Guest Author - Christine Blachford
Like a lot of things this season, the Japanese race caused a little bit of controversy. The Grand Prix moved to the Fuji circuit, beneath Mount Fuji, for the first time in thirty years, and whilst the teams seemed prepared for the new track, they couldn’t have been prepared for the weather. Low cloud, fog and rain hung in the air for the majority of the weekend. Saturday Free Practice was abandoned after only four minutes of running time, Qualifying was under threat, although it did take place, and the race started behind the safety car.
In order to ensure the cars were under control in the wet conditions, 19 laps were undertaken behind the safety car. Controversy number 1 – Formula 1 struggles with the argument that it is simply a procession, and starting the race in this way adds fuel to the fire.
The safety car obviously caused a mix-up of strategies, and definitely rattled the drivers a little bit. They were on the radio to their teams complaining about the crazy conditions, some even said they didn’t think the race should have started.
Once the safety car retired to the pit lane, and racing started proper, it was Hamilton who led the way, capitalising on his pole. The two Ferrari’s were struggling, having had to pit after only one lap because they started on the wrong tyres. Controversy number 2 – race director Charlie Whiting told all the teams to start on wet tyres, but Ferrari claimed they weren’t told. The way teams are informed of any special instructions was then reviewed.
Alonso was lacking pace, and couldn’t seem to keep up with his teammate, until he lost control of the car, and hit the wall. His race was over. The safety car was called out again, and Hamilton began bunching up the pack. Behind him were two drivers who were doing surprisingly well in the wet - Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, and Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel. Unfortunately, an incident occurred between the two, and both retired. Controversy number 3 - Webber blamed the rookie, whilst Vettel questioned Hamilton’s actions at the front of the pack. Video footage of the incident does show that Hamilton appears to be out of place, but the conditions definitely make everyone’s actions questionable.
Hamilton won the race, and extended his lead over Alonso to 12 points. With only two races to go, it’s looking more and more likely that we’ve been watching a World Champion in the making. The next race is at China, and has unpredictable weather conditions, but whatever happens, let’s hope the safety car can stay away from the track.