Williams Martini Racing: Japanese Grand Prix
Felipe Massa finished 10th and Lance Stroll retired from the Japanese Grand Prix, his first since Bahrain 13 races ago.
Both drivers had strong starts, Felipe defending his eighth place in the opening corners, while Lance overtook four cars on the first lap to move up to P11, the safety car was called out early when Sainz spun off and, shortly after the restart, Lance ran off the track and suspected a puncture, so pitted for a new set of tyres which dropped him down the order.
Felipe made his only pitstop on lap 18 from eighth, and earned the place back again when his rivals made their stops. But he suffered damage to his car during the race and struggled for pace, dropping to P10 on lap 43 when Magnussen passed him at Turn 2 and Grosjean also slipped through.
Lance was running 14th in the closing stages when he suffered a failure on the front right and was forced to retire. Felipe remains 11th in the Drivers’ Championship, with Lance 12th. The team also holds position in fifth in the Constructors’ Championship with 66 points.
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: We had two very good starts, with Felipe retaining eighth and Lance doing very well to move up to 11th on the first lap. But very early on, Lance suspected he had a puncture, so we stopped to put on another set of tyres. This committed him to a two-stop race, which he executed with good pace, but very near the end he had a car failure which caused a puncture in the Esses and threw him off the circuit. On Felipe’s side, he was going fine on a one-stop strategy but took a lot of damage on his car during the race. As he got towards half way, the pace degraded considerably. He lost two places from eighth, but was able to defend 10th and a single point from Alonso in a very tense finish. It was a tough race for both drivers. Even though it was only one point, it feels like one of the more difficult points we’ve scored, so well done to the team, and to Felipe and Lance, for all they’ve done this weekend.
Felipe Massa: It was a very difficult race for us today. I was struggling with the degradation of the tyres with both sets. The other cars had better pace than us today and it’s difficult to understand why. At the end, I lost positions to both Haas in a move that was a little bit tricky, but they were much quicker than me anyway. If they didn’t pass me there, I think they could have passed me afterwards with the pace difference. I’m not happy with the pace today, but looking at the problems we had, we still finished in front of Renault and Toro Rosso, and one point is better than nothing.
Lance Stroll: I had a really good start and was up to 11th, but then I made a mistake in Turn 11, hit Magnussen and I think something went on the car. I had to box really early as I thought something was broken or I had a puncture. Then I had a long stint on the soft tyre, working my way back up, but we were out of the points at that stage. I then felt there was something a bit strange at the front end, and then had a puncture. It is always surprising when you get a puncture, as it is very much unexpected and unfortunate at the same time. I was very close to Ricciardo when I came back on the circuit, but I managed to brake without anything happening. Now we just have to turn the page, as it wasn't a lucky weekend for me, and look forward to Austin.