Nico Rosberg has won the Japanese Grand Prix 2016 after leading from start to finish, Max Verstappen claimed his second P2 finish while Hamilton rounded off the podium in 3rd. Mercedes on the other hand claimed the 2016 Formula 1 Constructors championship – third in a row since 2014. This was Rosberg’s first win in Japan, and the ninth of the season. He now leads the championship by 33 points with four races left and 100 points on offer.

Japanese Grand Prix 2016 Results

1. Rosberg – Mercedes
2. Verstappen – Red Bull
3. Hamilton – Mercedes
4. Vettel – Ferrari
5. Raikkonen – Ferrari
6. Ricciardo – Red Bull
7. Perez – Force India
8. Hulkenberg – Force India
9. Massa – Williams
10. Bottas – Williams

This was Rosberg’s 23rd win in F1, he now ranks 12th sharing the same position with Nelson Piquet. All drivers finished the race, the 7th time this has happened in the 952 world championship races.

Rosberg was the man to beat during the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying yesterday, the German claimed his third consecutive pole at Suzuka amidst heavy pressure from the rivals. Given the tight nature of Suzuka, the top drivers were all separated by merely a second. For Hamilton, his quest for a Suzuka pole will have to wait till next season, the Brit started from the front row after qualifying second. Vettel qualified fourth but had a 3-place grid penalty to serve due to his crash at Malaysia. Raikkonen on the other hand qualified third but dropped to eighth on the starting grid due to a gearbox change.

The Japanese Grand Prix is one of the most legendary races on the Formula 1 calendar, mainly held as one of the final races and thus a major title deciding ground. A total of 13 World Champions have been crowned over the last 30 Japanese Grands Prix, with races being held at Fuji Speedway and Suzuka Circuit. The latter has been labeled as one of the most difficult Grand Prix on the calendar, having hosted the event for over 20 years. A few switches have been made back to Fuji Speedway but Suzuka has hosted every race since 2009. Michael Schumacher has the most wins here at six, followed by Vettel with four and Hamilton with three. McLaren leads the manufacturer’s category with nine wins followed closely by Ferrari with seven wins.

The top drivers started on soft tires, Bottas, Massa, Palmer and Ericsson all started on mediums while Magnussen, Nasr and Button were on hards.

Hamilton had a very slow start falling back to 8th, Rosberg managed to hold on to the lead. After lap 1/53, Rosberg led from Verstappen, Perez, Vettel, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Grosjean.

Vettel was on a roll and did not waste time passing Perez on turn 1, no DRS was needed. Replay showed both Hamilton and Button had a very slow getaway, the World Champion had complained earlier about the dump track but it appeared as if he bogged out.

At the front Rosberg’s lead continued to grow, and after four laps, the German held a 4.6s lead over Verstappen. Raikkonen ran wide at Degner allowing Hamilton to close in, a bit of luck for the Ferrari during that incident. “Other cars are struggling with tyres, you’ve just seen Raikkonen go off as well. We need to keep these tyres for as long as possible,” Mercedes told Hamilton after Raikkonen’s incident.

Both Red Bulls made their first stops at the end of lap 10 picking up hard tires, Verstappen had radioed in earlier to report his struggle with the soft tires. Grosjean and Kvyat also stopped, with the Haas switching from soft to hard while the Toro Rosso acquired fresh softs.

Rosberg, Vettel, Perez and Raikkonen all pitted at the same time leaving Hamilton in the lead after 12 laps. Rosberg rejoined on hard tires to retake the lead after his teammate stopped too. The Brit rejoined in in seventh place on hard tires, the same compound that Rosberg and the Ferraris were on.

On lap 15/53 Hamilton managed to pass Ricciardo and Massa at the same time to take P5. Not long after that, the World Champion passed Bottas for fourth in what was turning out to be a successful strategy for Mercedes.

After 17 laps, Rosberg led the race from Verstappen, Vettel, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Perez, Hulkenberg and Massa in the top ten.

“See ya later,” Hulkenberg said over the radio as he passed Bottas for 8th. Meanwhile, Verstappen was already complaining about his tire life again, the Dutch was running second after 25 laps. Massa then made his first stop and picked up new hard tires, a one stop for the Williams driver who retires after this season.

Raikkonen made his second stop on lap 25 as Ferrari prepared to undercut the Red Bull of Ricciardo. In the meantime, Rosberg’s lead over Verstappen had grown to a massive 8s, but the Red Bull stopped for a fresh set of hards promoting Hamilton to third. Rosberg also stopped for new hards leaving the lead to Vettel who was only 6s ahead of Hamilton in second.

Ricciardo made his second stop on lap 33 but the pit crew struggled with the right front tire, he lost 3s. Hamilton came in the following lap and picked up new hards, rejoining in fourth just ahead of Raikkonen. Vettel also stopped but picked up soft tires instead, he rejoined in fourth behind Hamilton. With the soft tires, Vettel had a clear sprint advantage over the Mercedes, the gap between the two was only 0.4s.

“He’s pulling away,” said Vettel who sounded a little beat by Hamilton’s pace. “Keep your head down,” the team encouraged him.

After 40 laps, the top ten comprised of Rosberg, Verstappen, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Perez, Hulkenberg, Massa and Bottas. Hamilton had managed to get away from Vettel, the gap was over 2s, which meant he was closer to Verstappen, their gap was now 2.5s.

Hamilton almost passed Verstappen on the penultimate lap but the Red Bull moved under braking which ultimately forced the Mercedes to run into the escape road. Rosberg went ahead to win the Japanese Grand Prix 2016, leading Verstappen and Hamilton. For Mercedes, they clinched the 2016 Constructors’ championship title.

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