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Nico Rosberg dominates the Japanese Grand Prix as “sorry” Lewis Hamilton recovers to third after a slow start
Japanese Grand Prix 2016
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  09 Oct 2016   |  7:53 am GMT  |  531 comments

Nico Rosberg increased his lead in the 2016 Formula 1 world championship with a commanding victory at the Japanese Grand Prix as his Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton salvaged third place after making a poor start to the race.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drove what he considered to be one of his best F1 races, to hold off Hamilton in the closing stages and finish second.

It was the ninth win of the season for Rosberg and the 23rd of his career, putting him level with Nelson Piquet, one behind Juan Manuel Fangio and two behind team chairman Niki Lauda.

Rosberg led away from pole position while Hamilton bogged down off the line, largely due to a poor clutch deployment, but it must be said that the even numbered grid slots had a damp line down them and Hamilton positioned his car to the left to try to compensate for that, but failed to mitigate the problem. He was got swamped by Daniel Ricciardo and the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

The Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg also rocketed off the line –with the Mexican racer shooting into third place from fifth on the grid – which demoted Hamilton to eighth by the time the pack charged into Turn 1 for the first time in the 53-lap event.

Nico Rosberg

Rosberg immediately leapt clear of the DRS danger posed by Max Verstappen, who had moved into second as Hamilton fell down the order, and began to steadily pull away from the Red Bull driver.

Vettel quickly caught and passed Perez for third while Hamilton, who apologised to his Mercedes team over the radio shortly after his poor start, followed Raikkonen past Hulkenberg as they made identical sweeping moves around the outside of the Force India on laps six and seven.

The action settled down approaching the first round of pitstops – Rosberg edging his gap over Verstappen up to 5.0s while Mercedes told Hamilton to concentrate on keeping his tyres alive.

Lewis Hamilton

Red Bull triggered the first stops by double stacking Verstappen and Ricciardo on lap 10 with Rosberg, Perez and the Ferrari drivers following them in to switch to the mandatory hard tyres two laps later.

Mercedes kept Hamilton out for a further lap and he used the full pace advantage of his car in clear air to move ahead of Raikkonen for a net fifth place when he emerged from the pits – where the 2007 world champion was busy overtaking Perez and the Renault of Jolyon Palmer in a brave double move along the pit straight – despite being on older tyres.

Hamilton then quickly caught and breezed past Ricciardo for sixth, which was fourth place in reality as the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were in front of them due to their alternative one-stop strategy.

Felipe Massa

Up front, Verstappen had cut Rosberg’s lead to 2.5s shortly the first stops but the championship leader slowly set about building his lead back up, with Vettel further back in third.

Over the course of the next stint, as Rosberg edged back away from Verstappen, Hamilton, who was fourth for real by this stage as Bottas and Massa were dispatched and they then came in for their single stop for hards, reeled in Vettel.

While Verstappen and Rosberg came in for their second stops on laps 28 and 29, the world champion stayed out until lap 33 before diving in for his own fresh set of hard tyres.

Lewis Hamilton

Although Ferrari brought in Vettel a lap later for a brand new set of soft tyres, Hamilton moved up to third place thanks to the fresh tyre advantage the undercut had given him.

Vettel immediately began to catch the Mercedes and he got within a second of Hamilton before his tyres started to fade and he dropped back from the Briton, railing against the backmarkers and blue flags as he did so.

In the process of rebuffing Vettel’s advances, Hamilton had closed up to just seven seconds behind Verstappen by lap 37 and he quickly started eating into the Red Bull’s advantage.

Max Verstappen

By lap 45 they were running line astern on the track, but although Hamilton closed to within one second and picked up the DRS, he could not find a way by.

But coming to the end of the penultimate lap, Hamilton did get close enough to attack Verstappen at the final chicane, but the Dutch driver jinked right as they braked and the Mercedes racer had to back out of the move and take to the runoff area, which dropped him out of contention for a final lap move.

Rosberg calmly crossed the line to win by 4.9s over Verstappen on a day where he was never seriously threatened, to score his ninth win of 2016 and Hamilton’s third place confirmed Mercedes’ third consecutive constructors’ championship.

Nico Rosberg

Speaking after the race, where he increased his lead over Hamilton to 33 points with just four races remaining, Rosberg said: “What an awesome weekend, for sure. The whole weekend just felt great from the word go, so it’s been very special.

“Especially on this legendary track, [it’s] beautiful to win here. Congrats to everybody, all my colleagues in the team for clinching the third constructors’ world title.

“[It’s] so absolutely deserved, definitely, it’s an unbelievable effort [over] all these years, so lets celebrate hard.”

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel led home Raikkonen in a fourth and fifth finish for Ferrari, as Ricciardo, who had lost time at his second pitstop due to a delay with his right front tyre, came home sixth for Red Bull.

Perez and Hulkenberg ended up seventh and eighth ahead of the Williams pair of Massa and Bottas, their rivals for fourth place in the constructors’ standings.

Romain Grosjean finished 11th on a disappointing day for Haas F1, which did not score a point despite getting two cars into the top ten on the grid for the first time in the team’s history.

Jolyon Palmer

Jolyon Palmer used a one-stop strategy to move up to 12th for Renault from 16th on the grid ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson beat Fernando Alonso to 15th as Carlos Sainz finished 17th and Jenson Button was 18th on a poor day for McLaren at the home of its engine supplier Honda.

Felipe Nasr was 19th, just ahead of Esteban Gutierrez in the second Haas, and the Manor pair of Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein.

Pascal Wehrlein

No drivers retired for the second year in a row at Suzuka, which is a first for any track in F1 history.

Japanese Grand Prix result:

1 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1h26m43.333s
2 Max Verstappen, Red Bull +4.978s
3 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes +5.776s
4 Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari +20.269s
5 Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari +28.370s
6 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull +33.941s
7 Sergio Perez, Force India +57.495s
8 Nico Hulkenberg, Force India +59.177s
9 Felipe Massa, Williams +1m37.763s
10 Valtteri Bottas, Williams +1m38.323s
11 Romain Grosjean, Haas +1m39.254s
12 Jolyon Palmer, Renault +1 Lap
13 Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso +1 Lap
14 Kevin Magnussen, Renault +1 Lap
15 Marcus Ericsson, Sauber +1 Lap
16 Fernando Alonso, McLaren +1 Lap
17 Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso +1 Lap
18 Jenson Button, McLaren +1 Lap
19 Felipe Nasr, Sauber +1 Lap
20 Esteban Gutierrez, Haas +1 Lap
21 Esteban Ocon, Manor +1 Lap
22 Pascal Wehrlein, Manor +1 Lap

What did you make of the Japanese Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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@ james……any chance you could follow up with some insight into the ‘Fuel Flow Meter’ problem that horner alluded to on ricciardo’s car during the race? It’s hard to get any info and i have searched but nothing other than the original comments. would be appreciated…


Needless to say: Since Allison was removed, Ferrari has been making performance gains. It is a fact.


Great performance from the Mclarens……real progress.


Even though Lewis lost out this time and Nico can come second in all the next races, even if Lewis wins them. I reckon they’ll both push to the end.
They’ve been friends in the past and even then competed hard against each other. They’ve both pushed each other, Lewis probably thinks I always beat Nico, I can’t let him beat me. Nico probably thinks I’m fed up of losing to Lewis, I’m determind to beat him to at least one championship.
In any event years down the line and they look back and reminisce, they’ll think I remember when we used to say it would be great to be both in F1. How cool was it that we both became World Champions for the same team as teammates, unbelievable.


Christian horner says it would be foolish to write of hamilton…and personaly i agree

Hamiltons misfortunes has made rosberg look good, hence why he fears him and keeps saying hams the bench mark…as he knows a normal weekend and no one on the GRID can beat hamilton

Sorrry to the hatters thats the fact

I watched the 2007 world championship yesterday….and i cant believe his talent first year and beating alonso in his prime and being the defending world champ at the time

Without bad luck and engine failures he would be close to schumachers 7 titles


I’m a massive Hamilton fan but I feel that he’s let himself and many of his fans down this weekend, his head has gone. Congratulations to Rosberg for performing so consistently this 2nd half of the season.


He has to gather his thoughts, and come back strong. I believe Toto is going to sit down with him, and give him some tough love. He should drive free, as he really doesn’t have anything to lose now.

In terms of a title fight, it’s had extremely little close racing between the two main combatants. I would be interested to see how many laps they’ve been running together in order (nevermind being close to each other time wise) … it has to be WAY less than in 2014 or 2015. We need more Austria’s.

It certainly helped Nico that in the first race back Lewis took his penalty, allowing him a free ride to victory. Lewis had him under his thumb before that. I agree that he’s done well to not let the 62 pts swing from Monaco to Germany get him down. Maybe because he always knew that Lewis’ penalty was coming, and just knowing that some days Lewis will be unbeatable.

We need a race where the weather intervenes, or something unexpected happens.


Hi James – would like to get your view on the seemingly bizzare strategy Ferrari employed on Vettel. At what time, and for what reason did Ferrari decide that they were not fighting Max for P2, but Hamilton for P3? First they did not try to undercut Max in the first round of pit stops (which we can give them the benefit of doubt on), then, when Vettel was pulling closer and closer to Max (he was up to 1.7s behind Max), they neither tried to undercut Max, nor pitted Vettel right after Max pitted. In my opinion, even if Vettel and Max pitted on the same lap, or Vettel a lap later, he (Vettel) did seem to have the pace to catch and pass Max. They (Ferrari), just kept Vettel out, and I could see him losing almost 2 seconds a lap, as the gap between him and Max (after Max’s 2nd stop) went down from 18 seconds to barely 6-7 seconds in the matter of a few laps. Hard to understand what they were trying to do. Clearly Vettel had the pace to challenge Max – but for some reason they turned their attention to Hamilton and P3. Bizzare IMO.


It surprises me that when someone is paid to do a job and there are commitments to honour they don’t show 100% until it is complete. I understand the British press scolding HAM for disrespectful behavior, who cares if it is boring, do your job.

Imagine your oncologist doing what HAM did during your consultation. He is in a dream job and is a role model, act like it.

Maybe HAM is bored as he is not being challenged in a dominant car and given mechanical failures and running out of talent (Spain) but that’s happened to all drivers though he is looking for more challenges, if he does win the championship it would be his best one yet.

Next year will be interesting if ROS wins…


I think NR deserves to become WDC. I am not his biggest fan, but you cannot blame him for leading from start to finish and making zero mistakes.
As for Max the debate becomes a bit silly: which top driver would not block in the last lap while on P2. One move, hard but not unfair. And yes he has learned from Spa and all controversy. Great reaction from Lewis to withdraw the protest. A bit childish this weekend, but this is the reaction of a true champion.


I am not a big Lewis fan , but I do respect his driving ability and on his day he is the best . What I admire about Nico is that he never gives up and always appears positive and is respectful of Lewis when he is beaten fair and square . But when Nico beats Lewis he always makes excuses . Nico has a tough job to beat Lewis , but he is not getting blown away and he is occasionally making Lewis looking slow . Give Nico more respect , he deserves it and he does not act like a sulking teenager when things Di not go his way .


HAM worried himself out of it at the start but drove an okay recovery in the best car. ROS under no pressure with clinical drive. RIC dissapointing. FER stuff strategy again to let HAM undercut. If VES was in MB car in that race, would have won by over 30 seconds. Best driver on the grid by some margin on his day. Top 3 any other day.


The most annoying thing is to hear 100500 comments like “Oh Lewis is thinking of something else, He is not 100% on it, he is not focused” bla bla bla. Of course Lewis masterfully makes most of his fans think like this cause when he loses (actually like any 5-yrs old spoilt brat) he starts pretending he didnt want it at all. He just cant accept being beaten fair and square and starts protecting himself with all these little mind games. In my view it shows inmatured psychology and lack of inner digninity of the man. I understand him, but I dont like it and wish him to turn this weakness into strength.
When we leave all these pretending aside I see that Lewis was giving it all he could this weekend. The problem for him – it wasn’t enough. As in Spa, his recovery was not impressive. Had not Ferrari handed him the 3-rd spot – he would end up out of the podium for sure. And this Lewis’s current level I believe – he’s got no speed. Now if we go back to the Button-Hamilton rivalry, there was a similar thing, when on Jenson started beating Lewis . And Lewis just changed the team. So, I think if Nico wins this wdc we will see Lewis somewhere else in 2018.



I would tend to agree with your analysis regarding Hamilton.

I do believe, he can’t cope with being beaten by his team-mates and tends to find excuses either “real or perceived” and not to mention his penchant for stoking conspiracy theories.

His Spa recovery was far from impressive, rather a result of 3 lucky incidents of first Verstappen – Vettel ensuring a bunch of competitive cars are taken out of picture . Then the SC and race stoppage played nicely into the hands of Hamilton.

What I strongly disagree with you is when you say –
“this Lewis’s current level I believe – he’s got no speed. “

Come on. Like him or hate him, he IS one of the fastest driver on the current grid.
His Suzuka drive was actually a solid recovery (far more better recovery than Spa). He certainly came alive on hard tyres.


@Roger: All I can say about your last comment is wishful thinking mate. Lewis will stay with Mercedes AMG till the end of 2018. 2017 will come with new regulations and drivers can use all the power in their engines, so it would be a HAM and VET showdown with RIC in the mix and MAX in the wall for his moves. Too early for 2017, but we will come back to this comment then


Alex; James, a “technical” question – Understood the running comment narrative from watching the NBC presentation of the event last night that Hamilton’s engine restriction was eliminated during the race from the pit wall, reportedly to allow him an advantage compared with other brand cars.

Yet during subsequent interviews aired on F-1 Extra LH denied that had happened. Didn’t see any reference in the story above other than the “. . .full pace advantage. . .” comment, nor in the first 30 or so postings from readers.

Could you share any insight on that “issue?”


Wolff said after the race that they ran the under its max with no mention of having given him maximum power

It did seem that he had a lap or two of something extra to fend if Vettel on his soft tyre attack


For all who say there is a bais against lewis. must remember . that nico lead most of the race from start of the year. In monaco also he made way for lewis. otherwise he would still have been in front. It was not like lewis suddenly dropped his form. it was the other way around. NICO went through a bad patch in between. and he came back to winning day’s now, Nico has been on Top right from last oct . when looking at NICO’s form in the last 1 year from end of 2015. It his WDC . period


“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” – John Wooden
Tantrums won’t help you Lewis, humility will.
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
Nico is surely enjoying his success at the top.


One of the common themes of the day was drivers whinging about blue flags and lapped cars no getting out of the way. It annoys me that F1 has the rule that lapped cars must get out of the way, whereas here in UK MSA rules have the blue flag as simply advisory. It is very difficult to get the timing of blue flags spot on and from what I saw many of the flags were out way too soon as the cars to be lapped were too far ahead for even the fastest cars to overtake them at that point. What to the lead cars expect, back markers to park at the side of the track and wait for them to go bay? Maybe F1 circuits should have lay-bys added!


Yes seb max and kimi are getting a bit of a rep this season as serial whingers regarding back markers this season


I was right last week, I dont think Lewis will win it this season, its not his year, same as its not mine.

He should settle for the positives, Mercedes world title, 100 podium finishes for him and Merc will be a team with 2 WDC’s. Even I had some positives this week 🙂 on Tuesday our tumble drier had its safety modification and on Wednesday my daughter passed her driving test.

I’m wondering if Lewis’s issue is the looming 50th win. It was the same sort of pattern around his 50th pole and his 44th win.

He should put everything behind him, forget about his blotted copy book and drive to enjoy himself, not worry about the WDC, its effectively Nico’s even if Lewis wins every race, which he won’t. He’s never won in Brazil, hopefully if he makes his 50th it will be there


The warm-down room was very “awkward” after the race. Two guys embarrassed for another guy. Max looked at Lewis when he was fixing his hair and there was zero fear in Max’s eyes about Lewis.


Hello, could you lost your qualifications in the area of body language analysis that allow you to make that statement? Why do you think Nico and Max would be embarrassed for Lewis? Because he got a bad start? Do you think those guys have never had that happen? Only one guy in that room has won s championship remember.


No because of what happened the whole weekend.

Also Lewis did bog down. Those little lights on top of the steering wheel, and the engine noise all tell you that he bogged down. Oh and the fact that you could see him pulling in the clutch again.

Lewis said he got wheel spin but you can’t go on what he says any more. He’s acting very erratically. Calling people idiots and then deleting it.


Berk. thankyou for your well reasoned and balnced response! Did Lewis bog down initially and then over correct with the throttle and get too much wheel spin? I don’t know and neither do you. Surely the main point is the poor start was his mistake and he admitted this? But then if “you can’t go on what he says” perhaps this is a lie and actually it was a fault with the car!

Berk in the Merc

No he just bogged down. If he got wheel spin the lights a the top of the wheel and the engine noise would have told us.


Or should it be the Berk in the Mclaren.


Berk, this is really getting pointless isn’t it? Lewis was in the car and says he got too much wheelspin, why on earth would he lie about this? The lights on the dash tell us how high the engine is revving, but with the huge torque available from the PUs they are more than capable of lighting up the rear tyres at low revs. As for the since debunked telemetry thing, very interesting…..4 years ago.


TimW: Obviously the Anti Hamilton Brigade are out in force posting their usual bias and nonsense and I admire your devotion to responding to it. As you know I’m a Ricciardo fan but at least I’m objective enough to see what’s happening here. After Malaysia Lewis was accused of saying or implying that there was a conspiracy against him when he said or implied no such thing and in fact what he said was very supportive of the team. After every race win you can hear him over the team radio warmly thanking his team and yesterday we heard him apologise for his poor start. So he gives praise and accepts responsibility where appropriate. This is the mark of a true champion. Obviously he’s frustrated at the moment as you would expect because of the engine failures he’s had to endure so who cares if he plays up a bit (has a bit of fun) at the pre-race presser where many of the questions are so inane, bland or predictable. No wonder Kimi doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to say or appears to have little interest when facing the media. If Lewis does recover over the next four races and loses the championship by say a handful of points could it be said that Rosberg has ‘deserved’ to be 2016 champion? Hmmm not so sure considering all the engine failures that have occurred on the other side of the garage?


Adrian. Thanks for the reply, the Hamilton bashing on here does vary between tolerable and riciculous, today a bit more of the latter. The hoo har over that press conference is a good example of people desperately trying to find a stick to beat Lewis with, if he hadn’t been on snapchat I doubt very much that anyone would have realised there was a presser on Thursday morning.
I still think Lewis will win it, but if Nico pulls it off, then good luck to him, it will be three one to Lewis on seasons as team mates, and of course people will remember that reliability played a part, in the same way that we remember why Kvyat finished ahead of Ricciardo in last years standings.


The race was OK. Few overtaking manoeuvres, but the battle between LH and NR was not there, so not much excitement. The incident between MV and LH I checked, and it seems that MV was within the rules. He moved once only. This doesn’t mean that he hasn’t done funny things in the past. Overall nothing spectacular.


I said this earlier in the season, and i say it again that Mercedes, for whatever reason, wants Rosberg as a champion. Power unit, Hydraulics, and today Clutch problems only by Hamilton. Let’s not deceive ourselves, the championship is done!


Lewis withdrawing the protest shows the real driver in him and that i appreciate.


Lol! Afer spa lewis said max’s moves re raikkonen were fine/legal. So he couldnt realy say anything against max yesterday (even though he complained on the radio).


Always hard to pass comments when the facts are far from your armchair. However armchair thinking makes it look like Lewis hasn’t got his mind on “wanting to win” as the solus thought in his mind. Shuey and Senna possessed absolute racing goals in their day, then “de toxed” after the job was done. He has the ability and instinct, but the latter appears to be on leave maybe! He can do it, that’s what is so frustrating.


A big congrats to nico.. he drove well for d entire weekend.. much more focused.. his one race at a time approch is working for him.. he deserves to be champion


Very poor start, but his pace on the scrub hard tyres was absolutely blistering. Can’t wait for next year when drivers can push the car like this at every gp. Why they ever got rid of solid tyres is beyond me. Both Hamilton and Vettel will thrive with next years regulations.


Shocker of a start from Lewis, but a great recovery drive after that. If it wasn’t for the first two seconds he would be a strong candidate for driver of the day, but you would have to give it Rosberg. He’s driving out of his skin at the moment, and really making the most of the lead good fortune has given him. A good race overall, plenty of action and strategic battled going on. Max was a bit rude in defence oat the chicane, moving in the braking zone is against the rules, but it seems the stewards are only interested if there is contact as a result.
I still think Lewis will win the championship, 4 races to go and of course he hadn’t made it easy for himself this weekend, but I just can’t see Rosberg as champion.

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