In what would go down as one of the most disappointing races for the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team this season, Lewis Hamilton had to retire after seven laps and Nico Rosberg settled for eighth place at the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton qualified for P3 on the starting grid, and actually got off to a good start off the five red lights, only to see all that work come undone after contact with Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull heading into turn 1. Contact with Vettel’s front wing led to a puncture in the right rear tire, and that was basically it for Hamilton as running for nearly an entire lap with the ruptured tire also caused some damage to the car’s underside.
The Brit cleared the Red Bulls of any blame, citing the incident as one of those that simply happen in various circumstances in F1 racing and that being able to go beyond seven laps was just not meant to be for him.
Rosberg was actually in a good position to challenge for a top-five finish but his chances faded after a drive-through penalty was assessed unto him following an unsafe release on his first pit stop. The German driver lost some 20 seconds with the drive-through, considerable ground for anyone trying to make up some good points in a race.
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport chief Toto Wolff called the race a ‘character-building afternoon’ for the F1 squad. Team principal Ross Brawn was more generous, describing Suzuka as a ‘tough’ affair and also said that some investigation into the pit stop snafu would be in order.
Despite the disappointing event, Brawn added that finishing second in the constructors race should still be an attainable goal for the team. Of course, with only four races left, that’s definitely going to be a challenge for this struggling team. It’s easy to talk about the potential of the car (though it’s a bit late into the season for that, isn’t it?), but the team hasn’t shown consistency in actual racing performance.