As the F1 circus rolled into a rain soaked Suzuka track on Sunday morning, few could have predicted the drama that was about to unfold in the race that afternoon.
Despite tropical storm Phanfone rolling in, the FIA elected to run the hugely popular race, which started behind the safety car due to the weather conditions. The race eventually started on lap 10, but not before Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso retired due to an electrical problem on the third.
With much of the field pitting quickly for new tyres it wasn’t until lap 14 when the race really began to unfold, with Hamilton 2.2 seconds behind first-placed Rosberg following the first pit-stops. Despite the appalling weather conditions, over the next 15 laps Hamilton set about chasing down an unsettled Rosberg. It was lap 29 before the inevitable happened, with Hamilton producing one of those overtakes that even the best drivers have to applaud; a ballsy move around the outside of Rosberg at the 125mph turn one, leading to smiles from Niki Lauda and prompting the usually quiet David Coulthard to describe the manoeuvre as ‘bravery in the extreme.’
It was beginning to look like a champions drive from Hamilton who immediately pulled out a comfortable gap over his long-time friend and rival. However, it was perhaps a future champion who was the star of the show with Daniel Ricciardo scything past both Williams around the outside of turn four in a performance that was hugely impressive despite finishing behind his nemesis Sebastian Vettel.
But with conditions continuing to worsen and a number of cars aquaplaning off the track, such as Adrian Sutil’s Sauber at the Dunlop Curve, the race was eventually red flagged on lap 44 following a distressing crash for Marussia’s Jules Bianchi. With the ever present JCB tractor out at Dunlop to recover Sutil’s stricken Sauber, Bianchi appeared to hit said JCB before coming to rest against the crash barriers in what can only be described as a horrible accident, leaving the Marussia and Ferrari academy driver in hospital to undergo emergency brain surgery.
With the race red-flagged for a second time, it was Hamilton who emerged victorious extending his lead in the drivers’ championship to 10 points, leaving the title perfectly poised in the next 3 races before this years double-points title decider in Abu Dhabi.
Since this article was written, it has been confirmed that Jules Bianchi is in a ‘critical but stable’ condition in hospital. Everyone at The Gryphon wishes Bianchi a full and hasty recovery.
Image courtesy of formula1.com