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GP Week : Issue 66
and Prix, Suzuka Considering that the Force Indias had seriously struggled with downforce in Singapore, their staggeringly quick times in the wet practice sessions were very interesting indeed. Unfortunately a tyre pressure cock-up in qualifying left Liuzzi plum last on the grid, but Sutil flew into fourth. He was demoted to eighth when he was penalised for his Q2 yellow flag faux-pas. In the race, Liuzzi again looked racey and pulled off some great overtaking moves to make his way up to 14th. Sutil, too, was on the move but an over-defensive Kovalainen put paid to his hard work by tonking him out at the chicane. Sutil nearly had déjà-vu when he spun himself back the right way and almost collected a BMW, but missed the white car to finish 13th, under a second ahead of Liuzzi. Interestingly, it was Nakajima who appeared to be on pace in the wet practice sessions than his team-leader Rosberg, and the home advantage was clearly having an e ect on the Japanese driver. However he couldn't quite get it done in qualifying. Even with the penalties, he would still start from way back in 15th. Rosberg sat seventh on the grid and with a real shot at points. Seventh was pretty much where Rosberg found himself for much of the race until a bit of luck with a confused message on his steering wheel bought him some time on his Safety Car in-lap and he nipped up into fifth. No penalty was applied and he kept his position, and we think rightly. Nakajima lost out to Liuzzi in one of the only the on- track battles and finished 15th, nowhere near where he'd hoped. Like Toyota, this weekend was a game of two halves for Red Bull. That the cars were quick was never in any doubt, but when Mark Webber crashed in nal practice it was also clear that they were fragile. The crash itself looked fairly innocuous but when the team announced it would need an entire rebuild, it was clear his weekend shot was over as he'd be starting in the pit- lane from last position. In the end he was forced to make about 100 pit-stops and finished two laps down. His team-mate Sebastian Vettel, however, showed why he is still a championship challenger with one of the best weekend performances of his career. He was unbeatable in Suzuka, and that is all there is to it. His emotions on winning at a circuit he clearly loves were obvious. A very expensive weekend for Toro Rosso all in all, as the team's cars seemed to nd a magnet which drew them into Suzuka's many barriers. Admittedly never an easy circuit, Suzuka was made all the more di cult for the squad's two rookies by the rain on Friday negating any real experience of the track. Come qualifying that lack of experience was all too telling as first Alguersuari, and then Buemi, ran off the road. The duo lined up 12th and 13th. Buemi got a shocking start when his clutch developed a serious issue which forced him into retirement after 11 laps. Alguesuari didn't do a bad job, but a huge shunt forced an early end to his race after 43 laps. While photos of the curbs at 130R show he ran far too wide, the team and he suspect something may have broken. Another weekend and another stunning eighth place for Jenson Button to celebrate ... not exactly the stu of legends, is it? Button is struggling right now, and it is hard to know how much of that is down to the car and how much is down to him. Barrichello was again the faster of the two throughout the weekend, and only missed out on the extra point that would have handed BrawnGP the constructors' championship due to Rosberg's ultimately fortuitous pit-stop late in the race. With two races to go it seems a certainty that BrawnGP will be crowned teams' champions, but whether either of their drivers will hoist the championship crown at the season's end depends on them and the team picking up their game. Brazil is next and it should suit the car. If it doesn't, this championship is wide open. F1 JAPAN >> 31