Jules Bianchi was airlifted to hospital at the close of an action-packed Japanese grand prix on Sunday won by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, after crashing into a JCB recovering the stricken Sauber of Adrian Sutil; who had himself crashed just seven laps from the chequered flag.
The event overshadowed the race that had begun under safety car conditions some two hours before. Controversy has already kicked off after it emerged the medical helicopter was unable to fly due to the rain, despite regulations stipulating racing should not take place without an airlift medical option being available. Bianchi was consequently transferred via ambulance – apparently unconscious and ‘seriously injured’ – to hospital.
Out on track Hamilton overcame team-mate Nico Rosberg on lap 32 to take the lead of the still-sodden race after an initial red flag stoppage, when Rosberg struggled with oversteer and balance problems on his new intermediate tyres. It was a lead he was never to relinquish as he exploited the astonishing performance advantage of the Mercedes over its rivals to extend his lead in the world title.
The battle for 3rd proved much more absorbing. Jenson Button vaulted from 7th up to 3rd by making the first stop for intermediate tyres as the race re-started, putting himself into a contest with the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. The move forced everyone else to pit for fresh tyres, but Button’s initial optimism was dented at the next round of stops when a steering wheel change had to take place, slowing him enough to allow Vettel into 3rd and give Ricciardo the chance to pass for 4th. That eventually happened with only eleven laps left, but only after the McLaren and Red Bull had engaged in some thrilling wheel-to-wheel combat. When Button stopped for fresh wet tyres it seemed he was set for another masterstroke that would elevate him back into 3rd, but it wasn’t to be.
As the heavens opened Sutil’s crash brought out the yellow flags, leading to Bianchi’s incident that quite rightly meant the red flag and the end of the race.
It was also a dark day for Ferrari with Fernando Alonso retiring before racing even got underway and Kimi Raikkonen struggling to 12th. Williams too suffered in the wet conditions but still managed points in 6th and 7th.
More to come on Jules Bianchi’s condition soon.
CLASSIFICATION – Race – Japanese GP – 5th October 2014
|3||Vettel||DEU||Red Bull||15 Pts|
|4||Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull||12 Pts|
|8||Hulkenberg||DEU||Force India||4 Pts|
|9||Vergne||FRA||Toro Rosso||2 Pts|
|10||Perez||MEX||Force India||1 Pt|