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GP Week : Issue 170
Sauber ran a new front-wing on the C31, completing a package of upgrades first introduced in Singapore. Despite looking uncomfortable at the start of qualifying, Kobayashi lined-up third for his home race and Perez fifth after Button’s grid penalty. Kobayashi had his heart set on a podium in front of his home crowd and that determination helped him see off a charging Button in the latter stages of the race to secure a crucial third place. Perez’s race ended in the Hairpin gravel trap on lap 19 after he got out of shape under braking in Hamilton’s turbulent air. It was a relatively straight-forward Japanese Grand Prix for Kovalainen. The Finn held his own in the battle for 11th against Vergne’s Toro Rosso during the early stages of the race. Tyre wear was minimal and Kovalainen and he eventually took the flag in 15th. Petrov span off the track as the chequered flag fell on FP2 when his Caterham’s rear-wing failed as he hurtled into turn one. The Russian was blighted by a KERS issue during the race and a drive-through for ignoring blue flags meant 17th was the best he could achieve. Toro Rosso took a point away from Suzuka thanks to Ricciardo who secured yet another top-ten finish. The Australian saw off a late challenge from Mercedes’ Schumacher, who surged his way up the order from the back row of the grid. Vergne started 19th after being demoted three places for impeding Senna at the final chicane during Q1. He rued being bogged down behind Kovalainen during the opening stint of the race – the Caterham driver used his Option tyres to defend against the Frenchman on Primes – and 13th was all he could muster. Both De la Rosa and Karthikeyan continued evaluating a new floor while also setting up the F112 during Friday and reported positive results. De la Rosa qualified on 20th but lost ground when he encountered problems during the first round of stops. The Spaniard was able to capitalise on others’ misfortune to take the flag in 18th. Karthikeyan was ahead of his team-mate for a while until he was forced to retire during his second stop on lap 34 for “safety reasons.” Maldonado drove a solid race at Suzuka. The Venezuelan was unable to challenge for the top ten in qualifying but benefited from grid penalties for Hulkenburg and Schumacher to start 12th. He then finished the grand prix in eighth to score more valuable points for Williams. Senna was knocked out in Q1 after being compromised by Vergne – theToro Rosso driver was subsequently penalised. A drive-through for tapping Rosberg on lap one and an unscheduled stop for a new front wing meant Senna never threatened the points. But a ballsy move on Grosjean at 130R gave him 14th. Marussia spent Friday gathering data on a host of new aerodynamic upgrades and were relatively pleased with their developments, which included a new floor. However, Glock complained of a “difficult” car on the hard compound tyre. In spite of that, the German was in touch with Kovalainen in the final stint and managed to finish ahead of Petrov in the second Caterham. An engine failure for Pic forced him into retirement 39 laps in. Sauber Caterham Toro Rosso HRT Williams Marussia TEAM-BY-TEAM: JAPANESE GRAND PRIX 37 GPWEEK.com // 37 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> SUZUKA