2014 Japanese GP: Lewis Hamilton wins at Suzuka after wet race stopped early
Marussia's Jules Bianchi suffers 'severe head injury' after crashing into recovery truck; Frenchman unconscious when taken to hospital
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 05/10/14 2:08pm
Lewis Hamilton won a heavily rain-hit Japanese GP but the Suzuka race was stopped nine laps early following a serious accident involving Marussia's Jules Bianchi.
Hamilton had built up a comfortable lead ahead of team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg after passing the German earlier in the race when the Safety Car was called for the second time of day on lap 44.
A recovery truck was already attending to Adrian Sutil's Sauber after the German had crashed into the barriers at Turn Eight when Bianchi lost control of his Marussia and went off at the same point of the track, the Frenchman travelling across the run off area and hitting the tractor.
The FIA has confirmed that Bianchi was unconscious after the accident and transported to a local hospital by road ambulance. He has since undergone surgery for 'serious' head injuries. After the operation the 25-year-old will be moved into intensive care and monitored by doctors at the Mie General Hospital.
Bianchi’s accident understandably immediately overshadowed the result of the race as a sombre air swiftly descended at Suzuka as the paddock awaited for news of the young Frenchman’s condition with muted celebrations following on the podium.
“Obviously it’s a real anti-climax to hear that one of the drivers is seriously injured,” a sombre Hamilton told Sky Sports News HQ afterwards. “I was going through that sector and I could see there was a tractor lifting away one car, it was until when it was red-flagged that I could see there was another car in the mix there. I’m just hoping for him and hoping he will be okay.”
For the record, the Briton’s first career victory at the sixth attempt at Suzuka increases his advantage over Rosberg in the championship fight by ten points with four rounds remaining.
Rosberg finished second with Ferrari-bound Sebastian Vettel third for Red Bull on countback, the German promoted to the final podium position ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo having pitted under the Safety Car for fresh tyres.
With his future in the sport under threat amid the prospect of Fernando Alonso arriving at Ferrari for 2015, Jenson Button claimed a fine – and timely – fifth place, although the McLaren driver could have finished on the podium had a slow second pitstop not intervened.
With the first nine laps of the race having taken place under Safety Car conditions – either side of a 20-minute stoppage as conditions briefly worsened – Button displayed his famous feel for changeable conditions by immediately pitting for intermediate tyres.
The gamble paid off handsomely as the Briton vaulted into third place but a problematic second pitstop, when McLaren had to change the steering wheel on his MP4-29, dropped him back behind Vettel and he was then overtaken by Ricciardo at the hairpin as the Red Bulls revelled on intermediate tyres.
Having locked out the second row of the grid in the dry, Williams again struggled for grip in the wet and Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa slipped to sixth and seventh by the truncated end of the race.
Force India pair Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez sandwiched Jean-Eric Vergne at the foot of the points positions on a day embattled Ferrari’s season hit a new low as their record run of 81 points-scoring races – which stretched all the way back to the 2010 German GP – ended with a 12th place and a retirement.
While a slow pitstop dropped Kimi Raikkonen out of points contention, Fernando Alonso didn’t even make it that far as an electronics problem halted his F14 T even before the racing action had started for real.