Red Bull’s pace and Hamilton’s fumble (Japanese Grand Prix analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Vettel routed the field at Suzuka - but it should have been a Red Bull one-two
Vettel routed the field at Suzuka - but it should have been a Red Bull one-two

A look at the data from the Japanese Grand Prix just how far ahead Red Bull were – and how they should have had a one-two at a track that suited the RB5 perfectly.

See below for the analysis in full, including the battle between Jarno Trulli and Lewis Hamilton and how Jenson Button salvaged a point.

The start

Japanese Grand Prix lap 1 (click to enlarge)
Japanese Grand Prix lap 1 (click to enlarge)

As we’ve seen before at Suzuka, the short run to the first corner and the long sequence of bends that follows it makes it difficult to gain places at the start.

Hamilton got passt Trulli thanks to his KERS, and Sebastien Buemi fell to the back of the field as he was left standing at the start. Other than that it was pretty much follow-my-leader.

How Trulli passed Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton vs Jarno Trulli (click to enlarge)
Lewis Hamilton vs Jarno Trulli (click to enlarge)

McLaren told Hamilton he needed a three second lead over Trulli
before his final pit stop to ensure he would stay ahead of the Toyota.

The lap before Hamilton came in Trulli was 3.09s behind. But Hamilton’s stuttering getaway from the pits cost him 1.7s. A shame, because the Trulli came out 1.3s ahead. We missed what would have been an side-by-side dash into the first corner…

Red Bull’s pace

Red Bull's pace at Suzuka (click to enlarge)
Red Bull's pace at Suzuka (click to enlarge)

As we’ve seen before this year, show Red Bull a track with a lot of high-speed corners and they’re very difficult to keep up with.

Sebastian Vettel‘s pace was obvious as he scorched away at the start and led every lap of the race.

But further back, Mark Webber was also impressive – look at the consistently fast laps he ground out during his longest stint.

Unfortunately for Red Bull, Webber binned it shortly before the end of the third practice session, consigning him to the back of the grid and ruining his weekend. With a top four start for him this would have been a straightforward one-two for Red Bull.

Race charts

Japanese Grand Prix race chart (click to enlarge)
Japanese Grand Prix race chart (click to enlarge)
Japanese Grand Prix race chart (average lap times) (click to enlarge)
Japanese Grand Prix race chart (average lap times) (click to enlarge)

Button’s pass on Robert Kubica early on may have been assisted by the fact that the BMW was 27.5kg heavier – but it was still another of those crucial early-race passes we’ve seen Button make before this year.

Without it he wouldn’t have been in a position to profit from the Adrian SutilHeikki Kovalainen collision, and ultimately climb into a points position having started tenth.

Button may have voiced his objection to the advantage Nico Rosberg got under the safety car. But privately he may reflect that had the race run its course, the Williams could easily have come out between the Brawns, costing him a precious point.

Here are more details on the stewards’ investigation into Rosberg’s driving during the safety car period.

Japanese Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)
Japanese Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

Japanese Grand Prix