F1: Japanese Grand Prix liveblog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, October 4th, 2009

 
 

First there was practice, which was almost entirely rained off, leaving a number of rookie drivers with no useful experience of the testing Suzuka circuit.

Then there was qualifying, in which there were at least three heavy crashes, and five drivers came away with grid penalties. Including the two main drivers’ championship contenders.

What is left for the race itself?

Of course, we have to hope that by now the FIA has managed to sort out in what order all the penalties should be applied, and come up with some kind of viable grid arrangement.

Sunny weather is forecast, which might take some of the uncertainty out of the occasion. But Mark Webber is already having to start from the pitlane after writing off a chassis, and Timo Glock can’t race at all thanks to a leg wound acquired in his off-track excursion.

Toyota tester Kamui Kobayashi is reportedly not going to be allowed to take his place which means the team being a car down at its home grand prix. With clear benefits to its motivation for remaining in the sport. Not.

Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel is the polesitter, Jarno Trulli is fuelled surprisingly competitively and may not play his traditional role as a mobile chicane, and likely future team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen are sitting not very far back with their fingers poised over those lethal KERS buttons.

The first corner is handily called First Curve, particularly helpful for those of us viewing this before-first-thing on a cold European morning without our full slate of faculties.

Remember the name, though. We expect it’s going to feature.

Stick with us for the race and keep pressing refresh to make sure you’re getting the latest.

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Post-race: Heads up. Brawn believe Nico Rosberg has misbehaved behind the safety car. If he gets penalised, it’s all change and the Brackley team win the constructors’. Keep an eye on our race report to find out what happens.

Brawn now one off securing the constructors’. In the drivers’ championship, Button is now on 85, Barrichello on 71, Vettel on a very threatening 69. Webber is unchanged on 51.5 and the next interesting bit is the Hamilton/Raikkonen battle – they’re on 45 and 43 respectively. In the constructors’ Brawn are on 156, Red Bull on 120.5, Ferrari on 67 and McLaren on 65.

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Lap 53: As you were, despite a few people clearly wishing otherwise. Vettel on his way to his perfect race. He rounds the final corners and takes the chequered flag to win. Order behind him is Trulli, who has driven a great race for Toyota’s second consecutive second place, then Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Button.

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Lap 52: Two laps left. Rosberg has closed up a bit on Raikkonen. Vettel has 2.7 sec lead on Trulli.

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Lap 51: A few people have a look at a few others but not much doing. Hamilton has pulled away from Raikkonen and should be on for a podium. Barrichello, Button, Kubica and Alonso one of the liveliest bits of the field. Let’s hope common sense prevails down there.

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Lap 50: Four laps of racing left. Hamilton’s KERS is still crooked. Raikkonen, with his working KERS, has risen like dough to end up in fourth. Safety car in. Raikkonen has a look at Hamilton for third but can’t do anything.

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Lap 49: Alguersuari is stretchered off as a precaution despite having got out of his car and walked off. Tyre wall currently being rebuilt, leaving very little time for racing. Safety car in this lap.

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Lap 48: Webber pits yet again. On track, a Renault is out of position between Vettel and Trulli – we’re guessing Grosjean. Not Hamilton’s day, is it?

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Lap 47: We hear that Hamilton has a technical issue with his KERS – just when he could use it. Team tells him they will fix it if they can.

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Lap 46: Rosberg has somehow pitted and come back in fifth. Field backed up behind it. Brawn currently on for three points with seventh and eighth places. No constructors’ victory today. Barrichello only takes a point out of Button but Vettel will have nine points off him.

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Lap 45: Button is faster than Barrichello and 0.8 seconds behind him. Yellow flag and we see Alguersuari’s shattered car on the racing line. Debris bloody everywhere. Safety car.

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Lap 44: Alguersuari and Liuzzi pit. On Twitter, F1 Fanatic’s Keith Collantine points out: “Vettel’s on course for a perfect result of win, pole, fastest lap and led every lap.”

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Lap 43. Barrichello pits. Order as he went in was Vet, Tru, Ham, Bar, Ros (unpitted), Rai, Hei, Alg (unpitted), Kub, Alo, Liu, Kov, Fis, Sut, Nak, Gro and Web. Barrichello rejoins ahead of Button, Trulli described as significantly faster than Hamilton.

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Lap 42: Kubica stops, 7.7 seconds. Comes out in 10th. 12 laps left.

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Lap 41: A nailbiting pitstop for Vettel. Problems with front right tyre but still only 7.5 seconds. He still comes out effectively in the lead, let’s hope there are no problems with that wheel. Button onto soft tyres in his stop – 6.8 seconds. Order is Vettel, Trulli, Hamilton. Vettel’s lead currently 8.2 seconds.

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Lap 40: Trulli pits. mechanics out for Fisichella and Kovalainen. 6.5 second stop and mechanics shaking hands. And he’s got the place! Can Hamilton get him while the tyres are cold? Sutil pits as well as the aforementioned McLaren and Ferrari drivers. Fisi makes it out first and there’s a duel. They hit each other but both survive. Kovalainen has the place.

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Lap 39: Trulli drives past the pit entrance, trying to put on enough to take Hamilton in the stop. Kubica tries to stick one on team-mate Heidfeld and fails. Heidfeld and Kubica both had air problems which might account for the long stop.

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Lap 38: Hamilton pits. 6.6 seconds and his pit-lane limiter seems to have compromised his getaway somehow. Trulli thus has the chance to take second.

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Lap 37: Heidfeld pits – speculation that this is designed to keep Raikkonen at bay. A long stop at 9.4 seconds. The Finn’s car still heavy and unwieldy after his stop but he still gains the place on Heidfeld in the pits. Of course, all this benefits Button who no longer has Kubica on his back.

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Lap 36: Suddenly we all notice an interesting midfield detail. Rosberg never seems to have picked up speed after his pitstop and Button then Kubica are forming a train behind him. Rosberg to Button is 1.1, Button to Kubica 0.9. Webber in the pits but this at least appears to be scheduled. Raikkonen pits for a 7.2 second stop and comes out on soft tyres between Button and Kubica. Not a great result for him.

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Lap 35: We’ve been tempted several times to say that all the action seems to have happened in practice and quali. But we know how unwise that would be…

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Lap 34: Kimi Raikkonen throwing in smokin’ hot laps and hauling Heidfeld in. Dare we say McLaren?

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Lap 33: Hamilton 3.4 seconds ahead of Trulli. Kubica rather alarmingly is catching Button. As things stand (ie if Kubica fails to catch him) Brawn take the constructors’.

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Lap 32: Liuzzi has overtaken Nakajima, amazingly without incident. Raikkonen has been told he can expect to jump Heidfeld in the next pitstops if he keeps up his current pace.

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Lap 31: Order is Vet, Ham, Tru, Hei, Rai, Bar, Ros, Alo (unpitted), But, Kub, Kovy, Fisi, Sutil, Alg, Nak, Liu, Gros, Web. Alonso pits, stop 9.7 seconds. Rejoins ahead of Nakajima. Now everyone has pitted. Button has come out of that back in eighth place and the points. If things finished like this, Barrichello would have taken two points out of his lead.

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Lap 30: Kimi Raikkonen puts in a personal best lap. Is the customary late Raikko-charge starting? Grosjean pits.

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Lap 29: Grosjean runs wide, lets Sutil through. Very brief yellow flag. We’ve been dying for an excuse to mention the Spoon Hairpin and here it is :D

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Lap 28: Vettel’s lead now 5.3 seconds. You’ll be thrilled to know that Nakajima has put in a 9.4 second stop.

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Lap 27: More talk of Ant Davidson getting a drive next year. Kubica pits, 6.7 second stop, comes out behind Button. That driver’s now in 10th place. The order’s not going to be properly clear until all the one-stoppers have come in. Halfway point of the race.

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Lap 26: Hamilton and Trulli trading fastest laps but neither troubling Vettel at this point.

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Lap 25: Vettel is 4.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, Trulli two and a half seconds behind and catching. Hamilton told to hurry up.

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Lap 24: Rosberg’s heavy car is falling back from Barrichello. Nakajima’s on his tail. Never a sight you want to see in your mirrors, especially with cold tyres. Order is Vet, Ham, Tru, Hei, Kov (unpitted), Kub (unpitted), Rai, Barr, Ros, Nak, Liu, Alo, But, Fisi, Sut, Alg, Web.

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Lap 23: Rosberg has pitted. Brundle: “Button in fourteenth, that’s not as dreadful as it sounds.” 8.7 second stop for Rosberg who comes out behind Barrichello. J-Alg flounces into the pits. Well, he just pits, but we couldn’t resist it.

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Lap 22: J-Alg is yelling into his radio about being held up by Barrichello. The cheek of it! We suggest that the world championship contender should give way to the rookie immediately. Not. Our advice: don’t be a diva, laddie.

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Lap 21: Race director takes a quiet moment to discharge the obligation to focus on Nakajima. Button in clear air and making use of it.

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Lap 20: Vettel’s stop said to be long because of a cautious lollipop man not wanting to release him into the path of anyone. Vettel leads narrowly from the unpitted Rosberg. Order is then Hamilton, Trulli, Heidfeld, Kovy (unpitted), Kubica (unpitted), Raikkonen, Barrichello, Alguersuari, Nakajima, Liuzzi, Alonso, Button, Grosjean, Fisi, Sutil, Webber.

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Lap 19: Vettel pits at the end of 18. Long, long stop. Stays on hard tyres and he’s fuelled long on 12.4 seconds. Heidfeld and Raikkonen also come in. We’ll do an order when this sorts itself out. Barrichello in for a 9.5 second stop and on hard tyres.

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Lap 18: Button’s current projected point could be enough to secure the constructors’ for Brawn, even if it doesn’t win the drivers’ championship for him. That little contretemps between Kovy and Sutil has probably saved him from pitstop hell. Vettel reported to have saved fuel, thus boosting his chances of a strategically important long middle stint. Button pits and stays on hard tyres. Emerges into clean air but we don’t know where yet.

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Lap 17: Now Trulli comes in. Vettel expected to go another lap. 8.7 seconds for Trulli and he comes back out behind Hamilton with Button directly behind them in eighth.

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Lap 16: Hamilton pits. No Toyota yet. Hamilton has 8.9 second stop and, we presume, hard tyres. Comes out sixth. Sutil pits. 10.1 second stop and hard tyres for him too.

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Lap 15: Order in the midfield after that: Button eighth and into the points. Kovy ninth, having only lost a place. Kubica tenth, Fisi 11th and Sutil 12th. DC clucking like an old mother hen over Kovy’s tactics. He thinks the stewards will feel the need to get involved. Toyota mechanics out.

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Lap 14: Here we go! Sutil tries to take Kovalainen who fights back hard. Side by side with two wheels on the grass. As Kovy comes back on he nudges Sutil and the Force India driver spins. Button, behind them, cruises straight past and takes two places. Sutil goes backwards a couple more places.

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Lap 13: Buemi has parked up in the Toro Rosso garage, so his race is over. Vettel’s lead over Hamilton is 4.1 seconds. Heidfeld in fourth is running at pretty much the pace of Vettel although a fair way behind Trulli. That driver is less than a second back from Hamilton.

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Lap 12: Trulli has closed the gap slightly to Hamilton. Brawn garage: “We’re a bit stuck here, Jenson.” The driver radios back to say no pace on straight to reel in Sutil, understeer kicks in when he gets close.

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Lap 11: Button has reportedly dropped back a bit from Sutil to keep the car into clean air. But trouble predicted for his pitstop where traffic could give him serious problems.

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Lap 10: Brundle speculates that Hamilton may have done well strategically to get those soft tyres out of the way at the start. It all swings on how he performs on the hard tyres. First pitstops now on the distant horizon.

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Lap 9: Hamilton reeling Vettel in a little. The German told he’s doing fine but to watch his fuel strategy.

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Lap 8: Order is Vettel, Hamilton, Trulli, Heidfeld, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Sutil, Button, Kubica, Fisi, J-Alg, Nakajima, Alonso, Liuzzi, Buemi, Grosjean. Webber is there but a long way back.

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Lap 7: Kovy easing off with an open road ahead. Sutil looks to pass him but can’t. If he does in his non-KERS-equipped Force India then it’s Raikkonen to McLaren. For sure.

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Lap 6: Vettel’s lead now 2.4 seconds. Webber’s early pit visits due to a loose headrest. Fixed with gaffer tape and then he gets a puncture. Three pitstops in five laps. Sutil is on the back of Kovalainen with Button closing on the pair of them.

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Lap 5: Button has dived through the inside of Kubica to gain another place. Vettel now around 2 secs ahead of Hamilton.

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Lap 4: Button’s up to 10th. A replay of the start shows Buemi had a problem getting off the start.

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Lap 3: Vettel’s lead 1.9 secs. Webber went straight back into the pits so it looks like he may not be having a very long race. Button “on the back foot” after a dreadful start. Trulli just about hanging onto the back of Hamilton and Heidfeld behind him. Front cars all about evenly spaced at a bit more than a second.

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Lap 2: Vettel has put on more than a second in the first lap. Liuzzi has taken two places on the start. Camera on the Red Bull pits but no-one quite sure why. Kovalainen past Sutil.

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Lap 1: Hamilton is past Trulli but nowhere close to Vettel. He’s on his way off down the road. BMW Sauber fourth, Ferrari fifth. The phlegmatic might say right, that’s Vettel won it then. Barrichello behind Raikkonen then Sutil, Kovalainen, Kubica. Button 12th which means he’s two places at the start and Fisichella’s got past him.

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Parade lap: Vettel at the front reportedly starting on the hard tyre, Hamilton on soft for the optimum rubber-burning start. Mark Webber starting from the pits. Everyone is away off the grid with no problems.

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Grid walk: Hamilton is out there for the team. Heidfeld is philosphical. Brundle is scathing about a foreign TV crew. Button’s race engineer Andrew Shovlin wins brief TV stardom saying the start will be difficult but he hopes his man can do something in the race. Cars reported as going through the pits to burn off fuel.

Jense reported to be having a relaxed race day and certainly he looked cool and calm when pictured in the garage earlier. Team refusing to rise to bait about penalty. Brawn GP team manager tells Brundle: “You’ve done it now” after he accuses the car of reliability. No sign of the Bernmeister today. And it’s time to see what violence they can do to another National Anthem.

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Pre-race: Ooh shit. Button has J-Alg behind him. That could be fun.

Out on Twitterland they’re saying that Hamilton’s vintage Mercedes broke down on a fan-pleasing parade lap – so he hopped onto Fernando Alonso’s car for a lift. You can make your own jokes up, the ground’s too fertile for us to need to.

Timo Glock is interviewed, breaking the party line by saying his supposedly minor leg abrasion is actually a five or six centimetre cut. He’s ditched the crutches in the hope of looking spry and sprightly, but is actually still too rickety to drive. DC says he was initially flown to the wrong hospital after his accident, while Eddie Jordan claims to have had dinner with him last night. Hasn’t the poor boy suffered enough, we ask?

The final revised, amended, glued-together, this-time-we-really-mean-it grid is out and, gosh, who’d have thought it – Rubens is penalised one net position, Button three, thus increasing the gap between them and making it far likelier that the title chase will continue past this race. Here’s the new line-up:

  1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
  2. Jarno Trulli, Toyota
  3. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
  4. Nick Heidfeld, BMW
  5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
  6. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn
  7. Nico Rosberg, Williams
  8. Adrian Sutil, Force India
  9. Robert Kubica, BMW
  10. Jenson Button, Brawn
  11. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
  12. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso
  13. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso
  14. Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari
  15. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
  16. Fernando Alonso, Renault
  17. Romain Grosjean, Renault
  18. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India
  19. Mark Webber, Red Bull
  20. Timo Glock, Toyota (not racing)

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