Rosberg wins in Ja­pan

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

LEWIS HAMIL­TON’s ti­tle hopes suf­fered a sec­ond blow in a week as he fin­ished third in the Ja­panese Grand Prix, won by team-mate Nico Rosberg.

The Bri­ton made a poor start and ini­tially dropped to eighth in Suzuka, which comes af­ter an en­gine fail­ure cost him in Malaysia last week­end.

Hamil­ton is now 33 points be­hind the Ger­man with only 100 still avail­able in the re­main­ing four races.

The re­sult means Mercedes have won con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship again.

Hamil­ton did re­cover with ag­gres­sive driv­ing and strat­egy but Rosberg was serene through­out.

Rosberg’s ninth vic­tory of the sea­son means he can now af­ford to fin­ish sec­ond be­hind Hamil­ton in all the re­main­ing races and still win the cham­pi­onship.

The win Hamil­ton badly needed af­ter the blow of Malaysia was al­ways go­ing to be dif­fi­cult af­ter he was beaten to pole by Rosberg by just 0.013 sec­onds, and it was made im­pos­si­ble within a sec­ond or two of the start.

Hamil­ton’s side of the grid was damper than Rosberg’s af­ter overnight rain. The world cham­pion said that had noth­ing to do with his ter­ri­ble start - “I just made a mis­take,” Hamil­ton said. Team boss Toto Wolff said: “Our first as­sess­ment is it didn’t func­tion well on the clutch re­lease.”

He was swamped by those be­hind him and down to eighth by the first cor­ner.

Hamil­ton passed Force In­dia’s Nico Hulken­berg on the out­side into Turn One on lap seven but oth­er­wise drove a con­trolled first stint, run­ning slightly longer - to lap 13 - than those in front of him.

It was an in­spired move by Mercedes’ strate­gists, as Hamil­ton jumped Kimi Raikko­nen’s Fer­rari and Force In­dia’s Ser­gio Perez and then passed Daniel Ric­cia­rdo’s Red Bull down the straight to­wards the flat-out 130R cor­ner fur­ther around the lap.

That put him into a de facto fourth be­hind Rosberg, the Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen and Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, and the Wil­liams cars that had not yet stopped.

Hamil­ton then quickly passed Felipe Massa and Valt­teri Bot­tas to move into an ac­tual fourth place and set his sights on Vet­tel.

Hamil­ton closed from nearly 14 sec­onds be­hind the Fer­rari on lap 15 to 4.2 on lap 32, and then stopped on the next lap.

Vet­tel fol­lowed him in a lap later and came out be­hind, but on the faster soft tyres rather than the hard ones that Hamil­ton was us­ing.

The Ger­man quickly closed in on his first two laps out of the pits but Hamil­ton soon be­gan to edge away, and be­gan in­stead to close on Ver­stap­pen’s sec­ond place.

Hamil­ton caught Ver­stap­pen with nine laps to go but, de­spite the Mercedes be­ing a faster car on tyres fresher by five laps, the Dutch­man con­trolled his po­si­tion su­perbly and Hamil­ton could not pass.

Hamil­ton made a last-ditch at­tempt on the penul­ti­mate lap on the out­side line at the chi­cane but went straight on, com­plain­ing over the ra­dio that Ver­stap­pen had “moved un­der brak­ing”, which driv­ers have a gen­tle­men’s agree­ment not to do, al­though it is not specif­i­cally out­lawed.

Mercedes lodged a protest against Ver­stap­pen’s move but later with­drew the com­plaint af­ter Hamil­ton tweeted: “It is not what we do. We are cham­pi­ons, we move on. End of!”

Hamil­ton’s re­cov­ery lim­ited the dam­age to his ti­tle hopes, on a week­end when he found him­self em­broiled in con­tro­versy over his be­hav­iour in two separate news con­fer­ences.

In­sid­ers be­lieved that Hamil­ton’s de­ci­sion not to take ques­tions from the writ­ten me­dia af­ter qual­i­fy­ing, and say he was plan­ning to limit his fu­ture at­ten­dances at such con­fer­ences, was in­flu­enced by the pres­sure of see­ing Rosberg take pole and the ti­tle fight go­ing badly.

But while Hamil­ton made head­lines off the track, Rosberg was writ­ing his on it, dom­i­nat­ing the en­tire week­end - fastest in all prac­tice ses­sions, beat­ing Hamil­ton to pole po­si­tion and cruis­ing to a com­fort­able win as Hamil­ton’s drama un­folded be­hind him.

Hamil­ton is re­ly­ing on a bad race from Rosberg or a tech­ni­cal fail­ure - which have dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected the English­man this sea­son at Mercedes - to have a chance.

Vet­tel drove strongly in the first stint af­ter nar­rowly avoid­ing collecting Hamil­ton off the start to move up to third, but the frus­tra­tion of los­ing ground to Hamil­ton led him to make some an­gry ra­dio mes­sages, par­tic­u­larly about back mark­ers ig­nor­ing blue flags that warn them a faster car is be­hind and they should let it by.

Nev­er­the­less, his drive was a timely ri­poste to team boss Mau­r­izio Ar­riv­abene, who had told Ital­ian tele­vi­sion that Vet­tel needed to “earn” a new con­tract at Fer­rari be­yond 2017 and said he needed to be less dis­tracted by team busi­ness and fo­cus more on driv­ing.

His team-mate Kimi Raikko­nen fin­ished be­hind him, win­ning a bat­tle with Red Bull’s Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, well ahead of the two Force In­dias and Wil­liams.

It was a dire week­end for McLaren at en­gine part­ner Honda’s home race, a poor qual­i­fy­ing with a sur­pris­ingly un­com­pet­i­tive car lead­ing to a dif­fi­cult race to­wards the back for Fer­nando Alonso and Jen­son But­ton, who fin­ished 16th and 18th.

“What an awe­some week­end,” said Rosberg in­evitably. “It’s beau­ti­ful to win here and con­grat­u­la­tions to my col­leagues and team for clinch­ing con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship - let’s cel­e­brate hard.”

Hamil­ton said: “Con­grat­u­la­tions to the team, I’m very proud to be part of it. I did the best I could from where I was in the race. I will give it ev­ery­thing I have got [for the rest of the sea­son] and we will see what hap­pens.” — BBC Sport

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