F1 2016 Japanese Grand Prix result: Rosberg wins as Hamilton finishes third at Suzuka

PUBLISHED: 10:03 09 October 2016 | UPDATED: 15:13 09 October 2016

Lewis Hamilton with his trophy for finishing third in the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka [Picture: Daimler AG / Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton with his trophy for finishing third in the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka [Picture: Daimler AG / Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton could only finish third as title rival Nico Rosberg won the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix from pole position at Suzuka.

The German Mercedes driver tightened his grip on the FIA World Championship in Japan, extending his lead over Hamilton to 33 points with just four races to go.

With 313 points to his Mercedes team-mate’s 280, race winner Rosberg can now finish second behind Hamilton in all of the remaining grands prix and still clinch the 2016 F1 drivers’ title.

Today’s double podium also saw the Silver Arrows seal a third consecutive constructors’ title.

Starting second on the Suzuka grid, Hamilton made a disastrous getaway off the line and slipped down to eighth place on the first lap.

It was then a damage limitation exercise for the 31-year-old Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire as Rosberg cruised to victory – his ninth of the season.

Hamilton clawed his way back through the field for a hard-fought third place – his 100th F1 podium – but was unable to overtake Red Bull’s teenage Dutch racer Max Verstappen in the closing laps for second place.

Hamilton said: “I did the best I could from where I was and I’m happy with the points. I’ll continue to fight over the remaining races.”

Mercedes initially lodged a protest over Verstappen’s defending but later withdrew the appeal.

Hamilton tweeted: “There is no protest from myself. Just heard the team had but I told them it is not what we do. We are champions, we move on. End of!”

In the provisional 2016 Japanese Grand Prix results, Sebastian Vettel finished fourth for Ferrari, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen fifth.

Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Red Bull ahead of Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, with Williams pair Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas completing the top 10.

After crossing the line third, Stevenage-born racer Hamilton said: “Firstly, I’d like to say a huge congratulations to everyone back at the factories and the whole of Mercedes-Benz. Everyone has done a fantastic job and to have this success three years in a row is incredible.

“It’s been an awesome effort from so many people over the last three years and that is the most important thing to take from today. We couldn’t have done it without all of their support and I’m very, very proud to be a part of it.

“I’m also proud to have been part of the Mercedes-Benz journey since 2007 and then since 2013 with this team.”

Turning to today’s race, Hamilton was unsure why he made such a slow start.

“I’m not really quite sure what happened at the start. I’ll have to see what the engineers say – but I got the worst getaway I could possibly get,” he said.

“My side wasn’t completely dry and there was lots of wheel spin – but that wasn’t the whole issue. I lost a lot of ground as everyone else gained traction moving away.

“It was frustrating, but that’s the way it is. These things happen. Then, in the first part of the race, I didn’t have the pace of Kimi [Raikkonen], so knew I had to go longer and wasn’t really trying to attack him in the first part of the race.

“The second half got a lot more interesting and I was able to pick up some serious pace on the hard tyre. The car was feeling better, I was feeling more comfortable and I was able to overtake people.

“We put a bit of front wing in and the understeer completely disappeared, so I was able to make my way through the field and close the gap.

Lewis Hamilton at the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]Lewis Hamilton at the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]

“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take second but I did the best job I could out there today. Every point counts, so I drove my heart out to get as many as possible.”

Hamilton praised his Silver Arrows colleague Rosberg, who looks on course for his first world title.

Lewis said: “Nico did a great job today and he has a healthy margin now, so the Drivers’ Championship has got harder for me.

“I’ll give it everything I’ve got, as I did in the race today and always do. That’s all I can do – focus on doing the best that I can – so we’ll see what happens.”

After claiming his 23rd Formula One career victory, and his first at the Suzuka International Racing Course, Rosberg said: “What an awesome weekend!

“It felt great right from when the lights went green on Friday. I got a good rhythm in practice, had a strong qualifying, a decent start and then from the lead I was able to control the pace in the race.

“I had to save my engine a bit as it was my last race in the cycle, but the gap was always safe. I came here to win in Japan and I managed to do so, which is really special. It’s a fantastic feeling to win at this legendary race track.”

Despite a healthy lead over Hamilton in the title race, Rosberg added: “The season is not over yet with a few races still to go around the world, so I need to keep my energy up.”

Mercedes lead Red Bull by 208 points in the Constructors’ Championship – an unassailable lead with four races remaining in the 2016 season.

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said: “It is a great honour today to represent the hundreds of people in Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart who have made us triple World Champions.

“The story begins on the shop floor of our team and goes all the way to the board room of Mercedes-Benz. It is a tale of passion, commitment and incredible people working beyond their limits to win. And not just doing it once, but re-motivating themselves to surpass their achievements year after year.”

Wolff added: “Looking back at today’s race, so much was decided at the start. Nico got a perfect start, while Lewis suffered on the right-hand side with the damp line but also got a bad getaway.

“We know that our clutch is tricky to manage and we have not given the drivers the easiest system to use this year. Our first indications suggest that the clutch release was the problem today – but we will look into all the data before reaching a definitive conclusion.

“After that moment, Nico put in a perfect drive. He managed the gaps, controlled the race and took a really well-deserved win.

“For Lewis, it was fight-back time and he did that just as well as we know he can. Helped by a great strategy, on a circuit where it’s tough to pass, he came back from P8 to P3 in a great drive.

“It was a fantastic way to win the Championship today, with two cars on the podium. And now, it’s finally mathematically between only our two boys.

“The gap in the Championship is now 33 points and we will let them battle it out in a clean race to the end.

“If this season has shown one thing, it’s that anything can happen and big swings are possible. There are 100 points still to be scored and a lot of racing still to go.”

Looking back on the grand prix, Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe said: “The race was quite straightforward for Nico but didn’t start brilliantly for Lewis, which immediately gave us a challenge we hadn’t expected to bring him up from eighth position to the front again.

“He drove one of his strongest races of the season to recover to third – and it could even have been second save for a rather controversial manoeuvre by Max Verstappen at the final chicane.

“He had some fantastic pace, great management of the tyres, and great management of the traffic particularly. He made up a huge amount of time to finish only six seconds away from Nico, having been as far as 20 seconds behind at one point in the race.

“So, congratulations to Lewis for a great recovery, although I’m sure he’ll be feeling disappointed with the result overall.”

The Japanese Grand Prix was a very disappointing race for the McLaren-Honda partnership though.

Fernando Alonso put up a spirited battle to take the fight into the midfield, but he was never in a position to challenge for points. He eventually finished 15th.

Jenson Button started 22nd on the grid after the team elected to change his power unit components before the race, incurring a penalty.

Starting so far back meant that his potential was limited, and, despite pulling off a couple of satisfying passing moves, he finished only 18th.

Alonso said: “Our race today reflected the whole weekend: it was just anonymous.

“To finish 16th and 18th today is a rather nasty surprise, especially after finishing seventh in Singapore, and seventh and ninth in Malaysia, just last weekend.

“I hope this was an exceptional and unique event, and that we’ll return to business as usual at the next race, in Austin.

“It was clear that the layout of the track didn’t suit our package – we lacked downforce through the faster corners.

“I know our car is in fact much more competitive than we were able to show today, and I’m obviously disappointed about putting on such a poor show at Honda’s home race.

“But we’ll head back home, analyse what happened, and bounce back from this disappointment.”

Button said: “I made a poor start – the [power unit] components in the back of the car were all-new, so I got massive wheelspin and was therefore somewhat left behind on the start-line.

“Then it was really difficult to get past the Manors – they’d started the race on the Option tyre, and I was on the Back-Up, so it was hard to make a move stick.

“I eventually got past them though and, despite racing with the backmarkers, I still had some fun out there – a few little battles – but we were a long way behind the points-scorers.

“It’s been a very tough weekend – it’s a shame that Suzuka is our bogey track because it’s our second home. Still, we have to take the rough with the smooth: we haven’t been quick here, but we hope to be quicker at the next race.”

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