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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I see what you are saying but I genuinely think Hamilton would have had him on the straight on that lap.
I think Mercedes should have carried on with the protest because they do have a case. I think Verstappen needs to understand what is acceptable and not acceptable and he was not the only one doing it today - Carlos Sainz was making late moves as well

It would have been better for Hamilton to nail on the straight because Verstappen would have had to compromise his line defensively and then making it a bit more tricky to get out of the corner cleanly
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.

Sorry man, but that's pure poo.

Hamilton was gaining to 0.4 seconds around the lap and then crossing the line with DRS and slipping back to 0.9 seconds behind after the main straight, he wasn't going to get him down the straight.
Max had every right to defend his position going in to the chicane. The Merc is so much quicker than anything else on the track Lewis should have looked for somewhere different to try his luck, like his team mate did last race or as Max has at various circuits this year. The teams really need to grow up, and all the whining about blue flags, what is wrong with these "men"?
Suzuka is a blue flag low point, given the width of the track and the propensity of reporting to highlight radio messages that show drivers in a bad light. Post race, Sky even made a video medley of blue flag radio whinge messages... what's that about? Hey, listen to these guys getting annoyed, riveting!
Did anyone hear that the Marshall's were trying to dry Hamilton's grid spot before the race? Just his spot. Other teams were not happy. They obviously didn't do a good job.

Good race. I think Seb had a good one. Lots of stuff through 130r which is always good. Not sure what happened with Danny Ric today.
Did anyone hear that the Marshall's were trying to dry Hamilton's grid spot before the race? Just his spot. Other teams were not happy. They obviously didn't do a good job.
Yes I heard that. Lewis requested it, not Mercedes. His side was wet, Rosberg's was dry that's why he requested it. I believe Ferrari weren't happy.
The wet was clearly on Hamilton's mind at the start, he was out the car walking about looking at it. Maybe overcompensating for what he expected from the damp track contributed to his poor start,
I think Ferrari's annoyance was because there was damp on various spots on that side of the grid. To be honest I'm surprised it's against the rules for the teams to dry it themselves anyways but apparently it is! Learn new things I do!

Lewis has really struggled with his starts all year and I can't decided whether it's and issue he has with Merc start procedure or whether the Merc start procedure is just tempromental in general. Rosberg has had a couple of duff ones as well.
This is what happens when you trust the drivers to take control the cars rather than letting the machines do it. You'd think the teams and the FIA would have learned that the stupidest part of the car sits behind the steering wheel.
Mercedes accept that their clutch is particularly difficult and have even altered the drivers gloves, had them sewn differently, to try to make it easier. He talks in this article about Hamilton's start in Japan.

Mercedes altered Hamilton and Rosberg's gloves to fix F1 starts

This year Rosberg has lost 29 places from the start and Hamilton has lost 23, that's pretty damning statistics.

Out of curiosity, does anybody know these statistics for the rest of the grid?
Does Rosberg's loss of places include those from getting biffed by Vettel? If so then the figures would look very different without that.
I'm sorry but you have to wonder about the capabilities of Mercedes if they can't design a clutch release mechanism to work with the drivers gloves rather than having to design the bloody gloves. Sounds like a cock and bull story to me to avoid embarrassing the drivers.
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