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Race highlights - Japan 2014 - Suzuka plays host to a stop/start rain-hit race

Published by Christine

F1 cars pick their way around Suzuka
Credit: Pirelli S.p.A.

Highlights is the wrong word for this race, a Grand Prix that started behind the safety car twice, had one change for the lead and little else, and of course ended in the horrific accident that put Jules Bianchi in hospital. From the start, things were difficult for drivers as the safety car led for two laps before the red flags came out.

The rain eased enough to allow the racing to continue, but the event was brought to an abrupt halt by another red flag period. Below is our lap by lap coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix.

As it happened: Japan 2014 - The race

  • 06:30

    Hello fact-seeking friends, it's Japanese Grand Prix morning and it's raining!

  • 06:31

    We expected the rain, but didn't know how hard it was going to be. It's only drizzly at the moment but the tarmac is very, very wet.

  • 06:31

    The pit lane has opened, full wets are on, and drivers are making their way round a very wet Suzuka towards the grid.

  • 06:31

    There's talk of a safety car start.

  • 06:33

    Marcus Ericsson is feeling exceptionally confident, saying: "Drivers parade done, and it's 100% wet. Last time I raced here in the wet I won. So I'm looking forward to it!"

  • 06:34

    The Force India of Sergio Pérez has been off into the gravel trap on his installation lap. No damage, but a worrying early spin.

  • 06:36

    More run off for the Force India driver as he really does explore the limits.

  • 06:38

    QuoteMarco Mattiaci, Ferrari: "The rain is going to be an important variable that will make the race quite interesting, a lottery. Apparently it’s going to rain even more during the race, so decision from our people, the way the tyres react, safety car. A lot of conditions we need to manage in the race."

  • 06:43

    There are gazebos up on the grid to keep the cars, drivers and mechanics dry. Alonso climbs out of his car as the final preparations are made to the Ferrari.

  • 06:44
    Circuit Data
    Suzuka Circuit
    Local timezone+09:00 GMT
    First race1987
    Number of laps53
    Circuit length5.807km
    Race distance307.471km
    Start offset0.300km
  • 06:45

    QuoteJenson Button on the grid: "In terms of spray, it’s unbelievable. The surface isn’t too bad but the problem is, there’s spray in certain places, people might lift, then you’re in the back of him… I don’t know what’s going to happen, hopefully it'll start behind the safety car and hopefully after a couple of laps of us finding our feet, we'll go racing."

  • 06:47

    Normally at this point I'd offer up a picture of the tyre compounds available this weekend. It's hard and mediums, but totally pointless because it's a wet race. As soon as the wet tyres are used, the rule about using one of each dry tyre goes out the window.

  • 06:47

    QuoteRomain Grosjean: "Driving on my own was fine, but caught a Sauber in front of me and couldn’t see where it was in a straight line, so had to brake and wait. With the spray it’s tough to race. You don’t want to spin on the lap to the grid but you have to judge the grip, it’s a tricky one."

  • 06:51
    Grid Position
    1N RosbergMercedes
    2L HamiltonMercedes
    3V BottasWilliams
    4F MassaWilliams
    5F AlonsoFerrari
    6D RicciardoRed Bull
    7K MagnussenMcLaren
    8J ButtonMcLaren
    9S VettelRed Bull
    10K RäikkönenFerrari
  • 06:51

    The rain has picked up again, umbrellas all round. There's a river running down the pit lane, it might be paper boats time.

  • 06:52

    TweetTweet from @Lotus_F1Team: Safety car start kids... Just been confirmed.

  • 06:53
    Pitlane rain in Japan
    Credit: Twitter/CaterhamF1
  • 06:56

    Weather icon

    Wind speed1.2mps
  • 06:57

    The rain is getting harder now, the gazebos are being taken down on the grid and the drivers are starting to get wet.

  • 06:59

    Pirelli boss Paul Hembery is talking to the BBC about how they tweaked the wet tyres this year to be able to deal with more rain, and displace more standing water. I don't think they can cope with this though.

  • 06:59

    TweetTweet from @fergieweather: Dry phase behind this rain - which will ease fairly soon - looks quite prolonged. Keep faith!

  • 07:00

    The grid has cleared, there'll be no more formation lap as the safety car is leading the cars away.

  • 07:00

    Green flagRace started.

  • 07:01 Lap 1

    It's a slow getaway behind the safety car. The grid personnel don't even have to run as fast as normal as they have more time to get back to the pit lane.

  • 07:01 Lap 1

    Hamilton is already complaining on the radio, "The safety car needs to go faster." I think he's missed the point of the safety car there.

  • 07:02 Lap 1

    Team radioTeam radio from Sebastian Vettel: "Going 80kph, I'm aquaplaning."

  • 07:04 Lap 2

    One lap down, and we have our first spinner. Marcus Ericsson has spun off into the gravel. The Caterham looks like it's beached.

  • 07:04 Lap 2

    That's disappointing for the Swede, who had outqualified the other Caterham and Marussia drivers.

  • 07:05 Lap 2

    The marshals have pushed him out of the gravel trap, and he spins the car round to face the right direction. A bit of wheel spin and he's going once more.

  • 07:05 Lap 2

    Red flagSession stopped.

  • 07:07

    Oddly, the cars file back into the pit lane rather than line up on the grid as is normal with a red flag restart.

  • 07:07
    Marcus off track

    Ericsson's brief off, but he got it going again with a little help from his friends.

  • 07:08

    Race controlAll cars into the pit lane. Tents are allowed in pit lane.

  • 07:09

    Ricciardo climbs out of the car and has a quick word with the chaps standing around his car. Other drivers are remaining seated in the cockpit for now.

  • 07:12

    Signs that we're in for a long wait #1: Vettel puts his helmet and gloves back in their little cupboard in the garage.

  • 07:21

    Race controlRace will be resumed at 15:25. The safety car will cover more than 1 lap - wet weather tyres must be used.

  • 07:24

    TweetTweet from @Lotus_F1Team: Prediction is that the rain will stay away for next 30mins, then it gets interesting again...

  • 07:25

    Green flagRace resumed.

  • 07:25 Lap 3

    The safety car leads the pack out of the pit lane, and they get going on full wets once more.

  • 07:26 Lap 3

    Fernando Alonso has stopped his Ferrari out on track. He's climbing out of the car, absolutely furious.

  • 07:29 Lap 4

    Onboard replays show Fernando Alonso's Ferrari just stopped beneath him, steering wheel and electrics all went dark.

  • 07:31 Lap 5

    Hamilton has reported cool brake temperatures to the pit wall. He's not liking these conditions behind the safety car.

  • 07:33 Lap 5

    TweetTweet from @pirellisport: Quick reminder: full wet tyre expels around 65 litres of water at 300kph and intermediate expels 25 litres of water at 300kph

  • 07:34 Lap 6

    Team radioTeam radio to Valtteri Bottas: "The band of rain we spoke about in half an hour, that's not going to happen, it's going to come later. We'll have about 35 more laps. So it'll be a race to lap 40. We're currently on lap 5."

  • 07:35 Lap 6

    Team radioTeam radio from Jean-Éric Vergne: "Conditions are fine now. It's perfect to drive now."

  • 07:38 Lap 7

    Many of the drivers vocal on the radio now, saying the track is fine and the racing should resume.

  • 07:38 Lap 7

    Hamilton even reports it's not far off intermediate tyre conditions.

  • 07:40 Lap 8

    The fabulous Japanese fans are eagerly watching on, sticking out the damp conditions and hoping the safety car comes in soon.

  • 07:42 Lap 9

    Team radioTeam radio to Jenson Button: "If the safety car comes in, we think people may follow it in for the intermediate tyres."

  • 07:42 Lap 9

    Race controlSafety car in this lap.

  • 07:43 Lap 9

    If they do come in straight away for intermediate tyres, that will be pretty embarrassing for the FIA. What are the wet tyres for if there's never actually any wet racing?

  • 07:44 Lap 9

    Rosberg backs up his teammate as the safety car heads in to the pit lane.

  • 07:44 Lap 10

    There's heaps of spray as Rosberg rounds the final corner. Hamilton is immediately on it, in the slip stream of the race leader, but he can't see enough to judge the first corner overtake.

  • 07:45 Lap 10

    Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado have both come into the pit lane for intermediate tyres.

  • 07:45 Lap 10

    TweetTweet from @adamcooperf1: I think some of these guys are about to find conditions are not as great as they think...

  • 07:46 Lap 11

    Rosberg has defended from Hamilton for a couple of laps now. There's just a second between the two.

  • 07:47 Lap 11
    Gap Analysis
  • 07:47 Lap 11

    Team radioTeam radio to Jenson Button, on the intermediate tyres: "Jenson, you are matching the Mercedes, this pace is good. This is a good move."

  • 07:49 Lap 12

    Half the field pit for inters, reacting to Button's good pace on the green striped tyres.

  • 07:50 Lap 13

    Pastor Maldonado hasn't been coping with the intermediates as well as the McLaren, he's been off track a couple of times. Button has moved up to eighth with all those other pit stops, whilst Maldonado is only in 18th.

  • 07:50 Lap 13

    More of the top runners come into the pit lane. Mercedes haven't pitted, and neither has Jules Bianchi who is now running third!

  • 07:52 Lap 14

    Rosberg gets the call to box, box, box, and he dives into the pit lane to rid himself of those wet tyres.

  • 07:52 Lap 14
    Pit Stop Analysis
    DriverN Rosberg
    Pit lane23.696s
  • 07:52 Lap 14

    Bianchi pits from third, for a second there I thought he might stick it out and lead the race!

  • 07:53 Lap 14

    Now we just have Lewis Hamilton leading on the wet tyres, but he'll no doubt be in this lap.

  • 07:54 Lap 15

    Hamilton ran wide on that final lap on the full wet tyres, but he dives into the pit lane for a change of rubber.

  • 07:54 Lap 15

    Rosberg powers down the home straight to retake the lead, as Hamilton peels out of the pit lane to resume his position in second.

  • 07:54 Lap 15
    Pit Stop Analysis
    DriverL Hamilton
    Pit lane23.891s
  • 07:55 Lap 15

    TweetTweet from @alo_oficial: It looked nice race .. Thanks to all the Japanese fans who always support me here!

  • 07:56 Lap 15

    Williams appear to be struggling in these conditions, Vettel has closed the gap to Massa and is hunting him down for fifth place.

  • 07:56 Lap 16
    Battle for 5th
  • 07:57 Lap 16

    Ricciardo is right behind his teammate, hoping to follow him past the Williams of Massa when he makes the move.

  • 07:57 Lap 16

    Kevin Magnussen has come into the pit lane again, very quickly after the first stop. He's on his way again.

  • 07:58 Lap 17

    Vettel takes the inside line to battle past Massa. Ricciardo closes in, attempts an outside line but can't find the space to get through.

  • 07:59 Lap 17

    Round the outside again, and Ricciardo muscles past Massa, a fab move in such difficult conditions.

  • 07:59 Lap 17

    It was a steering wheel change for Kevin Magnussen, he's disappointingly down in 21st place now.

  • 08:00 Lap 18

    Team radioTeam radio to Nico Rosberg: "Expecting light rain in eight minutes."

  • 08:01 Lap 18

    Vettel has closed up on the second Williams and makes short work of passing Bottas for 4th.

  • 08:03 Lap 19

    One lap later and Ricciardo is on Bottas' tail. He drives past the Finn like he was standing still.

  • 08:05 Lap 20

    There's still just one second between Rosberg and Hamilton, that battle looks like it might be on very soon.

  • 08:05 Lap 21

    Jenson Button is circling strongly in third place. Slower than the Mercedes pair, but managing the pace well considering he's in a McLaren!

  • 08:06 Lap 21

    Vergne has pitted, taking on another set of intermediate tyres and rejoining in 20th place.

  • 08:07 Lap 22
    Driver Positions
    10N Rosberg2
    20L Hamilton2
    35J Button2
    45S Vettel2
    51D Ricciardo2
    6-3V Bottas2
    7-3F Massa2
    85N Hülkenberg2
    91K Räikkönen2
    102D Kvyat2
  • 08:09 Lap 22

    Grosjean pits from 13th, also taking on another set of intermediates. We're not near the dry tyre stage yet then.

  • 08:09 Lap 23

    Rosberg makes a small mistake, allowing Hamilton to close the gap a little more. The pressure is on.

  • 08:11 Lap 23

    Sutil and Maldonado have pitted.

  • 08:12 Lap 24

    Vergne ran off track and came back on. Meanwhile, Kimi Räikkönen and Daniil Kvyat come in for their pit stops.

  • 08:13 Lap 25

    It's a really long stop for Räikkönen, a huge delay on the front right tyre change.

  • 08:13 Lap 25
    Pit Stop Analysis
    DriverK Räikkönen
    Pit lane32.466s
  • 08:15 Lap 25

    Race controlDRS enabled.

  • 08:16 Lap 26

    With the DRS in action, Hamilton has closed the gap considerably to his teammate. Race leader Nico Rosberg is under pressure and complaining of oversteer.

  • 08:17 Lap 27

    A twitch from Lewis Hamilton and he runs off track into the corner. Looked like a little bit of brake trouble there, but he's back on track and running as normal again.

  • 08:18 Lap 27

    Hamilton is right back on the tail of Rosberg, as they pass a Marussia backmarker with ease.

  • 08:19 Lap 28
    Hamilton glowing brakes

    Replays show Hamilton's brakes glowing as he recovers from an off.

  • 08:20 Lap 29

    You wouldn't know there was anyone else in this race.

  • 08:21 Lap 29

    Hamilton sweeps round the outside at turn one and holds his line to take the lead. And he's scampering away from Rosberg already.

  • 08:22 Lap 29

    Esteban Gutiérrez is currently running in tenth place, that's in the points for Sauber if he can stay there.

  • 08:23 Lap 30

    Sebastian Vettel pits, a super quick turnaround from the Red Bull guys, and he takes on more intermediates to rejoin in fifth place.

  • 08:24 Lap 31

    It didn't last long for Gutiérrez, as Sergio Pérez passes him and pushes him down to 11th.

  • 08:27 Lap 32

    Jenson Button pits from third place, and they've changed the steering wheel on that car. That allows Ricciardo and Vettel to get ahead, Button rejoining in fifth.

  • 08:29 Lap 33

    At this stage of the race Vettel is the man to watch, he puts in the fastest lap so far with a 1:51.915.

  • 08:31 Lap 34

    Rosberg has been losing significant chunks of time to his teammate, he pits from second losing a place to Ricciardo.

  • 08:32 Lap 35

    Replay shows Magnussen performing a full 360 spin as he got on the kerbs. He immediately pits.

  • 08:34 Lap 36

    Race leader pits and it's a clean stop from Mercedes.

  • 08:35 Lap 36

    Red Bull report heavier rain in the pitlane.

  • 08:37 Lap 37

    Ricciardo comes in for another stop and returns to the track behind the McLaren of Jenson Button.

  • 08:39 Lap 38

    Force India are predicting 15 more minutes of rain. The question is how heavy will it fall?

  • 08:41 Lap 38

    Vettel takes to the gravel and loses a good six seconds recovering. Button is now on his tail.

  • 08:42 Lap 39

    Team radioTeam radio to Hamilton: "Caution turn 1, some cars running wide."

  • 08:43 Lap 40

    We've made it to lap 40. No half-points for this race. Phew!

  • 08:44 Lap 40

    Race controlDRS Disabled

  • 08:45 Lap 41

    Presumably DRS has been disabled due to the now heavier rain.

  • 08:46 Lap 42

    Two Caterham drivers, Maldonado and Magnussen have switched to full wet tyres.

  • 08:47 Lap 43

    Daniel Ricciardo puts a move on Button. Makes it look easy.

  • 08:48 Lap 43

    Yellow flagThere's a car in the barrier, Sutil in the tyre wall in these tricky conditions.

  • 08:50 Lap 44
    Sutil's day is done

    Adrian Sutil has has enough for one day.

  • 08:50 Lap 44

    Safety car has been called for. The medical car has also been deployed apparently to attend to Jules Bianchi who went off somewhere near the Sutil incident.

  • 08:56 Lap 46

    Have yet to see what happened to Bianchi, his car is shown as stopped just beyond the Dunlop Curve, not far from where the Sauber is parked.

  • 08:56 Lap 46

    Red flagRace stopped.

  • 08:59 Lap 47

    Hülkenberg pulled to a stop at the end of the pitlane, before the red flag was shown, he's still sitting out there in his car.

  • 09:00

    Chequered flagRace is called. Lewis Hamilton wins the Japanese Grand Prix

  • 09:03

    Sauber confirm Sutil told them over the radio he was okay. Bianchi is apparently being attended to in the medical centre.

  • 09:05

    With Hamilton taking the win, Rosberg is confirmed in second position while Vettel completes the podium in Japan.

  • 09:07

    Adrian Sutil tells the media that Binachi hit a truck "sideways". It's not yet clear what truck he is referring to. No TV replays have been shown and the medical helicopter is preparing to take off.

  • 09:11

    The top three take the positions on the podium.

  • 09:11

    TweetTweet from @F1Photo: Blackout on Suzuka. No replays, no news, silence... Fingers crossed for Jules.

  • 09:17

    Thank you for joining us for coverage of the Japanese GP. We will of course keep track of Bianchi's condition as it develops.

All content in the series Japan 2014