into the final few races the focus is definitely on the championship end of the grid. Williams and Force India are separated by just 3 points in the constructors championship going into this race and both will want to clinch 4th in the table. While Force India continue to punch way above their budget, Williams performance this year has been far below the expectations given by last years chassis and engine. It was announced over the weekend that Bottas would remain with the team for next year and there is a driver who is in very real danger of becoming a forgotten man. Where once he was talked about as being not only a potential world champion but certainly looking at a Ferrari or Mercedes seat his performances this year suggest that early promise isn't there.

There are a few more questions such as will Sauber ever get a point this season? Will Palmer be able to build on his first point of the year, can Haas get anywhere near the top ten and why have they gone off the boil so badly? Which of the TR boys will come out on top now that Danny K seems to have his mojo back and can Ocon finish ahead of his highly respected team mate again?

All this and more will be answered over the weekend.
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After every qualifying session I measure various gaps between teams and team mates, and I thought I might as well post the stuff for Suzuka.

Firslty, here is how all the teams stacked up based on the percentage time gap between their fastest lap and Mercedes' fastest lap.

1. Mercedes
2. Ferrari, +0.333%
3. Red Bull, +0.586%
=4. Force India/Haas, +1.450%
6. Williams, +1.840%
7. Toro Rosso, +2.180%
8. McLaren, +2.253%
9. Renault, +2.371%
10. Sauber, +2.841%
11. Manor, +2.985%​

Haas were very impressive; their season-wide average is close to that of Toro Rosso and McLaren so for them to be tied with Force India here is a great performance. This is the closest Haas have ever been to Mercedes, closer even than Spa where Mercedes were bizarrely slow compared to literally every other team.
The back-marker trio (Renault, Sauber, Manor) were also all unusually close to Mercedes this race; over the season all 3 teams have averaged over 3.5% off Mercedes.

This second list is ranking teams based on percentage time gaps between both drivers in the team. For this I compare based only on a drivers best lap in the last session both team mates participated in (e.g. I'm using Q1 times only for McLaren). Team mates were unusually close across the board at this race, and I'm not sure why. Only Haas really had a large gap between the two drivers, and that is down to Gutierrez making a mess of his only Q3 run, losing 4 tenths relative to his Q2 lap. I'm not sure whether this is a quirk of Suzuka or not, but it is likely why almost every driver pairing qualified right next to one another.

1. Mercedes, 0.014%
2. McLaren, 0.034%
3. Toro Rosso, 0.067%
4. Red Bull, 0.068%
5. Williams, 0.070%
6. Ferrari, 0.087%
7. Sauber, 0.118%
8. Force India, 0.197%
9. Manor, 0.223%
10. Renault, 0.245%
11. Haas, 0.637%​
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Jenson and Fernando regularly move up and down the grid on Sunday.
Unfortunately, they then have to get in their cars for the race.

I've got my coat on, and am now leaving the building :p
........ as I'm super-sensitive to people taking the piss out of my posts? :no:
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what happened to Mclaren?


In an effort to solve the puzzling riddle behind McLaren' s poor qualifying form I have spent the entire night applying a series of rigorous and thorough scientific calculations during the course of which I have coincidentally achieved the application of cold fission as well as rationalise the equilibrium between classical physics and quantim mechanics I have reached the following conclusions:

They weren't quick enough.
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Not quite sure what people expect these days.... Of course it was boring! It's meant to be boring. As are practic sessions, press conferences and fancy new-ish gimmicks like commentator-to-driver radio... Not that long ago none of these were even airesed on TV.

Sometimes I feel as though it's not just the FIA, the rule-makers nor the TVchannelsthat have lost their focus. It' s the fans as well.

There's only one thing that' s meant to be exciting. THE... RACE. That' s what the whole thing's about, what everything is geared to. Ideally involving cars and drivers that are reasonably evenly matched. that' s what the ideal should be and the direction the sport should be aiming at. Attacking, defending, drivers' skills and great cars. Not the ability to see any car from 3 millions different angles in super-interactive HD doing aan in-lap in P2?...
I downloaded the quali highlights as I was/am travelling (btw Iberia are SHIT).

Thankfully Sky didn't give away any spoilers
Q1 and Q2 didn't have any major incidents or upsets, but there was some interest in seeing if Alonso and Jenson were gonna make it through. Fairly average Q1 and Q2. But Q3 is always, always top viewing. Seeing places taken and retaken at the front of the grid, by thousandths of a second, great stuff. Ok it was a predictable result, but I dunno how you can say quali was boring.
I downloaded the quali highlights as I was/am travelling (btw Iberia are SHIT).

Thankfully Sky didn't give away any spoilers
View attachment 10895

They do it on a regular basis LOL
i remember they advertising final day masters highlights on the side of sky sports news with danny wilett wearing the green jacket. For a channel with 25yrs of sporting tv experience. Theyve never heard of spoilers
See gethinceri this is why I can't be a serious cyclist. What's wrong with midweek evening cycling?! I like layins!!!!

(I should add I don't have childerbeasts)
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