By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Victory in the Japanese Grand Prix wasn’t much of a contest for Lewis Hamilton after Sebastian Vettel retired his Ferrari with a spark plug issue, but it nevertheless served up an abundance of fascinating statistics.
Chief of which is the incredible nature of Hamilton’s pole lap time and the time in which he finished the Grand Prix the next day. His lap record in qualifying on Saturday of 1:27.31 matches up exactly with the 1 hour 27 minutes and 31 seconds he took to finish the race! Lewis has also now set pole position at every circuit on the calendar.
The other major statistic of the race involves both Hamilton and Vettel. If either of them win the next race in Austin, which is highly likely, they will equal the combined win total of Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen. This is significant because both Schumacher and Hakkinen began their F1 careers in 1991, their combined total of 111 wins has been the highest any rookie class in Formula 1 has ever achieved until now. Hamilton and Vettel both began their careers in 2007, if we add in their classmate Heikki Kovalainen who has one victory to his name, the 2007 rookie class has officially surpassed the 1991 rookie class as the most successful in F1 history in terms of wins with 112. The combined 9 titles of Schumacher and Hakkinen however cannot be equaled until at least next year.
The biggest talking point however is just how dramatically the championship has swung in Hamilton’s favor. His last three races include two wins and one second place, whereas Vettel has two DNF’s and one fourth place to his name. Hamilton has scored a massive 68 points to Vettel’s 12. To put it in even better perspective, Stoffel Vandoorne in the mostly hapless McLaren has scored as many points as Vettel in the last three races.
Also for the third race weekend in a row, Ferrari had an issue with both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen’s cars.
Ferrari’s loss has been Red Bull’s gain, and the team had their first case of back to back podiums for both of their drivers for the first time since 2013!
Max Verstappen took his second podium in a row in what has been a trying season for the youngster. Daniel Ricciardo who has been almost as sublime as he was in 2016 racked up his ninth podium of the season and his third on the trot. The only drivers with more are Vettel and Valtteri Bottas with 10 and Hamilton with 11. Once again, in a vastly inferior car, Ricciardo is showing his class.
Kimi Raikkonen, who is winless in 2017 and only has four podiums to his name, actually had a great race considering his gearbox penalty and the opening lap battle with Nico Hulkenberg that forced him off track and back into the midfield battle. His progress forwards and great overtakes were somewhat reminiscent of his all-conquering 2005 Japanese Grand Prix victory which happened exactly 12 years ago, today. This time he was only able to come away with an underwhelming fifth place, but he can take some solace in the fact that his in race lap record of 1:31.540 was well clear of this year’s fastest lap of 1:33.144 by fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas.
Finally young Esteban Ocon, the only driver to finish every race this year other than Hamilton, has equaled Max Chilton’s record of 25 consecutive races classified as a finisher from the start of his career.