The AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan began on Thursday at the Twin Ring Motegi as Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez was joined by Yamaha Factory Racing duo Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, Avintia Blusens’ Hiroshi Aoyama, Tuenti HP 40’s Moto2 title contender Pol Espargaro and Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami in the Thursday pre-race press conference.
Nico Hulkenberg put in another storming drive for Sauber in Japan, running fourth for much of the race before dropping to sixth after Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen passed him in the closing laps.
Hulkenberg, who has now finished fifth, ninth, fourth and sixth in the last four races, said he wasn’t too upset to lose places so close to the flag.
“We shouldn’t be too disappointed,” he said. “I think we did everything we could, and my tires were just giving up a little bit. We were fighting obviously all through the race. Just after the stop I was surprised that I was able to pull away a bit from Fernando, but he was also trying to save his tires a bit for the end.
Fernando Alonso kept the World Championship battle alive by finishing fourth in Japan, although the Spanish driver admits that he has no chance to beat Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso admitted that he was surprised to finish as high as he did at Suzuka.
“Yeah, a little bit because obviously we had some strong people in front of us, and we also had some threat from behind, like Kimi that was starting ninth,” he said. “But the race went good. From the start we recovered some positions, and then we’ve been a little bit lucky with some Mercedes problems, both having to go back. I think it was a good race in terms of points for the constructors’ championship. In terms of pace, we didn’t have the pace to be on the podium, but after those three we’ve been very competitive in the race.”
After leading for much of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean admitted he was starting to think about his maiden Formula One victory.
Grosjean was bidding to become the first French driver to win a Grand Prix since Olivier Panis at Monaco in 1996. He appeared to be on his way until he was passed by Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel on the 41st lap of Sunday’s race at Suzuka.
Vettel won the race for his fourth win in the past five races in Japan and his ninth win of the season. Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber then passed Grosjean on the penultimate lap to leave the Lotus driver with a third-place finish.
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday but will have to wait to seal a fourth-straight Formula One title as nearest rival Fernando Alonso finished fourth.
Vettel surged into the lead on the 41st lap and led a Red Bull one-two ahead of teammate Mark Webber by 7.1 seconds. Webber, who started from pole position, passed Lotus’ Romain Grosjean on the penultimate lap. Grosjean led much of the race but could not take his maiden F1 victory and finished third.
It was Vettel’s fourth win in the past five races at Suzuka and his ninth win of the season.