Last week it was like F1 stepped through the looking glass; this week F1 could not have been more standard. Almost like it was yin and yang at play.
The big question that was ringing in our ears since last time out in Singapore, in that round where the Mercedes against all expectations were exactly nowhere, was answered emphatically. That on whether it was all just a blip or was, somehow, the new ways of things. Well it was the former, as there were plenty of reasons to think it would be.
Japanese GP 2015 – Mercedes mauling
In the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, once it stopped raining at least, Mercedes had the place to itself. This was confirmed in qualifying, though that itself contained a minor variation to normality as it was Nico Rosberg of the Mercedes pair who took pole position. And track position means a lot at Suzuka; not even Lewis Hamilton was confident about turning it around from second.
But it’s easy to forget when extrapolating from qualifying to the race that we have that thing called a standing start, and after it matters can appear suddenly very different. And that’s just what happened. Lewis had the better launch and got down the inside of Nico at the first turn. He then rather robustly claimed the line which once Nico had gathered himself up again left the German down in fourth, in stark contrast to Lewis’s beckoning clear road. The day not only looked different it also already looked as good as done.
It was. Lewis indeed stretched away and won at a canter, looking at the top of his game throughout. He even thought it possible he might have had enough to leapfrog his team mate without turn one and all that. And the doubts over him getting his third title this year evaporated about as much as those over Mercedes’s dominance.
The rest fight for scraps
As might be expected the pair differed on their view of Lewis’s move. Nico wasn’t happy, though Lewis asserted “this is not a friendly game of chess, this is do or die”. The latter take seemed closer to the mark – it was tough but just about fair.
Nico managed to salvage second place and in something that will hearten Mercedes, given it had been under fire on this point too, both place gains from fourth were claimed thanks at least in part to smart strategy.
Sebastian Vettel experienced his own yin and yang, though for him less welcome, by following up his Singapore stroll with struggle in Suzuka. Indeed it might have been worse as until the last breath of qualifying it appeared the mid-part of the top 10 was where he sat at best. But as he always seems to this year he salvaged what he could and more, and on race day did the maximum to make the Mercs’ day as hard as possible, although third place was all he could manage. He also rued that he and his team were caught on the hop by Nico undercutting them at the final stop, without which he reckoned he was good for second.
Not that he was ever going to get first. That was taped up after turn one.
Images: Hoch Zwei, Clive Mason.