2016 Japan Thoughts
THE BIG PICTURE: If Lewis Hamilton loses this world championship, it will not be because of reliability, harebrained conspiracy theories, or even God. It will be for the one thing Hamilton himself has control over -- race starts. Five times, he's lost places at the start.
EVENT: No fans get more air time from the F1 TV production folks than those at the Japanese GP. We get that Japanese fans are passionate about F1. We get that Japanese fans always wave and smile at the camera. Now stop it!
TRACK: Still as wonderful as ever, even if it is difficult to pass on.
QUALIFYING: 13/1000 of a second, Haas gets both drivers in Q3 for the first time, and McLaren picks the wrong track to have their worst qualifying effort this year.
START: Just when you thought Hamilton couldn't blow a start worse than he has before, he blows a start to top all his blown starts.
RACE: Passing may be difficult here, but there were still some great dices.
ROSBERG: Nico controlled the whole weekend, and once again won at a track he's never won at before.
HAMILTON: Let's face it, Lewis has become the Mark Webber of starters.
MERCEDES: They clinch their third consecutive (inevitable) constructors' championship. Well earned.
VERSTAPPEN: It was more subtle, but he still moved under braking. Nonetheless, Hamilton would not have made the pass anyway and was right to call off his team's protest. Max fully deserved second place.
RICCIARDO: Bogged by Hamilton's start and poor strategy once again put his upstart teammate ahead of Daniel.
VETTEL: He should just drive around with a blue flag attached to a long pole on his car, so it reaches in front of any car he is trying to pass...
FERRARI: Overall, were they actually faster than Red Bull? Remember, both drivers, who qualified on the second row, had grid penalties which severely handicapped their race. We'll delay the verdict till COTA.
PEREZ: It appears Sergio could have gone to Renault...
HULKENBERG: ...so instead Nico will go to a worse car...
RENAULT: ...but why would Renault want the "lesser" Force India driver?
MASSA: Finally finished ahead of Bottas.
HAAS: Great qualifying effort, lousy race strategy.
PALMER: Is Jolyon the odd man out at Renault?
MAGNUSSEN: Or does Kevin get screwed by F1 again? Or, are both out?
MCLAREN: Honda needs to buy a different Japanese track, because Suzuka just does not show off their engine well enough for the home crowd.
SAINZ: Carlos drove like a nutcase the whole race. Quite uncharacteristic of him.
MANOR: When everybody finishes the race, it's not a shock Manor finishes in the last two positions.
WORD OF THE WEEKEND: Clutch.
STAT OF THE WEEKEND: 0 -- The number of winners at Suzuka who started on the second row.
HISTORICAL STAT OF THE WEEKEND: Honda has seen some success on their own track, winning twice, but way back in the 1980s. Both times, the engine was in a McLaren. Ayrton Senna won in 1988 after his car stalled on the grid. In 1991, Senna, after clinching the world championship when Mansell spun out of the race, let his teammate, Gerhard Berger, by on the last lap to take the win.
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: Christian Horner, who knows a thing or two about title fights, discussing the championship hopes of Lewis Hamilton, "I would be a foolish person to rule him out at this stage."
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: Romain Grosjean, after crashing in FP1 once again because the car wouldn't stop, explained the situation succinctly, "The brake doesn't brake."
SCHEDULE: Everybody in Texas is starting to do the anti-rain dance.
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