Also the curse of Mark Webber strikes once more as the Australian again retires from a race he had led.
And was that the longest safety car period ever? I need your help on that one.
Lewis Hamilton’s commanding victory was also his first ever triple of win, pole position and fastest lap. All his four wins have been scored from pole position so far – the only pole he didn’t convert into victory was at Silverstone.
He will become champion at Shanghai this weekend if he wins the race. But even if he fails to score – something he’s only done once this year – he’ll still take the title if Fernando Alonso finishes eighth or lower and Kimi Raikkonen finishes third or lower.
Hamilton now has four wins, which is as many as McLaren founder Bruce McLaren. He’s also passed the 100 points mark. If he wins the title this year, it will be his third championship in a row following his F3 Euroseries triumph in 2005 and GP2 title last year.
The last British driver to win in Japan was Damon Hill when he won the world championship in 1996.
Alonso failed to score for the first time in 18 races – the last being at Monza last year when his engine failed. It was also the first DNF for a McLaren this year.
Felipe Massa can no longer win the drivers’ title this year.
Heikki Kovalainen has now scored points for the last seven races in a row – more than anyone else – after Nick Heidfeld’s personal best points-scoring run of seven races came to an end. Kovalainen also scored his first career podium and Renault’s first podium of the year.
He is only the fourth non-McLaren/Ferrari driver to get on the podium this year, and along with Kimi Raikkonen formed the first ever Finnish duo on the podium.
Also taking a career-best finish was Adrian Sutil, eighth (after Vitantonio Liuzzi’s penalty) which gave him his first ever point and Spyker’s first of the year. Team mate Sakon Yamamoto scored his highest career finish of 12th.
This means Toro Rosso are the only team not to have scored points, barring excluded the McLaren outfit.
Sebastian Vettel led a Grand Prix for the first time, for three laps, in his fifth race. He also gave Toro Rosso their first appearance in the final part of qualifying, and highest grid placing of eighth. Absolutely none of which will make him feel better about taking Mark Webber off when the pair were running second and third.
An incensed Webber reckoned he could have won the race. He had set the third fastest race lap (Vettel fifth). He retired from the other three races he led as well: Indianapolis 2003 (spin), Melbourne 2006 (gearbox) and Monte-Carlo 2006 (exhaust).
Although the conditions were reminiscent of the famous race at Fuji in 1976, the result mirrored the 1977 Fuji event, which was also won by a British driver (James Hunt) in McLaren.
None of the Japanese drivers, car, or engines scored a point. Happily, a Japanese tyre manufacturer scored all the points and filled every other place as well.
Most unusually, the two ways by which the end of the race is called for were met. That is, the scheduled number of laps were completed but no further laps could have been done anyway because the race had also hit the two hour mark.
Along with the European Grand Prix it was the second race to last two hours this year, which hasn’t happened since 1989, when the United States (Pheonix, dry), Canadian (Montreal, wet) and Australian (Adelaide, wet) Grands Prix all took two hours.
Which leaves with a request for stat hounds out there – did this race have the longest single safety car period ever seen in F1? I can’t remember another one that lasted 18 laps, or half an hour, however you want to measure it…
Photo: Charles Coates / LAT Photographic
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