The 2014 Season’s 15th race in the Japanese city of Suzuka was adversely affected by heavy rains preceded by typhoon Phanfone, which was to hit Japan on Monday. Fortunately the qualifying sessions were not so much affected on previous days. Bad weather, however, descended on Sunday to make the race torturous. Lewis Hamilton won his eighth race of 2014 that had to be stopped seven laps earlier because of a very serious crash involving Marussia driver Jules Bianchi. Just before Bianchi met with the accident, Adrian Sutil had lost control of his Sauber. Sutil’s car spun viciously and hit the tyre-barrier on the outside of turn seven. The marshals reached the mishap site and waved yellow flags to warn the oncoming drivers of the incident. While a recovery vehicle was still lifting Sutil’s car, Jules Bianchi had come racing in and as fate would have it, he lost control. His car skidded across to the run-off area and hit the back of the rescue tractor. The unconscious Bianchi had to be extracted out of the car and rushed to Mie General Hospital by ambulance, since inclement weather had caused grounding of the normal-service helicopter. The CT scan on Bianchi revealed a severe head injury that required immediate surgery. Talking to French TV, Bianchi’s father confirmed that his son had been undergoing surgery for head injuries and his condition was “critical.”
In qualifyings on Friday and Saturday, weather conditions were much better, when Nico Rosberg claimed the pole by leaving his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton on second spot. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was third and Bottas’s team-mate Felipe Massa fourth. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was fifth, Red Bulls’ Daniel Ricciardo sixth, McLaren duo Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button seventh and eighth respectively and Sebastian Vettel was ninth.
On Sunday, proceedings began under a safety car in heavy rains and were red-flagged after two laps, causing a delay of 20 minutes. After restart and a period of drying, it began raining once again. The 3 PM late start resulted in dim lights and heavy clouds made visibility even worse. An early start would have been better but race promoters thought that the fans could not have reached the circuit in time. The Suzuka race finally resumed in such treacherous conditions and the bleak weather continued until the sixth lap as Rosberg stayed ahead of the pack with Hamilton close-in-tow. By lap 25, visibility and track-grip had improved and this provided enough confidence for Hamilton to move closer to Rosberg. He tried once to overtake but could not do so. The Briton finally succeeded in lap 29, when he just passed the start-finish straight DRS zone and went round the outside of turn-one. The improved track-grip helped Hamilton in his maneuver as he found a clear space with Rosberg going defensive on the inside. In just two laps after he overtook Rosberg, Hamilton had created a 4.8 seconds clearance over Rosberg. While Mercedes drivers remained at ease, the same could not be said about Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, both of whom found wet conditions unfit for their cars’ best performance.
After Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi were taken out, the race was called off in the 37th lap. Hamilton and Rosberg made another 1-2 for Mercedes this season while Red Bull drivers Vettel and Ricciardo finished third and fourth respectively. Jenson Button was an unchallenged fifth and looked good for third over the better part of the race. Williams’ Bottas was sixth ahead of teammate Massa. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was eighth, Jean Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso ninth and another Force India driver Sergio Perez tenth. It was Hamilton’s 30th career victory but the first at Suzuka, where he delivered an assertive performance, full of confidence and unwavering patience. Hamilton now leads Rosberg by ten points with four races to go in 2014.
Victory celebrations at podium were on low key with winners being upset at Bianchi’s serious accident. As news of Bianchi’s crash spread, fans too were visibly upset and they filed out of the Suzuka circuit in silence. Hamilton said that weather conditions were difficult and his victory aside, he was more concerned about Bianchi’s welfare. He added that his thoughts were focused on Bianchi, since concerns about a serious injury to a racing colleague took precedence over all else. Second-placed Rosberg echoed Hamilton’s sentiments, adding that his thoughts were also with Jules, who was quite seriously hurt and other than wishing him the best nothing came to his mind. Sebastian Vettel who was the third driver on podium also said nearly the same thing. Vettel hoped that some good news about Bianchi would come soon.