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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You guys have it easy. 6 am is do-able. Try 1:00 am. I might as well start up late and watch the race and then go to sleep. I expect a Ferrari 1-2, and Red Bull 3rd. The Mercedes will tangle at the start and won't be able to continue ...

Go Minardi!
I am soo tired and keep drifting off on my couch, waiting for the race to start. I hope it's exciting, and that Lewis finishes several positions ahead of Nico.
Nico looks so happy I think he knows the championship is in the bag.

If Lewis was having those starts in any other team he wouldn't be able to recover the places. Have to say he has lost the championship through his starts as much as through engine failures.
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I mean no disrespect to nico rosberg because hes driven well & error free. But you could say lewis has in way only got himself to blame if he has to pass his title a across the garage because that Japanese GP is just another GP he's handed to rosberg thru poor starts since the summer break which could say has cost him more than the 25pts he lost in Malaysia.

Monza - 7pts lost with terrible start after getting pole by 1/2sec

Singapore - 7pts qualified 3rd dropped to 5th. Could only get to 3rd after couldnt get past kimi

his fate out of his hands after dropping another 10pts & now more than 28pts behind but i cant help but feel like there is 1 more twist left in this title race because cant see both drivers going straightforward in final 4 races. Whether that unreliability or bad weather who knows
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Current championship odds.


Says it all really doesn't it.
The silly thing is, Hamilton would have had Max for breakfast on the main straight if he'd waited until then. If you noticed at the start of that lap Max didn't harvest. Hamilton had been a lot closer and I'm guessing Max couldn't risk the loss of HP. That's part of the reason why Hamilton was able to get a lot closer. Max had run out of options. Sometimes a driver needs a little patience.
It was similar to Barcelona with Max ahead of Kimi, as mentioned by Brundle. This time Max backed Hammy up a bit in the last chicane before flooring it through the last corner onto the straight. No chance for Lewis to make it up in the straight, like Kimi in Barca. Here it was even easier for Max as the first section of the lap suited the RB more than the Mercedes as well, so he pulled away a bit more during the esses and harvested so he could repeat the trick. I can't see how Lewis would have been able to overtake anywhere safely.
i It wasn't just to do with the harvesting though... Just as we saw in Barcelona against Kimi the Red Bull has tremendous traction accelerating out of tight chicanes. Verstappen as invariably getting himself out of reach whenever they exited the chicane so even without the harvesting Hamilton would have found it difficult to overtake on the pit-straight syway.
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