What happened during the Japanese GP Weekend?
Written by Lucy Snape, Edited by Ishani Aziz
Friday: FP1 and FP2
On the weekend starting the 7th of October 2022 we went all the way to Japan for Formula One’s 18th round of the 2022 season. The Suzuka International Racing Course debuted in F1 in 1987 and has a circuit length of 5.807km, with the current lap record being 1:30.983 set by Lewis Hamilton in 2019. On Friday the 7th FP1 went underway at 4am UK time and we saw Fernando Alonso top the timings and beat Charles Leclerc by three tenths of a second in very wet conditions. Earlier on in the practice, we saw how the weather was affecting the track conditions but all the drivers managed to keep it clean until when everyone thought the session was over and Mick Schumacher spun off, crashing into the barriers at turn seven causing his front wing to be completely damaged. This meant that Haas had less than two hours to evaluate the car for damage and then fix what was broken in time for FP2. Fast forward to 7am when FP2 went underway and we saw George Russell top the timings ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton. In this session Mick Schumacher was unable to take part after requiring a chassis change because of his crash in FP1. Earlier on in the practice we saw Yuki Tsunoda come into the pits for a tyre change, only for the team to have three intermediates out instead of four. Luckily the team eventually found the tyre and sent him back on track again. However, Tsunoda had even more problems as he went off into the gravel, nearly beaching himself. Fortunately he carried enough speed to bounce over the top of it and prevent himself from being beached. Tsunoda wasn’t the only one close to beaching himself, as we saw Charles Leclerc lock up and go off the track into the gravel in turn 11, just managing to keep himself moving.
Saturday: FP3 and Qualifying
The following day, Saturday, 8th October, FP3 went underway at 4am and Max Verstappen topped the session ahead of Carlos Sainz by 0.294 seconds. It was the first dry session of the weekend. Sainz’s teammate Leclerc finished behind him in third. Several hours later, qualifying went underway. Starting with Q1, the bottom five who were eliminated were: Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi. In Q2 the drivers eliminated were: Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher. Finally, Q3 got underway and the last ten drivers remaining fought to take pole position. During this session there was some drama between Lando Norris and Max Verstappen. Both on out laps, Norris came up to Verstappen who was going quite slowly, seemingly blocking him and causing Norris to end up on the grass in order to take avoiding action as Verstappen lost the rear slightly and nearly hit the McLaren of Norris. Qualifying ended with Verstappen taking pole for himself, Leclerc claiming second, and Sainz taking third. Pérez secured fourth, Ocon fifth, Hamilton sixth, Alonso seventh, Russell eighth, Vettel ninth and Norris 10th.
Sunday: Race Day
On Sunday, 9th October, we all sat anxiously in front of our TV’s waiting for the race to begin. The rain was pouring and the track was wet, giving the impression that this was going to be an interesting race. Lights out and away we go! Leclerc has a great start being alongside Verstappen with the Ferrari’s nose in front but Verstappen bravely goes around the outside and takes back the lead. Straight away drama was underway in the wet race. At the start Vettel spun after having some contact with Alonso and ended up losing many positions, then Sainz was thrown into the barriers and was out of the race causing the yellow flags to come out. Additionally, Gasly ended up having a large piece of an advertising board stuck to the front of his car blocking his vision.
On lap two Zhou spun on track, luckily not hitting anyone, as there was the Williams of Latifi close behind him. Then we see the other Williams of Albon at the side of the track, out of the race due to a hydraulics issue caused by some contact. In a terrifying turn of events, on Gasly’s way back to the pits he passed by a recovery vehicle on track that was sent out for Sainz’s Ferrari, and rightfully vocalised his anger about the lack of safety in that situation. It brought to mind the fatal accident of Jules Bianchi at this very track in 2014. Red flag is out! The session was stopped as the rain intensity increased. It was announced the race would resume at 6:50am with a rolling start procedure as the rain should be easing up soon and the use of the wet tyres was made mandatory.
All drivers got back into their cars, ready for this race to restart…but no! The restart was suspended and everyone went back to waiting for the start time to be declared. Finally, it was announced that the race would restart at 8:15am (UK time) with a rolling start procedure. This time the race did actually start with the safety car leading the way before eventually going into the pits, allowing racing to begin. Verstappen got away well, and Latifi and Vettel were the first to pit for the intermediate tyres, coming out of the pits side-by-side with Vettel ending up ahead.
Then we saw a domino effect occur as Bottas and Norris came into the pits for the intermediates, then Verstappen and Leclerc followed by Hamilton, Perez and Russell. At this point, most of the grid were coming into the pits to change to the intermediates as Vettel’s lap times were very good. So much action on track, with many overtakes occurring, especially from the likes of Russell. For a large portion of the time Hamilton was all over the rear of Ocon’s Alpine, coming closer and closer to the overtake, but every single time Ocon managed to defend it, stopping Hamilton.
Nearing the end of the race, Pérez was all over the back of Leclerc but couldn't seem to complete the overtake. In the final lap, Verstappen was so far ahead of Leclerc, meaning everyone was looking at the battle for second. In the final lap toward the end of the lap Pérez and Leclerc were next to each other on track and Leclerc went off but regained his position in front of Pérez. The chequered flag flew but a time penalty given to Leclerc pushed him down to third. Verstappen won the Japanese Grand Prix with a 27.066s lead ahead of Pérez! Pérez was promoted to second following Leclerc’s penalty. Behind Leclerc, Ocon took fourth, Hamilton fifth, Vettel sixth, Alonso seventh, Russell eighth, Latifi ninth – his first points of the season – and Norris nabbed the last point in 10th. It was then announced that Max Verstappen had won the drivers championship, due to Charles being demoted to third and the race being awarded with full points.
It’s fair to say that Max Verstappen is a deserving champion and has had an impressive and dominant season. Despite the wait for this race, it was definitely one to watch when it got going again as it was filled with action all the way through.