What did we learn? Well, we learned that if Hamilton (Mercedes) is A Grade, the rest of the drivers are B+ at best.
The script for the second half of the season was for a titanic battle between Hamilton and Vettel (Ferrari). Both vying for the elusive 5th World Drivers Championship. A final shootout in Abu Dhabi would have the fans gasping for the 2019 season. That was the Liberty Media Hollywood version. Unfortunately, the titanic battle has become a damp squib, with Ferrari getting the script all wrong. The battle between silver and red has degenerated to the stage where Mercedes can do no wrong, with Hamilton at the front, while Ferrari cannot even decide on which tyres to use. Couple that with elementary driving mistakes by Vettel and the result is already evident. Vettel has something akin to a snowball’s hope in hell of challenging Hamilton in the last four races. They can start engraving the trophy.
Bottas (Mercedes), like a good little puppy dog, kept the pack away from the anointed one and will be second, as he was in Japan, and who ever remembers which driver came second in any competition.
School bully is the next position in the sit-com and Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) fits perfectly. He has learned the tactic of placing his car on the track where you either give way or crash. Being 21 years old he is automatically 10 foot tall and bullet proof. However, someone will find how to synthesize kryptonite. Max Vercrashen will have a short life at the top.
Everybody’s hero, jovial Aussie Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) has found that he is no longer the crowd’s favorite, or even Red Bull’s. Destined to go to Renno 2019, he has seen his position usurped by the Dutchman, and while he can still show them all how to overtake (15th to 4th in Japan), if you’re not in the A Team you’re not in the game.
Fifth in Japan was Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), having been cast aside by Ferrari (again) and headed for Sauber next season. Kimi is famous for his one-liners delivered in monotone from the cockpit, my favorite being, “Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing.”
And the pretender to the throne, Sebastian Vettel? Sixth was not in the script. Lost out in a wheel to wheel dice with Verstappen resulting in a spin, and had to come from 19th. Ferrari should look at keeping Raikkonen and abandoning Vettel.
There was the usual grid bingo, with demerits which are ridiculous. If the engine coughs, move back five places. If the gearbox won’t select, move back another three spots. As a competitor, it is enough of a penalty that you have to revert to your “second” engine, gearbox or whatever. The contest doesn’t need all these artificial methods to bunch up the field.
Results from Suzuka
1 L Hamilton Mercedes
2 V Bottas Mercedes
3 M Verstappen Red Bull
4 D Ricciardo Red Bull
5 K Raikkonen Ferrari
6 S Vettel Ferrari
7 S Perez Force India
8 R Grosjean Haas
9 E Ocon Force India
10 C Sainz Renault – 52 laps
11 P Gasly Toro Rosso – 52 laps
12 M Ericsson Sauber – 52 laps
13 B Hartley Toro Rosso – 52 laps
14 F Alonso McLaren – 52 laps
15 S Vandoorne McLaren – 52 laps
16 S Sirotkin Williams – 52 laps
17 L Stroll Williams – 52 laps
C Leclerc Sauber Accident damage – 38 laps
N Hulkenberg Renault Rear end issue – 37 laps
K Magnussen Haas Accident damage – 8 laps
The next GP is in America October 21. This is telecast in Thailand at 1.10 a.m. I think I’ll miss it.