Rosberg twists knife with Ja­pan vic­tory

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Nico Rosberg tight­ened his grip on the For­mula One ti­tle race with a dom­i­nant vic­tory at the Ja­panese Grand Prix yes­ter­day, the Ger­man’s first win at Suzuka also help­ing Mercedes claim a third con­sec­u­tive con­struc­tors’ crown. Rosberg, who started on pole, was never se­ri­ously threat­ened and crossed the line 4.9 sec­onds clear of Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen, who fended off a late-charg­ing Lewis Hamil­ton af­ter the Bri­ton re­cov­ered from a woe­ful start to fin­ish third. Rosberg ex­tended his lead over Hamil­ton to 33 points in the over­all stand­ings fol­low­ing his ninth win of the sea­son and with four rounds re­main­ing, the 31-year-old can claim a maiden ti­tle with­out need­ing to win an­other race.

The win was also the 15th of 17 races for Mercedes this sea­son and con­firmed three years of dom­i­nance, dur­ing which time the Ger­man out­fit has won 47 of 55 races.

“It’s been an awe­some week­end for sure, the whole week­end had gone great from the word go,” Rosberg, who led ev­ery ses­sion at Suzuka, told re­porters.

“Con­grats to all my col­leagues in the team, for clinch­ing a third con­struc­tors’ world ti­tle.

“Def­i­nitely, it’s been an un­be­liev­able ef­fort all these years, so let’s cel­e­brate hard,” added Rosberg, who be­comes only the fifth driver in For­mula One his­tory to win nine races in a sea­son. Hamil­ton went into the race search­ing for a Suzuka hat-trick to re­vive his flag­ging cham­pi­onship prospects af­ter be­ing forced to re­tire from the lead at the last race in Malaysia but his chances of vic­tory were dashed within a mat­ter of sec­onds. The Bri­ton was un­able to cap­i­talise on his front-row start as he crawled off the line and found him­self lan­guish­ing down in eighth place by the time he reached Turn One as his Mercedes team mate dis­ap­peared over the hori­zon.

MERCEDES PROTEST

“I made a mis­take,” said Hamil­ton, who last won at the Ger­man Grand Prix in July prior to the se­ries’ an­nual sum­mer break. “And then just work­ing my way up from there was tricky but I did the best I could.”

Once he had re­cov­ered from the dis­ap­point­ment of the tardy start, a mix of his trade­mark spec­tac­u­lar over­tak­ing and clever strat­egy by Mercedes saw him scythe through the field and very nearly snatch sec­ond from Ver­stap­pen.

How­ever, the Dutch­man held on af­ter re­buff­ing the Bri­ton’s fi­nal at­tempt to pass with a ro­bust move at the chi­cane on the penul­ti­mate lap that sent the Mercedes wide into a run-off area and prompted the Ger­man team to lodge an of­fi­cial protest. As the ob­jec­tion came quite late yes­ter­day, stew­ards opted to de­fer a de­ci­sion on the mat­ter un­til both driv­ers could give their views on the in­ci­dent at the next race, which is sched­uled to take place in Austin, Texas on Oct. 23.

Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, who started sixth due to a three-place grid penalty for shunt­ing Rosberg at the start in Malaysia, did well to fin­ish fourth but his hopes of a podium spot were com­pro­mised late on by slow mov­ing back mark­ers. The Ger­man got off to a fan­tas­tic start and looked com­pet­i­tive in third but af­ter los­ing touch with Ver­stap­pen and get­ting passed by Hamil­ton on his sec­ond pit stop, a bold tyre strat­egy failed to pay off for Fer­rari.

His Fin­nish team mate Kimi Raikko­nen, who started eighth af­ter collecting a five-place penalty for an un­sched­uled gear­box change, also com­plained of track-hog­ging back mark­ers on his way to a fifth-place fin­ish.

Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, win­ner in Malaysia a week ago, was sixth in his Red Bull as Force In­dia pulled fur­ther ahead of Wil­liams in their pri­vate bat­tle for fourth over­all.

Ser­gio Perez and Nico Hulken­berg fin­ished sev­enth and eighth ahead of Felipe Massa and Valt­teri Bot­tas, who strug­gled for pace all week­end but made the most of a one-stop strat­egy to sal­vage some points.

— AFP

SUZUKA: Ja­panese Grand Prix win­ner Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’s Ger­man driver Nico Rosberg holds his tro­phy as Mercedes AMG Petronas mem­bers cel­e­brate at their pad­dock af­ter the For­mula One Ja­panese Grand Prix race in Suzuka yes­ter­day.

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