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.