Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2015

Rosberg eyes chance to trim Hamilton’s points lead

2015 Japanese Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Through the Suzuka’s fearsomely fast turn one, twisting through the Esses and climbing the hill at Dunlop, there was almost nothing to separate the two Mercedes drivers: Lewis Hamilton was a mere one-thousandth of a second quicker than Nico Rosberg on their best qualifying runs.

Over the rest of the lap Rosberg edged it back by hundredths. Hamilton’s sole Q3 run was untidy, and that proved decisive when Daniil Kvyat’s crash brought proceedings to a premature end. Rosberg, therefore, starts from pole position for only the second time this year.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015
Rosberg converted his only prior pole this year into a win
Twelve months ago at Suzuka Rosberg also started from pole position, but was passed on the track by Hamilton in the rain-hit race. But with dry weather and sunny spells forecast for Sunday (after overnight rain) Hamilton won’t be able to rely on his wet weather pace and will likely find it much harder to make a pass on track. Rosberg, naturally, will get first call on Mercedes’ pit stops if he is leading, potentially denying Hamilton another route to first place.

An ideal scenario for Rosberg would be if one of their rivals – perhaps the fleet Williams of Valtteri Bottas – could insert itself between them at the start. That was what happened on the only other occasion Rosberg took pole this year, in Spain, where Sebastian Vettel kept Hamilton behind for two-thirds of the race.

If that doesn’t happen, we could be in for an absorbing battle between the two championship leaders. Hamilton’s Singapore retirement means he can no longer rely on finishing second to Rosberg at every round to clinch the title, so he has an added incentive to put one over his team mate – not that he needs it.

How the race will play out once the drivers settle into their race stints is trickier to read than usual due to the lack of any dry running on Friday. The teams did manage to do some long runs in today’s final practice session (see below) which indicate tyre performance will degrade fairly rapidly.

Teams are expected to prefer two-stop strategies, according to Pirelli, beginning with two stints on the medium tyre which has a pace advantage of around eight tenths of a second per laps. However the lack of dry running on Friday is potentially a concern for F1’s tyre supplier too.

Pirelli has been strictly limiting the pressure and camber settings team may use following the blow-outs seen in Belgium. At Spa the medium and soft tyres were used, as at Monza; this weekend the medium tyre is being used again along with the hard. At Monza Pirelli’s initial conservative limits were revised downwards following evaluations on Friday, but the rain-hit sessions in Japan afforded them no opportunity to do the same.

Teams may therefore find themselves boxed into using more conservative tyre pressures than they would like, so we could see a few deviations from the norm in terms of driver and team performance in the race.

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Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’33.0151’32.632 (-0.383)1’32.584 (-0.048)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’32.8441’32.789 (-0.055)1’32.660 (-0.129)
3Valtteri BottasWilliams1’34.3261’33.416 (-0.910)1’33.024 (-0.392)
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’34.4311’33.844 (-0.587)1’33.245 (-0.599)
5Felipe MassaWilliams1’34.7441’33.377 (-1.367)1’33.337 (-0.040)
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’34.1711’33.361 (-0.810)1’33.347 (-0.014)
7Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’34.3991’34.153 (-0.246)1’33.497 (-0.656)
8Romain GrosjeanLotus1’34.3981’34.278 (-0.120)1’33.967 (-0.311)
9Sergio PerezForce India1’35.0011’34.174 (-0.827)
10Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’34.6461’34.201 (-0.445)
11Nico HulkenbergForce India1’35.3281’34.390 (-0.938)
12Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’34.8731’34.453 (-0.420)
13Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’34.7961’34.497 (-0.299)
14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’35.4671’34.785 (-0.682)
15Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’34.522
16Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’35.664
17Marcus EricssonSauber1’35.673
18Felipe NasrSauber1’35.760
19Will StevensManor1’38.783
20Alexander RossiManor1’47.114

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg33.145 (2)41.458 (1)17.734 (1)
Lewis Hamilton33.144 (1)41.528 (2)17.842 (2)
Valtteri Bottas33.351 (3)41.658 (3)17.989 (7)
Sebastian Vettel33.580 (6)41.736 (4)17.915 (4)
Felipe Massa33.433 (5)41.770 (6)17.912 (3)
Kimi Raikkonen33.657 (8)41.755 (5)17.918 (5)
Daniel Ricciardo33.428 (4)41.832 (7)18.098 (11)
Romain Grosjean33.826 (9)42.146 (8)17.979 (6)
Sergio Perez33.892 (11)42.214 (11)18.068 (9)
Daniil Kvyat33.652 (7)42.187 (9)18.199 (14)
Nico Hulkenberg34.133 (15)42.202 (10)18.055 (8)
Carlos Sainz Jnr33.837 (10)42.331 (13)18.167 (12)
Pastor Maldonado33.988 (12)42.383 (14)18.094 (10)
Fernando Alonso34.100 (13)42.471 (15)18.214 (15)
Max Verstappen34.114 (14)42.219 (12)18.189 (13)
Jenson Button34.345 (16)42.636 (16)18.332 (16)
Marcus Ericsson34.455 (18)42.866 (18)18.352 (17)
Felipe Nasr34.393 (17)42.653 (17)18.513 (18)
Will Stevens35.882 (19)44.127 (19)18.639 (19)
Alexander Rossi35.887 (20)45.948 (20)20.779 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes315.5 (196.0)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes315.1 (195.8)-0.4
3Romain GrosjeanLotusMercedes311.5 (193.6)-4.0
4Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes310.8 (193.1)-4.7
5Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes309.6 (192.4)-5.9
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari309.2 (192.1)-6.3
7Pastor MaldonadoLotusMercedes309.1 (192.1)-6.4
8Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari308.8 (191.9)-6.7
9Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes308.5 (191.7)-7.0
10Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes308.3 (191.6)-7.2
11Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari303.2 (188.4)-12.3
12Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda299.4 (186.0)-16.1
13Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda298.8 (185.7)-16.7
14Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault298.7 (185.6)-16.8
15Felipe NasrSauberFerrari298.5 (185.5)-17.0
16Max VerstappenToro RossoRenault298.1 (185.2)-17.4
17Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoRenault297.6 (184.9)-17.9
18Daniil KvyatRed BullRenault297.1 (184.6)-18.4
19Will StevensManorFerrari296.8 (184.4)-18.7
20Alexander RossiManorFerrari272.4 (169.3)-43.1

Longest stint comparison – final practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times during their longest unbroken stint. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, click names to highlight, right-click to reset:

Over to you

Will Rosberg exploit this chance to take points off Hamilton? Who will emerge as ‘best of the rest’ from the chasing pack? And are points possible for the out-of-position Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat?

Share your views on the Japanese Grand Prix in the comments.

2015 Japanese Grand Prix

Browse all 2015 Japanese Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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15 comments on “Rosberg eyes chance to trim Hamilton’s points lead”

  1. So, Mercedes could have taken pole with just hard tires. Has that happened in the last 5 years? I believe softer tire had always outperformed harder and car superiority was not enough.

    1. Ridiculuos really….

  2. At Spa the hard and medium tyres were used, as at Monza and also this weekend.

    It was medium and soft Pirellis at Spa this year

  3. Isn’t it weird that Williams are faster than Ferrari and Red Bull in sector 1?

    1. Not that weird, they’ve been great in Silverstone too (also here in 2014) in the last two years, their mid-high speed aero is pretty good, Ferrari not so much.

      1. Hmm I thought lack of downforce in general might have some effect on s curves etc?

        1. The problem of the Williams is mechanical grip. Their aerodynamics are quite good, that’s why they are pretty quick here.

  4. I hope Rosberg will lose a fierce battle against Lewis, LH tyre management will enable him to stay longer on his tyres he will be able to this if he does not jump him on the start :
    1/ Attack with fresher tyres in the end of the race.
    2/ recover the gap by staying longer on the track since it is difficult to overtake on the dry.

  5. Merc’s gone with the wind. Ferrari and Williams should be interesting.

  6. It’s about time F1 managed to find a decent tyre so the drivers can race each other instead of racing their tyres.

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      27th September 2015, 3:49

      It’s not about the tyres as they’re not the limiting factor. It’s the turbulent air that the car behind cannot handle that is the limiting factor. The tyres do play a small role, but the main thing is just the cars being too sensitive to ‘dirty’ air.

  7. Speed trap is interesting, all the Hondas faster than all the Renaults !

  8. well its obvious what will happen
    Rosberg will get a great start and pull away lap by lap and take a grand slam.
    while Hamilton will as usal have no answers what so ever.

    1. Man. Grow up, will you…

  9. Nico Rosberg is boo boo, rubbish start. Imagine Vettel or Alonso in that other Merc.

Comments are closed.