Esteban Ocon, Force India, Suzuka, 2017

2017 Japanese Grand Prix Star Performers

2017 Japanese Grand PrixPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen were F1 Fanatic’s Star Performers of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. Here’s why.

Stars

Lewis Hamilton

Start, Suzuka, 2017
2017 Japanese GP in pictures
With a comfortable pole position – his first ever at Suzuka – and a commanding drive to victory, it’s impossible to overlook Hamilton. By his own admission he was a bit cautious on his out-lap, but Max Verstappen probably wouldn’t have had a sniff of victory if Fernando Alonso hadn’t kept Hamilton behind for so long.

Max Verstappen

The Red Bull pair went in very different directions on set-up. Verstappen had the draggier car, which hurt him on the straights, but the gap between them in qualifying was as near as makes no difference. Verstappen got the better start though, moving up to second, and after that was dogged in his pursuit of Hamilton.

Esteban Ocon

Ocon put a cheeky move on Daniel Ricciardo at the start and held on to a place inside the podium positions until lap ten. Then he was inevitably passed in the DRS zone by Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, and Kimi Raikkonen jumped him through the pit stops, all of which he was powerless to do anything about. However he brought his car home in front of his team mate, something which clearly irked Sergio Perez as he started complaining Ocon was holding him up when he obviously wasn’t.

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Kevin Magnussen

Romain Grosjean was potentially the faster of the two Haas drivers. But a crash on Saturday thwarted his qualifying effort and he followed Magnussen home in the race. The highlight of Magnussen’s grand prix – in fact, the highlight of the entire race – was his ballsy pass on Felipe Massa in turn two

Strugglers

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2017
Raikkonen crashed during practice
The working Ferrari was wasted on Raikkonen at Suzuka. His gearbox penalty was self-inflicted by a crash in final practice. That also compromised his qualifying performance, leaving him seven-tenths of a second down on Sebastian Vettel. In the race he tangled with Stoffel Vandoorne at the start, then went off at Spoon while trying to pass Nico Hulkenberg. His performance contrasted sharply with Bottas, who had the same penalty yet qualified and raced well enough to take the chequered flag on Ricciardo’s tail, 20 seconds ahead of Raikonen.

Pierre Gasly

Probably should have done better at a track he’s already raced at this year. He missed the cut for Q2 having been well down on Sainz and aggravated several rivals by holding them up. He spoiled his race by locking his tyres which forced him in for a second pit stop.

And the rest

A poor start cost Ricciardo time behind Ocon, though he at least recorded his first podium finish at Suzuka. Bottas recovered well following his gearbox penalty and qualified better than he has done recently.

Felipe Massa, Williams, Suzuka, 2017
Massa was mugged by Magnussen
Massa slipped from eighth to tenth as tyre degradation problems hurt Williams. It was a wasted weekend for Lance Stroll, who was held up on both his flying runs in Q1 then suffered a puncture in the race.

Jolyon Palmer did a solid job in his final weekend for Renault, qualifying just a couple of tenths off Hulkenberg. His team mate ran a long first stint but his race was ruined by DRS failure.

With better luck, both of the McLaren drivers could have been in the points. Stoffel Vandoorne qualified well but lost ground when he tangled with Raikkonen at the start. Fernando Alonso came from the back of the grid to finish a few tenths away from scoring Honda’s first point at home since their return to F1.

Marcus Ericsson spoiled a decent qualifying performance by crashing, while Pascal Wehrlein had a lonely run at the back of the pack.

Over to you

Vote for the driver who impressed you most last weekend and find out whether other F1 Fanatics share your view here:

2017 Japanese Grand Prix

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29 comments on “2017 Japanese Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. F Truth (@offdutyrockstar)
    9th October 2017, 16:26

    Got my popcorn ready for the Sebfosi meltdown in the comments.

    1. where is it? (I posted this pretty early into the article’s life though so I guess do reply here if a meltdown does occour)

    2. Not sure why, he was out of the race after 6 laps with a faulty spark plug.

  2. Kevin Magnussen has not done his reputation any harm with that race.

    1. Just positive

  3. Not impressed with Sainz & Ericsson either.

    1. Exactly — how does Ericsson not count as a struggler when he crashes out through an unforced error? He really should be following Palmer out of F1.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        9th October 2017, 22:19

        Ericsson has made several mistakes this year, but his pace isn’t far off his team mates on the whole. He has several times beaten him by a very big margin. Even in qualifying, although Wehrlein has much more often been ahead, their average gap was only tiny. That went towards Wehrlein being slightly faster. In the races, there have been some where Ericsson has been well behind, but pretty much just as many the other way round, such as Russia when they were both on identical strategies, and Wehrlein spun in qualifying and finished 30 seconds behind Ericsson. I think both are good enough for F1, but Ericsson’s money is unfortuantly what they probably want most. I don’t think there is a massive difference between the 2 really, so considering Ericsson gets this money, I think it is worth keeping him. He makes quite a lot of mistakes, but his pace really isn’t that bad.

        1. Ben, just out of curiosity: are you Ericsson’s agent or PR guy? Because you are always very appologetic to his performances, even when he really doesn’t deserve any slack. Crashing a car in a dry race, for a small team like Sauber, is very painful given the costs of repairs and on top of that is his second crash in 3 races.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            10th October 2017, 14:25

            All it is is that I think it is a bit unreasonable for people to say Ericsson shouldn’t be in F1. I don’t want to say he’s an outstanding driver because that isn’t true. If it wasn’t for his money, then I don’t think Sauber would keep him. But teams often seem to value the money more than the driver having the odd crash. Think about Maldonado. Lets be honest, Ericsson had crashed no more than Sainz during the races this year and the damage he’s done hasn’t been as bad either. He’s also one of only 3 or 4 drivers that don’t have any penalty points. He often does make mistakes, that is true, but people just don’t seem to notice his good performances. I feel this is just because vertually all of them have been out of the points. If he’d been on the opposite strategy to his tem mate in Spain, he likely could have managed some points. And in Baku, I’d say Ericsson looked better there and should have been given the position back to get that point.

            What I’m trying to say is even though Ericsson does crash quite often, He does put in several decent performances and often does beat Wehrlein too. Wehrlein certainly is better, but the pace difference isn’t huge. But because the money from Ericsson’s sponsors, I can understand why he should probably remain with the team. I don’t think he’s doing quite as badly as many think with the incidents aside.

    2. How can Sainz not be on the strugglers list with 2 crashes in a weekend? Agreed that he qualified well, but that almost didn’t matter given the grid penalties he managed to aquire from that crash in FP1?

      Don’t get me wrong, i like Sainz and can’t wait to see him paired with a fast teammate again (after VER), but this was a GP to forget.

      1. Good point, I had all but forgotten his FP1 mishap. Should definitely be counted as a struggler, as outqualifying a rookie isn’t exactly heroic.

  4. Like that MAGlite more and more – ice cold when he dive in on those stars – saving my raceday… and best part to hear them cry afterwards in the press.. ALO, HUL, MAS and PER what a bunch of crybabys..not to forget GRO claiming he was much faster in the race but in mysteries way lost MAG every time he wasn’t held up by a slow car… Dear GRO look at the lap times in generel and fastest lap – you was behind all weekend….just give MAG a faster car…Ferrari?

    1. Agreed. I’m loving his ZFG attitude, both in and out of the car.

  5. Hulkenberg should have been in that Ferrari seat 2 years ago.

    1. @john-h
      Make that 4. His form in late 2012 was going through the roof. Massa wasn’t really recovering from the beatings Alonso had given him, and Räikkönen … his lap times in 2014 were closer to Bianchi’s than Alonso’s more often than not.

  6. The Raikkonen suggestion as being a struggler was harsh. Ok, the gearbox penalty comment was fair but it’s just one of those things, plenty drivers went off in the same place over the weekend, Kimi was just unlucky that his car took off over the kerb as he went off. The pace in qualifying was hampered by that, Bottas’s wasn’t. In the race, the Vandoorne “incident” was irrelevant to the result, the Hulkenberg one and subsequently having to come back through the field again is what cost him most of that 20 seconds to Bottas, who, when all is said and done, despite the “sharp contrast” you paint and praise you put Valterri’s way, finished a grand total of 1 place ahead of Kimi.

    Given the circumstances it was a solid enough recovery drive.

    1. Agreed. For some reason in this feature a given mistake or failing is always given more weight when it’s Raikkonen than for any other driver.

      1. F Truth (@offdutyrockstar)
        10th October 2017, 10:00

        Agreed. For some reason in this feature a given mistake or failing is always given more weight when it’s Raikkonen than for any other driver.

        It’s ok. Contract renewals are also given in the case of Kimi where they wouldn’t be for most other drivers.

    2. @ Twitteratti

      The Raikkonen suggestion as being a struggler was harsh.

      I don’t think so. He’s clearly underperfomed over the course of the weekend, and he can’t blame anything or anyone else for that.

      Ok, the gearbox penalty comment was fair but it’s just one of those things, plenty drivers went off in the same place over the weekend, Kimi was just unlucky that his car took off over the kerb as he went off.

      That’s not ‘unlucky’ in my book. There’s a difference between going off and binning the car, and he did the latter.

      The pace in qualifying was hampered by that, Bottas’s wasn’t.

      That only goes to show how Bottas clearly did a better job under the same circumstances. He only managed 9 laps before his crash in FP3, even less than Räikkönen, but he drove reasonably well in qualifying.

      In the race, the Vandoorne “incident” was irrelevant to the result, the Hulkenberg one and subsequently having to come back through the field again is what cost him most of that 20 seconds to Bottas,

      I agree that the Vandoorne incident was ultimately irrelevant, but the Hulkenberg one was just clumsy, and again: He can’t blame anyone but himself. Yes, having to come back from that is what caused most of the gap, but that doesn’t make his performance better by any meanst. In fact, this only proves that he had the car to score some big points and challenge Bottas at the very least (or even finish on the podium without that FP3 mistake). But he wasted that opportunity with his own errors.

      who, when all is said and done, despite the “sharp contrast” you paint and praise you put Valterri’s way, finished a grand total of 1 place ahead of Kimi.

      Results don’t necessarily reflect performance, I think that’s commonplace. Bottas hardly did anything wrong. He crashed in FP3, but the gearbox penalty wasn’t his fault, and he limited the damage by qualifying reasonably well, and it’s hard to blame him for not finishing on the podium. Without the penalty, a Mercedes 1-2 would’ve been possible, but Red Bull were so strong in the race that they were very hard to beat.
      Räikkönen, by contrast, finished 5th by virtue of the gulf between the top 3 teams and the rest. The Force India drivers were 1.3 and 1.5 seconds off Vettel’s qualifying pace, therefore he had absolutely no trouble overcutting the midfielders.
      All in all, he finished fifth in a car that was podium material, and it wasn’t anybody else’s fault. And even that result is rather flattering, because none of the midfield teams were even remotely quick enough to capitalise on his mistakes.

      Is it harsh to criticise his performance and single him out as one the weekend’s two worst drivers? I don’t think it is.

  7. @john-h
    Make that 4. His form in late 2012 was going through the roof. Massa wasn’t really recovering from the beatings Alonso had given him, and Räikkönen … his lap times in 2014 were closer to Bianchi’s than Alonso’s more often than not.

  8. Wrong place. -_-

  9. @keithcollantine Keith, with Sainz having crashed so early on, do we have any other teams to compare Toro Rosso to at Suzuka in order to surmise whether Gasly’s finishing position was okay or not?

    1. @shimks
      I’d say the comparison with other teams and the eventual finishing position are irrelevant. There are two significant reference points for the assessment of his performance:
      1. His qualifying performance, being over 7 tenths down on Sainz
      2. flat-spotting his tyres and needing a second pit stop due to that.

      Before the flat-spotting incident, he was running just behind the Haas duo, just 2 seconds behind Massa. Therefore, he might’ve had a chance of snatching 10th from the Williams driver. But his superfluous pit stop saw Alonso and Palmer get ahead, and his finishing position (13th) was clearly not not the highest he could achieve.

  10. What is the point of Kimi Raikkonen ?

    Quite bizarre to see Ferrari insisting. Much better talent elsewhere for far less money. Not to mention how much of a PR catastrophe the guy is.

  11. The guy is the most popular driver in the sport! I have no idea why but when I went to Malaysia he consistently got the loudest cheers, louder than Max, Lewis, Seb, Alonso etc. People love his attitude all over the world!!

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