Nico Rosberg recorded his fourth victory in the last five races by taking the top podium at Suzuka International Racing Course in Japan. That has taken the German’s championship lead over his Mercedes teammate 2014 & 2015 champion Lewis Hamilton to 33 points. With just four more races remaining in the current season, Rosberg looks the most likely driver to end the season as the new World Champion. Hamilton was plagued with another poor start at Suzuka and fell to the 8th spot in the first lap itself. Later, he made up and managed the third place behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. However, with Rosberg notching up yet another victory, Hamilton’s chances of retaining his World Championship have become too bleak. Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg finished another successful race with seventh and eighth places respectively and consolidated the constructors’ lead over Williams. However, the top spot for the constructors was decided at Suzuka and Mercedes ended up as the undisputed winners.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg produced another dominating performance to record his ninth victory of the 2016 F1 season. He had taken the pole on Saturday ahead of Hamilton and used that advantage for a clean get-away as the lights went out. With Hamilton facing all sorts of problems at the start, Rosberg was free to consolidate on his lead. It wasn’t the first time that Hamilton had been bogged down by a poor start. However, the reigning World Champion clawed his way back to make it to the podium and restricted Rosberg’s lead to just 10 points from the race. But the overall difference of 33 points already looks monumental with just four more meeting left in this calendar year. With Hamilton dropping back, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen chased Rosberg and the bunch behind him included; Force India’s Sergio Perez, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Sepang winner and other Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, other Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn had finished third during qualifying but he was served a 5-place grid penalty for gear-box change and therefore started as eighth on the grid. While Verstappen hung on behind Rosberg , Force India’s Sergio Perez stayed at third place for some time before being overtaken in ensuing laps by drivers with faster cars.
After the drivers pitted for second time, the race position looked settled. Rosberg had a 3-second advantage over Verstappen. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was right behind Verstappen but Hamilton had already made a lot of ground and he pressurized Vettel for the third place. After Hamilton went for his second pit-stop on lap 34, Vettel also followed suit and stopped for new set of tyres on lap 35 to take some advantage over Hamilton. However, Vettel was hampered by traffic and that allowed Hamilton to get away. Incidentally, even with hard rubber, Hamilton was able to outrun Vettel, who had been advised by his team to get soft tyres during his second pit-stop. Hamilton was generating a blistering pace and tried to challenge Verstappen. With the last few laps remaining, Hamilton’s attempts to overtake the Red Bull driver were foiled by the gritty Dutchman. In the penultimate lap, Hamilton made another aggressive attempt on the final corner but couldn’t succeed as Verstappen held on to the second spot behind Rosberg. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had to settle for fourth place, his teammate Kimi Raikkonen was fifth, the other Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo sixth, Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were seventh and eighth while Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finish ninth and tenth.
The Japanese GP also decided the constructors’ championship. Mercedes emerged on top for the third consecutive year with utmost ease. The fight for fourth place, however, is still on and with Perez and Hulkenberg finishing ahead of their Williams’ counterparts Massa and Bottas, Force India now leads over Williams by 10 points. The Japanese GP also saw every driver reaching the finish line and to that extent, the race proved to be uneventful. With a maximum of 100 points available over the next four races, it is already an uphill task for Lewis Hamilton to regain the lead from Nico Rosberg, who looks well-set to record his first-ever F1 World Championship.
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