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On Track

Driver Debrief: Sebastian and Lance's eventful Japanese GP

Sebastian picked up a top-six finish in an eventful Japanese Grand Prix, while Lance's epic first lap ultimately concluded in a finish just outside of the points.

Japanese GP

Rain arrived shortly before the race start, and the cars all opted to start the race on the Intermediate tyre due to their durability in these conditions compared to the Full Wet tyre.

However, a very heavy crash for Carlos Sainz at Turn 12 on the opening lap prompted an early red flag.

As the three-hour window to get the Grand Prix finished continued to tick down, the rain intensified and then stayed in the area.

However, it was eventually possible to restart the race to a time limit as the three-hour window approached. Due to it being a race to time and not concluded early via a red flag, full points were awarded.

Sebastian

Sebastian had a good launch from ninth on the grid and picked up a position off the line.

Unfortunately, as he approached Turn One, he touched wheels with Fernando Alonso while unsighted in the spray and was forced into a spin.

He dropped to the back of the pack, but by the time the Safety Car was called he was up into 16th due to incidents for Sainz, Alexander Albon, Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu.

After the lengthy delay, Sebastian restarted from 16th, and opted to pit at the end of the Safety Car period from Full Wets to Inters.

Race report by Aramco

Sixth at Suzuka for Sebastian

In a very wet race at Suzuka, Sebastian went from the back to finish sixth after early contact, while Lance produced a great first lap and a strong charge late on to finish in 12th position.

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Japanese GP
Japanese GP

Crucially, he jumped Nicholas Latifi, who had opted to do the same thing, with swift work from the pitcrew and he started carving several seconds per lap out of the runners in front on the Full Wet tyres.

By the time the rest of the field had pitted, he had worked his way up into sixth position and was closing in on Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton – who were battling over fourth.

Sebastian kept the gap to the cars in front at around five seconds, while also defending from Alonso. Towards the end of the race, Alonso chose to pit for another set of Intermediates and started to gobble into the time gap.

Alonso was able to come back up the order and was right with Sebastian on the final lap.

The pair raced right until the chequered flag, with Sebastian able to hold on by just 11 thousandths of a second to sixth place, and eight points for him and the team.

It has been a dream weekend – for us to score eight points is a mega result. I feel sad to have driven my last race here.
Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel

"Obviously, it was a shame that we only got half a race – but at least the people in the grandstands got to see some racing.

"We were waiting in the dry for the restart, but I imagine it must have been rather unpleasant to sit outside in the wet for a couple of hours.

"I got a very good start – but then I collided with another car at the first corner. I really could not see anything – I am not sure, maybe I aquaplaned or I made a mistake – but I lost all the positions I had gained and ended up last.

"When the race restarted, we made a good decision to box immediately for Inters. It was a great stop, then I pushed like crazy and managed to undercut most of the field.

"It has been a dream weekend – for us to score eight points is a mega result. I feel sad to have driven my last race here, but it has been a wonderful weekend, and to all the fantastic Suzuka fans I can only say, ‘thank you'."

Lance

Lance qualified in 19th but started from 18th due to Gasly starting from the pitlane. From his grid spot, he had a brilliant start.

By immediately moving to the right, alongside the pitwall, Lance found grip where no other driver could and picked up several positions before reaching the first corner.

He went on to collect more places when Sebastian was pitched into a spin at Turn One, Sainz crashed out and Albon retired.

In all, Lance picked up a staggering seven places on the opening lap before the Safety Car and subsequent red flag were called.

When the race resumed, with every driver now on Full Wet tyres, Lance got by Kevin Magnussen early on, before pitting at the end of lap seven for Inters.

I had noticed a strip of drier asphalt and decided to go for it at the start. It worked out really well – it was a really fun first lap.
Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll

He returned to the track in 15th position but picked up positions when other drivers who had stayed out longer then made their stops, and sat in 12th position for much of the race.

On the fringe of the top 10, the team opted to make another stop for fresh Inters – Lance being one of the first drivers to do so.

He returned to the track in 16th and started to make up lots of ground.

Eventually, he climbed back up to 12th, and was fewer than four seconds off finishing in the top 10 by the time the race was concluded.

"Before we got going, I had noticed a strip of drier asphalt and decided to go for it at the start. It worked out really well – it was a really fun first lap.

"There was not much grip on those early laps and very little visibility; it was a tough call for Race Control, but it was clear that the race had to be stopped when Carlos [Sainz] crashed.

"I do not think the visibility was much better when we restarted, but it did get better towards the end.

"All in all, it was an eventful race, the fans were incredible with the weather, and now we look ahead to Austin and Mexico City."

Qualifying report by Aramco

Top 10 for Sebastian in qualifying at Suzuka

Practice report by Aramco

Plenty of wet running on Friday in Japan