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Japanese Grand Prix – who was your driver of the day?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Oct 2011   |  6:59 pm GMT  |  90 comments

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel may have sealed his second successive title at Suzuka, but there were plenty of exciting battles all the way down the field in what was another unpredictable race.

So who was your Driver of the Day?

Jenson Button

Dominated the weekend leading up to qualifying by topping the times in all three practice sessions. Missed out on pole position by 0.009 seconds to start second. Pushed towards the grass by Vettel at the start and lost a place to team-mate Hamilton, but kept calm and maintain the gap to the leader while looking after his tyres. Jumped Vettel at the second round of stops and held off a late charge from Alonso to win what he describes as his second home race. Admittedly saw his slim title hopes finally end but was pleased to seal his third win of the season and fifth successive podium.


Fernando Alonso

Failed to mount a challenge for pole and was outqualified by team-mate Massa for only the second time this season, but raced through to second place. Starting fifth, he passed Massa early on and then got by Hamilton in the first round of stops. Looked after his tyres well and then jumped Vettel at the final round of stops. Started to reel in leader Button but ultimately had to settle for second. It was the team’s best result since Germany in July and keeps him in the battle for second place in the drivers’ standings.

Sebastian Vettel

Went off track on Friday and broke the car’s brand new front wing. Failed to make an impression in any of the weekend’s three practice sessions but recovered, with the aid of a new front wing which was flown in just in time for qualifying, to score his 12th pole position of the season. Made an aggressive start from pole to defend the lead but lost out to Button at the second round of stops. Dropped behind Alonso at the final stops and though he wanted to chase the Ferrari driver, the team told him to consolidate his position. Held onto third to win the title and become the youngest-ever double world champion.

Michael Schumacher

Involved in an incident with Hamilton and Webber in qualifying which meant he ran out of time to set a flying lap. Started eighth and benefitted from a slow starting Kobayashi to make up a place before trying to pass Webber round the outside into Turn 1. The move didn’t pull off but the German managed his tyres well throughout the race so that he could do one less stop than those around him. Led the race briefly and also banged wheels with Webber before coming home a strong sixth and once again outperforming his team-mate.

Sergio Perez

Had a disastrous qualifying session when his car developed a hydraulics problem which meant he couldn’t set a time in Q2. Starting 17th and suffering from a cold, the Mexican fought his way through the field by maximising his two-stop strategy. Set the second fastest lap of the race, behind Button, on his way to eighth place – his fourth points scoring finish of the season.

Nico Rosberg

Endured a nightmare qualifying where he failed to complete a single lap because of a hydraulics problem. Started 23rd but was up to 18th by lap two. Managed the safety car period well and used the extra sets of tyres, which he had left over as a result of not qualifying, to good effect and grab the last point in 10th.


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1

James,

Do you think Buttons rise in form (and Hamiltons subsequent dip) has anything to do Mclaren employing former Bridgestone tyre technician (in terms of Button now perfecting tyre temperature whereas before he was not getting enough heat into his tyres, and Hamilton was probably getting better tyre temperature before and now is overheating them)?

Or is it that Pirelli have gone aggressive on the compound selection for race weekends?

Cheers,

Steve

2

Read the Strategy Report from Japan

3

for me, Perez. Great drive.

Not taking away from other drivers, schumi especially, but i look forward to seeing Perez in a better car in the future. Is there any chance we will see him in red next year?

4

Button drove very well, no question. I have to give Alonso the nod for putting the Ferrari a bit higher up than it likely deserves though.

5

While I am hardcore Schuey fan, I was impressed hugely by Button. I have always found him overrated but his drive yesterday was truly super.

6

Driver of the Day: Button by far. He’s second in wins, and in my opinion would be fighting Vettel for the championship if he swapped seats with Webber. And what a fine photo of Perez! I’m going to save it and superimpose Hamilton’s face over Sergio’s because he gagged another race weekend. First the uncanny ability to miss a final flying lap in qualifying, blaming it on traffic ahead. Then sideswiping Massa (again) and avoiding a penalty only by the generosity of Alan Jones.

7

I really have a hard time to understand how some people think, regarding Vettel. It’s almost like having conversations with religious fanatic, the facts simply doesn’t matter.

Yes, Vettel has the best car on the grid, and if you have it you should win, and he has. He can’t do more, and his done it very well, because his season it among the best ever. Webber has also the best car on the grid, but he can’t beat Vettel in the quali, he makes bad starts and on top of that he has higher tireware then his teammate. This combination makes impossible for him to beat Vettel, he must improve on all these areas for next season.

For those who say that Hamilton, Button and Alonso would beat Vettel in same car, it’s just assumption based on what? Button has lost to no less then three different teammates (R. Schumacher, Fisi and Hamilton) in the past. If Hamilton drove for Red Bull this year he would lose to Button, Alonso, and Vettel in the same car. This is based on that Button has beaten him so far in the same car, Alonso has done it in the slower car and Vettel doesn’t make mistakes and do get results. There is nothing saying that Alonso would beat Vettel, he didn’t beat Hamilton as rookie, why would he beat Vettel as (two time) world champion?

Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel are all exceptional probably all three will be top ten drivers of all time. Button has improved a lot and are impressive but I don’t think he’s in the same league, neither is Webber at his best, they don’t have “extra two tents of second raw talent”.

8

Great victory for Jenson Button which will make him even more confident. Looks like Jenson has got the upper hand for second place in the championship and a chance to finish ahead of Lewis. Last year Jenson was suffering from bad luck and now look, Lewis is suffering the same Karma. You could argue that with Lewis its self conflicted, but at least he races and I am sure next year Lewis will be motivated to improve his form for 2012. I still feel that Mclaren could have got two cars 1st and 2nd. It appears from the Formula 1 website that Lewis was suffering from I quote:

“We weren’t immediately aware that Lewis appeared to suffer a slow puncture to the right-rear in the first stint. That created a growing pressure differential across the rear axle, and potentially led us to add too much front wing to compensate for the lack of balance at the rear. In hindsight, that may have led to Lewis fighting to find a satisfactory balance for the next two stints as we attempted to restore the set-up”……http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2011/10/12628.html

James, could you please explain to us, did Mclaren get it slightly wrong with Lewis, even though during the heat of the moment with the rear puncture caused the rear axle to be out of alignment?, or is it simply Leiws can not or finds it difficult to look after his tyres?.

I have noticed that drivers who performed well last year are now struggling i.e. Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton due to the tyres, requires soft (Prost) driving style and not hard (Senna) driving style?

9

Driver of the day, Button, no real question.

Perez had a good race. His second fastest lap may have been anomalous in that he was, I think, running a contrary tyre strategy to the front-runners – i.e. he was on softs when fuel was lowest, whereas the leaders were on hards for the last 20 laps (I may have this wrong – if so, even more kudos to Perez).

Alonso again habitually impressive. The Ferrari was not as bad as qualifying suggested and I remember Ferrari being massively bullish re Suzuka a few months ago (although, from memory, that might have been when it was thought that the blown diffusers had gone). The Ferrari seems basically to have v. good aero, v. good engine and v. kind on tyres, but seems to be missing something in the exhaust blown diffuser technology – cf. Silverstone this year. Perhaps this suggests we could have a dominant Ferrari next year…? Be that as it may, Alonso again delivered everything that could be delivered and drove his usual intelligent race.

Another good showing from Schumi – he’s got a real chance now to finish ahead of Rosberg in the standings, which will be a huge fillip for him.

Button v Hamilton. It has become absolutely clear that Button has been grossly underrated, especially by those who expected him to be blown away by Hamilton at Mclaren. That the opposite seems to be happening this season (and the margin is actually probably more than the sizeable 32 points would suggest, given Button’s two DNFs not attributable to any driving fault).

What has gone wrong with Hamilton? I think he does have a problem with the way the tyres are now, which seem to reward precision over reactive/hustling driving style and unfortunately taking the hustle out of Lewis seems to leave him very deflated. And now there seems to be a bit of a negative feedback loop in that typically Hamilton would respond to pressure by driving in any even more committed manner, but this seems to be worsening the situation rather than the opposite. And the frequent crashes have not helped…

Is Hamilton overrated? Not in terms of ultimate performance, but this season has showed that there are still some serious deficiencies in terms of racecraft and consistency, and – perhaps, attitude.

10

I think it was a brilliant win by Jenson but, had it not been for the few laps behind the safety car, I doubt whether he would have finished without slowing down considerably due to low fuel.

11

+1…But all credit to him for managing the situation so well at the end

12

Fair comment, but it cuts both ways. The cars behind JB also used less fuel under the SC, and therefore Alonso might not have had the reserves to mount the charge he did towards the end.

Close thing, though, however you look at it.

13

Button by a country mile for driver of the day.

Fastest driver over the weekend. Has the measure of Vettel and drove a superb strategic race for victory. Alonso was fast at the end when the others tyres were going off as the Ferrari is kinder on it’s tyres, but Button was always in control of him and knew what he needed to do. A drive worthy of the Professor himself! What’s more he has done what he needed to do at McLaren and has threatened to do at other venues this season like Monaco an Spa – win a race on outright pace in the dry rather than through his excellent car control and decision making in the wet and changeable conditions.

Honourable mentions for Perez and Schuey. Strong races from both!

14

He is just like Alan Prost, and the formula is to look after your tyres: Jenson can do this and will do better in the years to come. Hopefully If Mclaren creates a great Car to challenge the Bulls then we will see consistency with Jenson in gaining the wins by preserving the tyres and then using them as seen in Japan. Another good point is the way he calms down, Seb blocked Jenson at the start, of course you will get fumed up but he controlled it and won. Lewis Hamilton can learn from Jenson Button to make him stronger.

15

Close call between Button, Alonso and Perez who all drove superbly all race. Button just has the edge in my mind due to the overall consistency and ability to keep calm. After the start he kept his head and at the end he could easily have felt the pressure with Alonso homing in but he just calmly switched it up and brought the car home.

Alonso had a fantastic drive to come home in second place considering he had the 3rd fastest car under him. Superb effort by him.

Perez had a great day, rookie of the year without any doubt and I can see him moving to a bigger team in not too distant future. Even more incredible when you consider how ill he was all weekend!

16

3. Vettel is making it look all too easy. Which it is not if you compare him to Webber. His move on Button was on the edge and great F1 stuff. He thoroughly deserves to be the 2011 F1 champion.

2. Great to see Schumacher outsmart Massa with his driving. I’d love to see this man in the mix – battling it out with the top five – next year.

1. Well done by Button. A very calculated drive, just like “the professor”.

>> I am really looking forward to the remainder of the season. It is going to be a fierce battle between Alonso vs Button vs Hamilton vs Webber to become the vice World Champion of 2011. Bring on Korea!

17

My vote’s for Jenson too. I’ve been hugely impressed with his run of form in the second half of this season. Probably more impressed even than his run in the first half of 2009, which to a large extent seems to have come down to the dominance of the Brawn.

I really hope McLaren can carry some of this momentum into next season, and so bring a proper challenge to the Bulls from race 1…

18

I can’t decide – Button, Alonso, Perez are all contenders for me.

[mod: I can’t post from my normal email address – the comments don’t appear.]

19

When Alonso saw Button parking their car just after finish line, he should think Macca strategists did a better job than them. The last two laps of Jenson were a gift (yellow button) that Ferrari had to copied.

I choose Pérez. First time for the mexican at Suzuka did not stop one of the best performance of his career.

20

Has to be Jenson, driving much better than Lewis at the moment, probably in the form of his career.

21

I see that Michael is featuring regularly in these driver of the day polls. He has really picked up his game during the last few races. Please Mercedes, give him a car capable of challenging at the front next year.It would be awesome to relive some of the old Schumacher magic again.

For this race, Jenson didn’t put a wheel wrong and was the driver of the day.

22

Driver of the day? Too easy. Webber. He lost 0 positions off the start. WELL DONE MARK!!!

Seriously, JB’s drive was brilliant and well timed. Honourable mention to Alonso. He didn’t do anything flash but he didn’t do anything wrong either. Good, solid 2nd place.

23

I might be imagining it, but Sauber seems to be picking very inflexible race strategies for Kamui lately.

Kamui was quicker than the cars around him just before the safety car came out, and even pulled of several overtaking moves.

Yes, the timing of the safety car was less than ideal, but surely they could’ve switched to a 3-stop strategy rather than prematurely changing to the primes and hoping that it would last till the end.

I thought they should’ve put on supersofts during the safety car period and then let him run for another 15 laps (by which time, he could’ve pulled away from the slower cars) and then swap to primes with about 20 laps to go.

Either that, or they should’ve swapped him back to a set of supersofts the moment they entered the window where a set would’ve lasted till the end of the race.

Quite frankly, I was gutted to watch him as high as 8th, only to be passed by Perez, and a few other guys at the end (and he did have a pretty good amount of distance ahead of the pack behind him at the time). Judging by the amount of seconds-per-lap he was losing, i would’ve brought him in – surely the strategists in the pit wall could’ve worked out that he wasn’t going to finish in the points.

24

I imagine a lot of fans (@ the track & on tv) were gutted from the stalled start…

I think Koby is in a slight form slump & making a few mistakes (Suzuka start, Singapore quali), just the same as Hamilton and Webber are having troubles…This year’s pirellis are not kind to the aggressive overtakers and their teammates are qualifying quicker which is putting on more pressure. The rest of the season will see drivers like Button, Checo, Vettel who are easier on their tyres deliver more points.

At the backend of most races this year, Koby has had to defend position on deg tyres.

Sauber need both cars in the points. I agree with Iceman – it would be good for the last few races to let Koby start on primes and finish on options (e.g. like Monza)

Looking fwd to Brasil and Abu Dhabi – hopefully Koby can have a few new scraps with Jenson

25

iceman – I think that Sauber is believing their own propaganda about their cars being friendly on its tyres; this isn’t the first time that one of their drivers has been hung out to dry on badly degrading rubber. However, I do see them trying more split strategies, kind of like they did in this race.

Koby fan – I could hear a collective sigh from the grandstands at the start. At least that’s what it felt like in my head.

The good news is that the team seems to have found some speed in their new aero package – Kobayashi bagging 1st in Q1 and Perez clocking the fastest lap of the race aren’t usual feats for a Sauber (even if they were out-of-sync with the rest of the field in tyre choice).

26

Yes I agree. They are playing to the strength of the car (tyre preservation) but it means they’re not taking advantage of Kobayashi’s own strengths. I’d like to see them try a more aggressive short strategy before the end of the year to see what he could make of it. But with them being nip-and-tuck with Force India in the constructors’ championship, I suspect they’ll feel they should continue to play the percentages.

27

I voted Button, as I didn’t see enough of Perez’s race to judge. I know it has been said many time before, but Jenson and Seb really are great ambassadors for the sport.

28

Jenson Button was my driver of the day – one his most impressive performances. He genuinely seems to be improving as a driver on a race by race basis at the moment.

Interestingly, over the last 5 races, with 125 points on offer, Vettel has only scored 7 more points than Button. If it wasn’t for Button’s run of bad luck mid season (KERS issue in Valencia, retirements at Silverstone and Nurburgring, Button would still be an outside bet for the title.

29

If Perez and Massa continue their current form till the end of the season, watch Perez in a Red car next year!!!!

30

For me : Perez.

Getting from 17th to 8th on a two-stopper can only be described as an excellent effort.

All other drives/results as described above were definitely good, but not (in my opinion) particularly excellent.

31

Button.

I hope he wins the WDC in 2012!

We need more 2xWDC on the grid ha.

32

Alonso – for making the last couple of laps thrilling catching Button.

But there were many good drives from – Button’s response to Alonso, Perez who was impressive clocking fastest lap, Schumi for his start. I though Sutil passing someone (Koba?) at 130R was the best overtaking move.

Overall it was a fantastic race as tyres were chewed up real quick.

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