Japanese Grand Prix: Post Race Press Conference

This is the official FIA transcript of the press conference that followed the Japanese Grand Prix from the Fuji Speedway. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton drove a faultless race to win ahead of the Finns, Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen. The race started slowly behind the safety car as the rain poured down on the Japanese circuit, but after Liuzzi through down a blistering lap time as he was allowed to unlap himself from the back of the pack, the race came to life. Read on for the views from the three top drivers.

1. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 2h00m34.579s
2. Heikki KOVALAINEN (Renault), 2h00m42.956s
3. Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Ferrari), 2h00m44.057s

TV UNILATERALS

Q: Lewis, it s difficult to know where to start what a race. We had diabolical weather conditions, started behind the safety car, pressure initially from your team-mate Fernando Alonso, and then an incident with Robert Kubica.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yes, a very eventful race. I think there were so many times during the race where it went through all of the drivers heads that we should stop the race. It was sometimes very tricky, and then there were some times when it was easier to drive. We obviously had the safety car at the beginning, and I was so eager to get going. After the safety car at the beginning I got off to a decent start and wasn t particularly feeling pressure from Fernando. I was saving fuel and easily driving away, and I could have, if I needed to, pushed more if he was on my tail. And then we came to do the pit stops, and I came out and heard that he had been off but came back on, and then he was five places behind me or something like that. So that was a plus, and I had to just try to keep it on the track. Obviously I collided with Robert. It was just so tricky out there I couldn t see in my mirrors, and my visor was all fogged up and it was very foggy, so I couldn t see that he was inside of me. I m very fortunate that I still finished.

Q: It sounds like you re taking the blame for that one; perhaps you could add to that and tell us if the car was damaged after that, because you were a little bit slow after that incident for a few laps.
LH: I didn t say I was taking the blame for it I think when you re behind someone you have to adjust to the conditions. I couldn t see him, and maybe he was a little bit too far behind to come up the inside to make the move. I couldn t see him, I couldn t hear him, and he touched me. For him, it wasn t really a risk that he needed to take as he could have passed me down the straight or somewhere else. Then I felt a vibration and I thought ‘shoot, there s something wrong with my car maybe the rear tyre was going down or there was something wobbling, and I had it through the rest of the race. I was very fortunate the team said the car seemed to be OK, so just keep it on the track.

Q: How did the race feel now that it s finished, did it feel unbelievably long? What were the closing laps like, and what was the re-start like behind the second safety car?
LH: It was the longest race of my life it seemed to go on and on and on. When we were behind the second safety car, I was constantly on the radio to my engineers to tell the Red Bull team to get Mark (Webber) to make a little more of a gap because I couldn t go any faster because the pace car was in front of me, so I was trying to keep the distance with him and then I d move over because I couldn t see Mark and then he d just appear alongside me, so he kept out-braking himself. I felt something was going to happen, and I guess my instincts told me right. And then we did the re-start and I had Heikki (Kovalainen) behind me and I was a bit nervous that we might collide, but he did a good job. The last few laps, the team was telling me to slow down, that I was a second faster than anyone, and I was saying that I was going as slow as I feel comfortable doing. In the last couple of laps I took it easy because it was so wet and my tyres were getting old, and we were aquaplaning. But I m thrilled to take it home, and it s great for the team.

Q: Heikki, the first-ever podium with two Finns on it, and you beat the other one, the illustrious Kimi Räikkönen. What a race that was in the closing stages.
Heikki KOVALAINEN: Yeah, tell me about it. What a rollercoaster year it s been for us, especially myself. This weekend again we made a little bit of a gamble with the car yesterday hoping it would be dry today, and then this morning it was raining probably more than yesterday. So things didn t look fantastic at the start of the race, but you always keep going you never know what can happen. Our strategy worked out really well today, and so I think the team deserves one podium at least through this year. Today the pace was good. At the end of the race I had a good fight with Kimi (Räikkönen). I couldn t see him my mirrors were steamed up but I saw my pit board, and every lap he was a second closer to me. So I knew that at some point, he was going to attack. I managed to keep him behind, so it s fantastic.

Q: What was it like in terms of having that pressure from Kimi in terms of your concentration level, and where did you think you were perhaps slower than him, or where did you have an advantage?
HK: At the end he was probably a little bit quicker everywhere the gap was coming down so fast. All I could do was to stay on the tracks that Lewis car was leaving on the track. I was aquaplaning in many places. I really wanted to take the second place, so I was willing to take a risk, so I kept flat-out through those aquaplaning moments and hoped that I don t lose the car. I managed to keep it on the track, so that was the key.

Q: Kimi, a brilliant drive from you too from the back of the field, sadly tell us about that decision off the line to be on the Bridgestone wet instead of the extreme wet and having to come in so early in the race?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: We made a decision to start on intermediates. It started to rain a little bit actually behind the safety car. That wasn t really the issue it was more for me to be able to see anything on the straight I couldn t see the car in front even if it was 50 metres in front of me. After the race, I heard there were some rules or they forced everybody to start on full wets but the FIA or the race control forgot to tell our team, and we had to pit again under the safety car. So it cost us a lot but there was nothing we could do at that point. All race I couldn t do much because I couldn t really see anything. I tried to get past people in the lowest part of the circuit because you could see more. I actually got past Heikki on the last lap but went a bit too fast, and he got me on the exit again. So the biggest problem for me was to see all of the other cars. It was quite a difficult race but at least we got something out of it.

Q: You did a podium finish, and you re still alive in the World Championship. What was the car like in terms of the downforce level you had it appeared you were pretty quick in a straight line but therefore had not a lot of grip in the corners? On that, you seemed to go off quite a lot but not lose a lot of time when you did go off?
KR: I aquaplaned off many times but just kept coming back. The car was set up for the dry, so it wasn t perfect for the wet. I thought that we had a good car but for sure if you are in front and you can see something, it makes it a lot easier. The whole race I tried to get past people. We lost points from Lewis again but we couldn t do much after the pit stop where we were forced to change the tyres.
Q: Returning to you Lewis for some final thoughts. There s been plenty of firsts this year for you your first win in the wet has to be a very special moment for any racing driver?
LH: Definitely, and there were lots of thoughts going through my mind driving in the wet and leading and doing the last lap and thinking of some of the races that Senna was in, and Prost, sort of made me feel that I m on my way to achieving something similar to them. But I m just really thankful for the team they ve done a fantastic job and are really pushing hard, and also my family it s been a long, hard year and I know you re all watching, so thank you for all of the support. And also to the fans especially here this weekend, the Japanese fans have been superb. They re crazy, just to sit in the rain. They ve been phenomenal, so thanks to them as well.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Well done, Lewis, congratulations. Give us some idea of the concentration for two hours it actually went to the time limit.
LH: For me, it was one of the most if not the most difficult race I ve ever had to do, just because the conditions were changing non-stop and you really couldn t see that much. I had two tear-offs on my visor I took one off at the pit stop and it didn t make a difference, and I took the other one off and I noticed that the water was on the inside. You can t open it while you re driving and clean it or anything, so I was struggling to see. My mirrors it was impossible to see through the spray behind me. With all of the safety cars I was getting a bit nervous with all of the drivers getting so close. The safety car was on the limit but we were way too fast for the safety car. Especially the last stint we were on heavy fuel and we grained the tyres, then I started to get overtaken by a few people, and I asked the team if they were going to have to pit again and if I should just let them past to make it easier and safer for me. There was the crash with Robert… it was such an eventful race, and especially at the end when it started to rain more and I still managed to keep it on I was having to lift as Heikki was saying, the aquaplaning was unreal. So I m just very pleased that I brought it home.

Q: With the re-starts you seemed to be rehearsing it every single lap, especially in the first safety car period?
LH: That wasn t really the case we just needed to keep the heat in the brakes. I was running quite a hard compound of brakes, so if I did light braking, I would have glazed the brakes. So I was making sure there was a little bit of a gap, maximising the gap that you re allowed, and use it to my benefit. It was tough because Mark behind me was just too close, and all of a sudden he braked really hard and I don t know what happened someone ran into him. I m just glad that it s over I was so relieved when I came across the line. It was just too long.

Q: What are your feelings about the championship now two races to go and you have a 12-point lead over your team-mate, and you have a 17-point lead over Kimi.
LH: Obviously it s a big boost in terms of confidence in my drive to be World Champion. But we still have two races left, and anything can happen. The key is just to try to keep it on the track. I hope Fernando s OK I saw that it was him. I looked on the screen and he looked like he was OK. It s good for me that I ve managed to pull that sort of gap. At the Nürburgring I had that similar sort of incident and lost 10 points there, so I m very fortunate that I ve been able to gain those back. We re still pretty close, so we ve got two races, so we need to knuckle down. I won t be going partying tonight.

Q: Heikki, you seemed to be having a battle with someone all the way through the race: one with Kubica, Massa and then Kimi at the end.
HK: Yeah, that s correct. For me there were battles all the way through the race. There s nothing wrong with that, as long as you are attacking, not being attacked. At the end, I saw Massa was getting a bit closer and then they told me that Kimi is behind me and I saw the gap was coming down very fast but I couldn t see anything in my mirrors, they were completely steamed up. I had no idea where he was, and then going into the last lap, I saw the gap was only 0.7s or something like that and I knew he was going to be somewhere around, but I thought I would just keep on the racing line. It was tricky going off the line because of aquaplaning, so I just tried to follow the track that Lewis was leaving in front of me. I managed to stay ahead of Kimi. He made a move into turn six but I got him back on the exit. I really wanted to take second place rather than just third, so I went for it, as much as I could. It was a long race but I m happy I brought it home, a very good result for all the team.

Q: What will this mean for you and the team after a long year?
HK: Yeah, for me, I always believed it was going to happen one day and I m working harder and making sure that whenever I get an opportunity to fight for the podiums regularly I ve got to be able to take it, physically and mentally. Obviously this year has been a bit of a rollercoaster for our team, a disappointing year after the last two years, but the team definitely deserves this podium. I think we ve really worked hard, all the team, no one has given up. The factory has been pushing to bring new parts for our car, even if we ve been struggling and that shows that everybody is very committed, like myself. I m also very committed. We have a lot of potential in our team. I m sure we can come back to winning ways and hopefully I will stay with them next year, because I believe they re going to be strong again.

Q: What were your feelings when you saw Webber and Vettel collide?
HK: I was a little bit surprised, but honestly, behind the safety car, it was always a little bit tricky as Lewis said. When you go on the straight and you can t see anything, you slow down a little bit. You re just worried that someone might hit you. They can t see anything either. It s like a chain reaction. When the guy in front slows down, the other guys have less time to react and then I think at some point Liuzzi was in front of me and I was just a little bit worried. I kept a little distance just to make sure that nothing happened. I knew he was going to do another pit stop. It was good for me to get behind Lewis but if Lewis says he had bad visibility, he should have been where I started the race, then he will know something about bad visibility.

Q: Kimi probably knows a fair amount about bad visibility as well, don t you?
KR: Yeah, I didn t have any visibility really during the race but that s part of coming from behind.

Q: It must have been really action-packed, coming all the way through from the back.
KR: Yeah, but as I said, the most difficult part is to try to see where the people are on the straight. If somebody slows down, there is no way to know. You re going full throttle, full speed on the straight and hoping nobody is slowing down because, for sure, you would hit him. When you get in low speed corners, it s much easier when you can see other cars. But it was pretty tricky.

Q: What are your feelings now about the championship?
KR: It doesn t look too good right now but there s nothing else that we could have done today, really, we did the best that we could. We lost points but there are still two races to go and we re still trying, we re still pushing and we ll see what happens.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, why was Ferrari the only team to chose to start with intermediate tyres, even if you didn t read this e-mail from the FIA? Considering the conditions was it not too much of a gamble?
KR: I don t know. It could have gone either way. I didn t have any problems really behind the safety car. The only problem was that I couldn t see anything but we didn t know any e-mails or any new rules that came up and they somehow forgot to tell us but it s quite an unfair situation to end up with, them forcing you to stop when you don t really want to but that s now behind us. We needed to stop because there were so many places but I don t know if it would have made a difference or not.

Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Heikki, you were certainly not too optimistic when the race started but what was the moment that you realised that this could be your race today?
HK: Well, it wasn t my race, it was Lewis s race. It was obviously a very good result for us but if you re not winning, there s always room for improvement. l was leading the race at some point in the middle of the race, when the other guys stopped. That, for us, this year, has normally been a good sign. Whenever we see P1 on the pit board, regardless of the situation, it s always positive for us. I just kept going, going, going and trying to go as fast as I could and then behind the safety car, I knew that the guys in front of me probably had to pit, and I knew that I was definitely going to go on to the end, so at that moment I thought there might be a chance of reaching the podium but I obviously knew that the Ferrari guys would be coming up behind me. I really didn t think about it too much, I just thought I would try and keep going, trying not to make mistakes, and push as much as I could. Then, going into the last few laps, I knew there was going to be a fight with Kimi. I just didn t know where he was, I couldn t really see and I couldn t defend anywhere. It was difficult to go off the line because of aquaplaning and secondly, I couldn t see him, my mirrors were steamed up. But obviously going into the last lap I knew I was definitely going to be on the podium.

Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, how were you told to come in and change the tyres and what went through your mind at that moment?
KR: The team just told me that I must pit on the fifth lap or whatever it was. They didn t really know the reason why we were forced to at that point but then I heard after the race that there was some paper or some information given but they forgot to give it to our team.

Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) What did you think at that moment?
KR: Ah, nothing. I knew that I was forced to come in, so there was nothing that I could have done. The team didn t really know the reason, so we just tried to do the best that we could after that.

Q: (Sal Zanca AP) Lewis, how were you informed of Fernando s crash and did you feel there was poetic justice after all the ‘stuff that has happened this year?
LH: The answer to the second part of that: no. It must have been a couple of laps or maybe actually the lap that he went off. I was just told ‘be careful, debris at turn six, so be careful. And they said it was Fernando.

Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) Heikki, yesterday in qualifying the Renault didn t look too strong. What made the difference today?
HK: I think we took a little gamble with our set-up. We thought it would be dry today or we thought there was more chance of it being dry today than wet. After Friday, we were reasonably happy with our competitiveness and we decided to leave the car more or less as it was on Friday, didn t change any downforce level or anything like that, just hoping to look more for Sunday rather than Saturday. And I think I didn t really get the best out of the car yesterday anyway. I don t think the laps were that fantastic. I just didn t get into the track, get into the conditions quickly enough. I think that potentially, even with this car, we should have been in the top ten. Then today, I think running with extreme tyres it was working quite well for us. Even yesterday I think the feeling was better with the extreme tyres, relative to the intermediate tyres. Maybe that was one of the keys today and also our strategy was very good, we had plenty of fuel on board, the safety car was bringing our stop further and further which, in these conditions was better and better. Two or three laps before my pit stop it was getting a bit drier. We were talking about which tyres we were going to chose, but just then a lap or two before my actual stop it started to rain again, so I was relieved that we could stay on the extreme wets, which seemed to be better for us today.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, did you have any problems with the fuel because you had two quite short fuel stops at the beginning of the race, and another one which was pretty long in time, considering how long Lewis pitted?
KR: No, we didn t.

Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) To Heikki and Kimi. How did it feel to be on the podium, two Finns at the same time, and the third one trained by a Finnish guy?
HK: Yeah, of course for me it was a very good moment. It was my first podium in Formula One. Obviously a lot of work had gone towards that and the next thing is to be sitting in the middle. Of course it s very good to be there with Kimi as well. Kimi s obviously been there many times before, so I don t think it s a big deal for him to be honest but for myself, it s a great moment, a great feeling.
KR: Ah, it s like any other podium really. I would rather be in the middle. Third place doesn t really give me anything.

Q: (Takeharu Kusuda Lapita) Lewis, you were so quick, like Ayrton in the rain. What is the most important thing in a wet race?
LH: You ve got to keep the car on the track and combine that with trying to be quick as well. It s really really tricky but the great thing about this track is that there is a lot of grip in the wet, and I think the tyres help as well but it s a great track to drive in the wet. Especially towards the end, it was very very tricky, nearly aquaplaning but generally it s just really quite a nice track to drive, more so in the dry but in the wet it was just as much fun. But there were a couple of rivers coming across the track and the key is just to make sure the car is as straight as possible. You either lift or you just make sure you don t spin. Fernando obviously spun on one those little rivers. But it s all about just staying calm and cool and not trying to be first or fastest in that corner, just trying to carry the momentum through the whole lap.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, what about the Ferrari set-up? It looked like you were not as competitive in the wet as McLaren. Was it because you were hoping it would be drier, so that yesterday you were working with more of a dry set-up?
KR: It was exactly the same as it was in dry conditions, so we didn t change anything. We were not sure about the weather conditions today. We were expecting that they probably should have been better than yesterday but it wasn t, so it probably could have been better but I don t think that that really cost us anything. The car was pretty nice to drive today and yesterday.

Q: (Carl Cunanan F1 Racing) Lewis, did you have enough fuel to finish the race without a second safety car?
LH: Yes.

Q: (Yuki Ishihara Sankei Sports) I have a question for Lewis. Under the conditions were you always driving the car or was the car driving you sometimes?
LH: I hope not! I was very fortunate, I was pretty much in control the whole way. At the end there was a lot of aquaplaning, my tyres were old because I did one stop and I think the track was a little bit drier after my first stop, so I grained the tyres a little bit, so they weren t as good as everyone else s who stopped a bit later than me. Other than that, some of the aquaplaning… you re still in control, you know, you re still controlling and almost rallying it down the straight. Which is cool. Good fun.

Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Lewis, mathematically there are still two other guys who can have a go at you but have you really started thinking about the championship or are you trying to not think about it and concentrate on the upcoming races?
LH: Well, I think at the back of your mind in the sub-conscious you do think about it a little bit but I think the key for me is just focus on the next race and just make sure my preparations are right and take it as it comes. I hope I finish the next race, do the best job I can. I hope we have the pace to again have the opportunity to win. We ll see after the next race. I think after the next race then you really really have to start thinking about it but I don t think it s something you should think about because you can either worry or… I just really enjoy it. I couldn t imagine having four wins in my first year. After the first pole and after the first win I was like… come on, get out of here but now it s just way way beyond anything I imagined.

Q: (Carole Capitaine L Equipe) A question for Kimi. How do you explain the last pit stop for Felipe at the end of the race when he was in front of you, was it planned or was it a help for you?
KR: You need to ask him.

Ferrari deny knowledge of tyre communication

After a solid Japanese Grand Prix, Ferrari are feeling aggrieved at Japanese race stewards. Race stewards supposedly sent out communications to all teams prior to the start of this morning s race ordering all cars to start the race on the extreme-wet tyre option. And so, many were baffled by Ferrari s seeming inexplicable decision to send both of their drivers out on the wet tyre option.

After a couple of laps, bother drivers were forced into the pits to reclad their cars in the extreme-wet tyres, severely compromising the race of both drivers. Ferrari are now claiming that the communication that was sent from the stewards did not reach the Ferrari team until the race was well underway, and at that point, they pulled both of their cars in for pit-stops.

“After a few laps, we were informed of a decision of the stewards that demanded the use of extreme wets,” Jean Todt, team principal of Ferrari explained. “The team had not been informed, and only after the race did we find that an e-mail had been sent to Stefano Domenicali which arrived after the start of the race. We were amazed and had to immediately call in the drivers to the pits to change tyres.”

Despite the tyre mix-up, both drivers finished in the points. Raikkonen drove a blinding race, finishing in third place and keeping his diminishing championship hopes alive. Massa finished in sixth place and is now out of the running for the drivers championship.

Spyker win first ever F1 point

Spyker have won their first ever Formula 1 point after Japanese stewards decided that the Toro Rosso of Liuzzi had overtaken Sutil under yellow flag conditions.

The incident in question took place on lap 55 of the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix. The stewards deemed that Liuzzi s overtaking manoeuvre had happened under the yellow flag and the Italian driver was handed a post-race 25 second penalty. This means that Sutil was promoted up to eighth place in the final standings, winning Spyker their first point of the season.

This means that Toro Rosso have lost their only point of the season, and Spyker have been promoted to ninth in the constructors standings. Toro Rosso are now the only team who have failed to score a single point all season with the exception of McLaren who have had all their constructors points stripped from them.

“For sure, I think we deserved this point after all the hard work this year and we finally got it,” Sutil said. “It is a great feeling even if we didn t get it on the track. I think it was the right decision there was green flag after this yellow flag from Turn 1 so we were definitely right and that is why we got this point.”

“We had clear evidence that Liuzzi passed Adrian under yellow flags and I am pleased that the Stewards of the Meeting agreed,” team principal of Spyker, Colin Kolles remarked. “The decision which has ultimately given us our first ever points is a just reward for Adrian who drove an excellent race today.

“It is also a well deserved boost for all the team s hard work this year. Now we have this milestone ticked off, we can now focus on moving forward and being in the points on a more regular basis. We are all looking forward to China now!”

Vettel faces 10 grid slot penalty at Shanghai

Sebastien Vettel has been handed a ten place grid penalty at next weekend s Chinese Grand Prix after he collided with Mark Webber.

The Toro Rosso driver ran into the back of Webber under the second safety car. At the time, Webber was running in second with Vettel in third. The collision caused Webber to immediately retire from the race, whilst Vettel limped back to the pits before retiring. Vettel was later seen crying in the pits over his rookie mistake.

The incident was investigated by the stewards who concluded that Vettel was in breach of Article 16.1 of the F1 sporting regulations in causing the collision. The stewards felt that a 10 grid place demotion would be a suitable punishment and it is expected that he will serve the penalty at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai next weekend.
 

2007 Japanese Grand Prix – Lap by Lap Report

Today F1 returns to the Fuji Speedway after a break of thirty-one years. The Toyota owned circuit, refreshed by Hermann Tilke hosts the Japanese Grand Prix in the shadow of Mount Fuji, a dormant volcano and Japan s largest mountain.

With the Drivers Championship now so close, today s wet race has the potential to cause many an upset. Lewis Hamilton went fastest during a rain affected qualifying session yesterday, pushing his team-mate Fernando Alonso into second position in the closing seconds. Kimi Raikkonen, really the only other outside title contender, sits in third alongside Felipe Massa.

Ahead of the race, weather conditions are exceptionally wet and there is very real chance that the field may line up behind the Safety Car to start the race. Just forming up ahead of the race, drivers complain about the number of rivers running across the circuit during their installation lap.

Ten minutes before race, Race Control confirms that the race will start behind the Safety Car due to the level of water on track and descending mist. For those interested in the weather readings, track temperature is a lowly 22 degrees, air temperature 17 degrees, with wind speed of 1.1 mps, humidity 94%, and pressure 954 mBar.

Liuzzi will start from the Pit Lane rather than line up fourteenth after changing from a dry setup. The Renaults may be the cars to watch, they gambled on a dry race, and their race could be interesting!

Lap 1 The field start behind the Safety Car. Most of the field are looking to stop just once, Ferrari are apparently on the intermediate tyres.

Lap 2 – Massa spins on his way round the circuit, but regains his position before the end of the lap, and pits to take on the extreme wet tyre. Drivers are lapping in 2:15.

Lap 3 Raikkonen pits for the full wet tyre, and switches to a one stop strategy.

Lap 6 Raikkonen spins at Turn 10, recovers and rejoins. He is now twenty-first having started third, only Liuzzi is behind him one lap down.

Lap 7 Despite some drivers complaining that the track is getting worse, many are starting to set green sectors, indicating their personal best time.

Lap 12 Liuzzi pits from last position for fuel and new extreme wet tyres.

Lap 13 Trulli spins at Turn Six.

Lap 14 Yamamoto pits for fuel and tyres, and finds it difficult to pull away.

Lap 15 Ferrari pit crew are out for Raikkonen, the team are going to fuel the car to the end of the race. Kimi stops for 5.3 seconds.

Raikkonen sets a middle sector time, fourteen seconds faster than the cars behind the Safety Car on a 36.6.

Lap 16 Massa pits for a car full of fuel.

Lap 17 Race Control announces that lapped cars now may overtake, could this be an indication that the Safety Car is ready to pull off? Alex Wurz pits for fuel. Car 5, Felipe Massa, is under investigation.

Lap 18 According to AMG Mercedes, the Safety Car will be unable to run the whole race on a tank of fuel. Massa awarded Drive Through Penalty for overtaking under the Safety Car. Liuzzi sets the fastest lap of the race as he un-laps himself, on a 1:36.413.

Lap 19 Barrichello, Sato and Trulli pit for fuel and tyres. Safety Car will be in this lap.

Lap 20 Race starts, Hamilton leads Alonso. Heidfeld has an issue at Turn One, Massa and Wurz collide. Wurz lost it under braking, and tags Massa. Surely the Ferrari is damaged?

Lap 21 Hamilton leads by 1.9 seconds. Raikkonen is now up to fourteenth position while Massa serves his drive through penalty.

Lap 22 Vettel is now in third position behind the McLarens. Webber is in fourth ahead of Button and Fisichella. Button runs in this position despite having lost his front wing three laps ago.

Lap 23 Sato pits for a new front wing and leaves the pit on fire, fortunately with the level of water on the race track, it is quickly extinguished.

Lap 24 Button pits for new front wing, fuel and tyres. Hamilton leads Alonso by three seconds.

Lap 25 Raikkonen is on a move, up to eleventh having just passed Ralf Schumacher.

Lap 26 Alonso sets the fastest lap.

Lap 27 Alonso puts for fuel and tyres, stopping for 11.9 seconds. Raikkonen passes Sutil down the main straight.

Lap 28 Hamilton pits, stopping for 11.6 seconds. Vettel leads the Japanese Grand Prix for Toro Rosso. Hamilton rejoins ahead of the line of cars headed by Fisichella, crucial as Alonso is stuck behind them. Alonso is now eighth, with Heidfeld ninth, with Raikkonen behind.

Lap 32 Sebastian Vettel pits for fuel and tyres. The twenty year old showing his form in both a difficult race and qualifying. Vettel rejoins ahead of Raikkonen. Webber leads.

Lap 34 Alonso is passed by Heidfeld down the main straight. However, Heidfeld has yet to pit. Hamilton is pushed into a spin after Kubica under-steered into the side of the McLaren. Hamilton rejoins.

Lap 35 Alonso spins into Turn One, Raikkonen sneaks past.

Lap 36 Heidfeld pits. Hamilton is struggling, Fisichella and Coulthard overtake. Webber and Kubica pit.

Lap 37 Hamilton was three seconds off the pace.

Lap 38 – Button passes Trulli for nineteenth. Rain is getting harder.

Lap 39 Fisichella and Coulthard pit. Kubica is given a drive through penalty for the incident involving Hamilton. Alonso s car looks badly damaged toward the rear.

Lap 40 Raikkonen is struggling ahead of Alonso. Raikkonen pits for fuel and tyres, a poor stop with mechanics trouble getting the fuel in. Hamilton leads.

Lap 41 Yamamoto spins.

Lap 42 – Alonso crashes coming out of Turn Five and hits the wall heavily. Thankfully, he emerges from the car unscathed. Safety Car deployed.

Lap 44 Liuzzi, Sutil and Sato pit under Safety Car. Hamilton leads Webber and Vettel. Car 23 is allowed to overtake and unlap himself.

Lap 46 Vettel hits Webber and both retire. Felipe Massa is now in third with Kovalainen second.

Lap 47 Safety Car in the next lap.

Lap 48 Hamilton backs up the pack and the race restarts. Schumacher pits, Rosberg seems to have a problem after a spin.

Lap 49 Hamilton leads by 2.6 seconds. Raikkonen is up to fifth. Rosberg pits and continues onto the racetrack.

Lap 52 Raikkonen closes down Coulthard for fourth.

Lap 54 Ralf Schumacher pits and retires.

Lap 55 Davidson retires in his Super Aguri having spun.

Lap 57 Raikkonen passes Coulthard in a brilliant move around the outside.

Lap 58 Raikkonen runs wide as he closes the gap to team-mate Massa in third. Ferrari mechanics are in the pits for Massa with fuel and tyres. Massa pits for the fourth time.

Lap 59 Raikkonen is in third position and chasing Kovalainen for second. Massa is now ninth.

Lap 60 Barrichello pits from eighth.

Lap 61 Trulli pits and rejoins ahead of Kovalainen and Raikkonen.

Lap 63 The rain is coming down harder than ever before. It is unlikely that the race will run all 67 laps, as it will go beyond the two hour window.

Lap 65 Heidfeld retires from sixth position. Raikkonen continues to hound Kovalainen.

Lewis Hamilton wins the race. Kovalainen holds off Raikkonen. Coulthard finishes fourth. Fisichella finishes fifth, with a battling Massa sixth and Kubica seventh, after a massive final lap scrap. Liuzzi finishes eighth. Button stops on the final lap from tenth, probably due to lack of fuel.

Fuji Qualifying Report

For the first time in 31 years, Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix takes place in the foothills of Mount Fuji. The 4.563 kilometre Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway, having been refreshed by Hermann Tilke, was favoured to host the 2007 Grand Prix over the Honda-owned Suzuka Circuit, where Michael Schumacher s title charge came to an end last year.

Rain and mist looked as though it would delay Qualifying, with the medical helicopter grounded and Final Practice abandoned due to the bad weather. However, a decision was made to take to the track nonetheless. It should be noted that Rosberg has to take a ten place drop post qualifying, after an engine change following the Belgian Grand Prix.

Q1

The track continually improves during the session. With 1:40 remaining Lewis Hamilton is in eighteenth position. He was blocked during the final sector of his previous lap, but managed to set a time to put himself in third. Ralf Schumacher collides with the Spyker of Yamamoto and although scrapes through to Q2, his car is too damaged to continue and he qualifies in 16th place.

There were high hopes for local drivers Takuma Sato and Sukon Yamamoto however both struggle for pace and finish on the back row of the grid.

Drivers knocked out:
Barrichello
Wurz
Davidson
Sutil
Sato
Yamamoto

Q2

The track starts to improve throughout Q2, although it is still fairly wet. The drivers have a choice of the Bridgestone wet (akin to the intermediates of old) or extreme-wet tyres, with the majority of drivers opting for the regular wet tyres.

Trulli is one of the first drivers to take to the track, running on intermediate tyres. Jarno, the last of the Toyota runners with Ralf Schumacher s car too badly damaged to continue, completes the lap in 1:27.891. Kubica quickly overhauls his time on a 1:26.306, only for Webber to complete a lap on 1:26.110. Alonso was next to complete his lap on 1:24.978, with Hamilton going second ahead of Massa and Raikkonen. Massa runs off the track at Turn 3 however no damage is done and he continues on his way.

With seven minutes remaining, Hamilton sets a lap of 1:25.050, but he, like the Ferraris, is unable to overhaul his team-mate Alonso, who improved on a 1:24.806. With four minutes remaining, Hamilton improves to 1:24.753 to finally beat the Spaniard. Meanwhile Raikkonen is called into the weigh-bridge, compromising any further runs in this session.

Both the Renaults struggle in Q2, and with two-minutes remaining both are outside the top ten.  Kovalainen and Coulthard both have minor off-track excursions, but both survive and continue round the track. Raikkonen improves to third.

Drivers knocked out:
Fisichella
Kovalainen
Coulthard
Trulli
Liuzzi
Ralf Schumacher

Q3

Vettel makes it into the final session for Toro Rosso. Raikkonen runs wide onto the tarmac run off as he attempted to understand the limit of the track, the Finn rejoined without damage. With eight minutes remaining, Hamilton and Button pits, taking on new and used intermediates respectively.

On old tyres Alonso sets a time of 1:25.539. On new tyres Hamilton can only improve his time in third. Raikkonen and Alonso pit for new tyres with five minutes remaining. With three minutes remaining, both BMWs hamper the Ferraris as Massa and Raikkonen attempt to improve their times. Hamilton pits with 2:29 remaining. Alonso improves to 1:25.438, Raikkonen improves in second, on a 1:25.516.

Hamilton comes out of the pits with little time to spare. After he drives his out-lap, he sets a personal best in Sector 2 before crossing the line seven-hundredths of a second ahead of Fernando Alonso to take pole position with a time of 1:25.438. It s an all-McLaren front row, with an all-Ferrari second-row with Raikkonen the better of the two Ferrari men.

Vettel finishes in eighth place- the best qualifying position ever for the Toro Rosso team. Vettel is doubly happy as he has a bet on himself that he will make it through to Q3 and so has won himself an extra 20 pounds.

Rosberg finishes a credible sixth place however will take a ten-place grid penalty thanks to an engine change prior to the Grand Prix weekend.

Jenson Button ensures that there is hope for the local supporters when he qualifies in seventh place for Japanese team, Honda. He will start in sixth position tomorrow due to Rosberg s engine penalty.

Concerns for Ferrari as Raikkonen reveals in the post-qualifying interviews that at the end of the session, he suffered from a gearbox problem however he is confident that the problem is easily solved and won t cause a problem during tomorrow s race.
With less than a second separating the top 10 men, if track conditions remain wet, it should be a close, exciting race tomorrow.

The final lap times for Q1 are as follows:

Hamilton   1:25.368
Alonso    1:25.438
Raikkonen   1:25.516
Massa   1:25.765
Heidfeld   1:26.505
Rosberg    1:26.728 (ten place penalty)
Button   1:26.913
Webber   1:26.914
Vettel   1:26.973
Kubica   1:26.225

Alonso denies rift with Dennis

Alonso denies Dennis rift

During the espionage saga hearing, Ron Dennis revealed that he was no longer on speaking terms with Fernando Alonso after the pair had an argument during the weekend of the Hungarian Grand Prix. However Alonso has now spoken out saying that he was surprised to hear Dennis words and he denies that the two are not speaking.

I will not tell every day what’s true and what’s not true,” Alonso explained “But in this case, for example, it’s not true. I was surprised about that comment because in Spa we were talking together in the hotel and I read in the press that we were not talking and I don’t know. If Ron said that is because he wanted.”

When asked when he had talked to Dennis after the Hungarian GP row, Alonso replied, “The day after. That was not true. Again, that is not very important. What is important is to try to win races and try to win everything. The race for sure is now very important and this for sure it’s not in my problems now.”

After the two McLaren team-mates nearly clashed on track at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, Alonso has also explained that he is not worried that the two of them will crash on-track. “Again, I think it’s not very important,” Alonso explained. “Spa is gone and we will talk about this weekend,”

“We will talk about this circuit and the low grip of the circuit, so it’s a very normal relationship and very good. In Spa we didn’t crash. I think we will never crash into the other one. We are fighting for the world championship but at the same time we are intelligent people and we try to finish the races.

“In any incident you don’t know if you’ll be the one to stop in turn one, so we cannot have that risk. We all want to win, but we all want to cross the line at the end of the race so this will not happen.”

Hamilton feels Alonso isn’t loyal enough

Meanwhile, one has to wonder what the state of the relationships inside McLaren are like with Lewis Hamilton commenting that he does not believe that Fernando Alonso has been loyal enough to the team this season.

“No,” Hamilton replied when asked if he felt the Spaniard had been loyal enough to McLaren. “I think the team have gone out of their way as Fernando has been coming into the team especially at the beginning of the season he s the guy that is supposed to take them to the championship and they have bent over backwards to try and make him feel comfortable.

“Me and Pedro have done the same we ve been told, ‘try and make Fernando feel welcome in the team. We ve done that and then you saw what he did to the team,” Hamilton continued, referring to the fact Alonso did not attend the espionage saga heading in Paris, despite a request from McLaren for him to be present.
 

FIA to look into Fuji pit-lane modifications

Following driver concerns over how safe the entry of the pit-lane is at the Fuji circuit, the FIA have said they will look into whether modifications should be made.

On Friday evening, the drivers met for a drivers briefing and expressed their concerns over the entry to the pit-lane. The FIA have now confirmed that they will look into the pit-lane issue overnight and decide whether anything can be done before practice on Saturday morning.

After the meeting Rubens Barrichello explained, “We spoke about it and they are going to have a look at what they can do tonight.”

David Coulthard commented,” They will look at ti before morning. We are all in unanimous agreement that it is the most difficult corner of the track.”

Mark Webber is doubtful that any changes can be made this weekend however he is hopeful that changes will be made before Formula 1 returns next season. “I don t know if they will be able to make the changes,” he explained. “It is definitely something that needs to be addressed next year, but I m not too worried about it really.”

Singapore circuit gets provisional approval

The FIA have revealed that Singapore s Grand Prix circuit has gained provisional approval. The track is set to be a street circuit and with the news that provisional approval has been given, work on the track can now begin.

The FIA will continue to monitor the work and inspect the progress of the track in the next few months. If the track passes it s final inspection which will take place in the same week as the race, provisionally September 2008 a full licence will be granted. The track itself is 5.067 km long with 14 left-handers and 10 right-handers. Not everything surrounding the track is fully decided yet there are still questions over whether the race itself will be held at night or during the day.

“After months of poring over the drawing board we are now one step closer to our dream,” Colin Syn, Deputy Chairman of the Singapore GP explained. “However there is no time to celebrate it is not full speed ahead for us to get this on the road.”

GPDA directorship remains the same

The GPDA met in Fuji on Friday evening as expected, and agree that it s three current directors will remain on board for a further year.

Some drivers had expressed a hope that one of the sport s younger drivers would be prepared to step up to the plate, however it was agreed that Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Ralf Schumacher would remain as directors for another year, with Schumacher also remaining as the GPDA secretary.

With the rumours that Ralf Schumacher is struggling to find a drive next year, if he fails to find a race-seat for 2008, another director and secretary for the GPDA will need to be found to replace him.