It was a day to forget for Scuderia Toro Rosso in Suzuka, but a day we will probably still remember for a while, as our former driver Sebastian Vettel became the youngest-ever double world champion today, after steering his Red Bull to third place at the end of 53 fascinating laps of this great track.
Our Sébastien with an “é” made a great start from 15th on the grid to lie 11th as they crossed the stripe at the end of the opening lap, but ten laps later, his race was over when the right front wheel came off his TR6 shortly after he had made a pit stop. It seems the wheel had not been put on properly, which is something we have seen happen to the greats of this sport. We will analyse why it happened, without wasting time with a blame game. At least Jaime saw the chequered flag in a race in which he never recovered from dropping a few places at the start. Our Catalan driver never seemed to have the pace to get past cars that were definitely slower than his, so he had a frustrating afternoon, classified 15th at the flag after Pastor Maldonaldo robbed him of a place in the closing stages.
Up at the front of the field, Jenson Button, who surely deserves some sort of “non-Red Bull World Champion” title for the way he has driven this season, took a convincing win with a patient drive and a clever strategy from his McLaren pit wall crew. Fernando Alonso put in a great drive from sixth on the grid, pushing hard all the way to take second, for a while looking as though the Ferrari man might actually win, until McLaren told Button he no longer had to save fuel in the closing stages. Vettel took third and the title and his team-mate Mark Webber was behind him in fourth spot. Hamilton and Massa yet again had a coming together and as usual it was the Brazilian who came off worse, with a damaged car, while the Englishman was able to continue to take fifth, followed by Schumacher in the Mercedes and the aforementioned Massa. The remaining points went to Perez, Petrov and Rosberg.
Do we have anything to smile about on Sunday night in Suzuka? Well, we could remind ourselves that while we ran a few updates on Friday, we did see some improvement in car performance, even if we sidelined them on reliability grounds for the rest of the weekend. But we can try and optimise them again in a few days time, as we tackle the next challenge, a short hop across the sea to South Korea for Sunday’s sixteenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship.