Nico Rosberg: “I had to avoid a collision” at start
Rosberg was quick to pay tribute to his engineers, but also spoke of his relief after Daniil Kvyat walked away from a spectacular crash, which saw the Russian roll his auto over during qualifying.
The Brazilian racer has won twice at Suzuka circuit in 1988 and 1993. He now leads team-mate Rosberg, winner of three races this season, by 48 points in the drivers’ standings with five races to go.
Rosberg dropped down to fourth after being passed by Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel second and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas third.
With the Japanese Grand Prix being so close, Mercedes don’t have much time to work out the issues that occurred in Singapore and there are rumours that Jenson Button may choose to end his Formula One career.
Hamilton had the racing line, and he held it, pushing Rosberg wider and wider, until the German ran out of room, and was given a stark choice: back off or make contact with his teammate’s auto.
Hamilton attributed his driving to understeer during the opening exchanges, by saying “I didn’t feel it was particularly that close”. Even though Vettel’s stop was four tenths of a second faster than Rosberg’s, the Mercedes driver’s lap on fresh rubber was enough to get him just ahead of Vettel, and that’s how it stayed. “I imagine Nico ran out of road but that is what happens when you’re on the outside”.
“I’m not a teary guy, but I’m full of joy and happiness today”, Hamilton said. They’re doing a great job first of all, both of them. “Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel came third“.
As he pondered on how he did not finish a grand prix race for the first time in nearly two seasons last week at Singapore, F1’s Lewis Hamilton quickly erased that fear as the Briton and current world champion did what he normally does… dominate a race from start to finish.
Kimi Raikkonen came home fourth for Ferrari, while his countryman Valterri Bottas was fifth.
“You have to keep believing otherwise I guess it’s pointless rocking up and trying to fight”. Rounding out the top ten was fellow Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz.
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso finished 11th after describing McLaren performance during the race as “very embarrassing”.
The feuding team mates got into hot water with team officials last year after they collided in Belgium and the shunt forced Hamilton to retire.
“Happy birthday, mum!” Rosberg said in German after securing only his second pole of the year.
Romain Grosjean, whose Lotus team are to appear at the High Court on Monday over an unpaid tax bill, was seventh with his team-mate Pastor Maldonado eighth.