Hello and welcome to ESPN's live coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix from Suzuka.


14:03: Rosberg takes his place on pole and waits patiently for the rest of the field to filter in. Here we go.


14:00: Rosberg leads the formation lap away and everyone gets away cleanly. Button the only man to take the medium compound for the start of this race - those outside of the top ten have the choice between compounds. That will mean he'll be a bit of a sitting duck early on but could play into his hands nicely with strategy later in the race.


13:59: Engines fire up, mechanics get off the track and we're about set for the formation lap.


13:55: Not much sign of grey clouds around the Suzuka circuit. Air temperature 27 degrees Celsius, track temperature 40 degrees.

The lack of running from Friday adds an amount of unpredictability to proceedings, with limited track time for all the teams through practice.


13:53: On row four, Ricciardo is well placed to throw that RB11 around some more, while Kvyat and Verstappen are in good positions for the sorts of battles through the field we've become accustomed to.


13:52: Keep your eyes firmly on that battle between Williams and Ferrari today. It won't necessarily be won or lost off the line but the quicker start out of Bottas and Vettel will be in pole position for a strong result. Of course, anyone jumping the Mercedes drivers off the line like we saw in Silverstone and Budapest would set up a brilliant race.

Race pace for Mercedes here should see them see off any challenge from behind but their rivals have the chance to make life very difficult early on.


13:50: The anthem is observed well and we now have 10 minutes until lights out.


13:46: The drivers are making their way to the front of the grid for the Japanese national anthem.


13:44: Strategy talk - here's what Pirelli say about this one: "The drivers were able to get the maximum performance out of both compounds at Suzuka, exploiting the performance advantage of the medium tyre around this fantastic circuit. Tomorrow we're expecting a two-stop strategy from most competitors provided it stays dry - which is a long way from absolutely guaranteed."

So basically, two-stop the optimum strategy here, but a three-stop could play into the hands of some.


13:41: If you missed yesterday, it was very much a return to business as usual with both Mercedes drivers on the front row by a fair margin. That race down to Turn 1 could be crucial in deciding who wins the race.


13:38: Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat starts from the pit lane today after Red Bull needed to build him a new car following his big crash at the end of Q3. The Russian will race with a new survival cell and all the engine components, while his gearbox has been changed.


13:37: Vettel has a little lock up at the hairpin.


13:34: The pit lane has opened and we have several cars coming through the pit lane for some practice starts. Likely we'll see the drivers complete a few laps through the pits before taking their place on the grid.

Lap 1

Good start from the Mercs who go into Turn 1 wheel to wheel and Hamilton takes the lead out of Turn 2! Rosberg has a dreadful exit and drops behind Vettel and Bottas. We had a Force India go wide at Turn 1 across the gravel and also have a slow-moving Massa who reports a problem.

Ricciardo also moving slowly. Seems he has a puncture and I think he made contact with Massa. Both men have a long way back to the pits.

Maldonado had a storming start and is up to seventh. Alonso in the top ten for McLaren, how long can he stay there?

Lap 2

Hamilton already leads by 1.6s after one lap. Rosberg is three seconds down in fourth and has it all to do.

Perez pits after his first lap adventure across the gravel and he has a right rear puncture as well. Ricciardo's tyre has come completely off and he has to crawl over the kerbs at the chicane to compensate.

Massa, with a front left puncture, isn't even through the 130R yet.

Ricciardo makes it into the pits and he gets a fresh set of boots. Massa pits just as Hamilton comes roaring past the final chicane. He's already a lap down...

Lap 3

Fastest lap from Hamilton, a 1:39.660, and his lead now over two seconds.

Three punctures on the first lap so at least one collision between drivers, though we are yet to see replays.

Verstappen has lost a position to Nasr. Vital for Rosberg to get past Bottas soon as Hamilton scampers clear out in front.

Button, on the hard tyre, still in 12th and is exchanging competitive lap times with those around him.

Replays show Massa had a problem off the line, started slowly, and that's where he clipped Ricciardo and gave the Red Bull a puncture. Perez then came through and clipped the Williams driver to get a puncture of his own.

Replay on board with Bottas shows him got a slow start and the view ahead shows Hamilton getting very aggressive with Rosberg through Turn 2, effectively running his team-mate off the road in true Hamilton style.

Ricciardo's on board shows him jump between Massa and Raikkonen but get clipped by Massa and sustain an immediate puncture. Oddly, it appeared to be tyre-on-tyre collision which caused the puncture rather than a front wing.

Lap 4

Alonso fends off fellow countryman Sainz through the final chicane.

Rosberg asks Mercedes if he can turn his engine up again.

Lap 5

Sainz gets a stab of DRS down the pit straight and executes a lovely move for ninth on his childhood hero at a challenging corner. Great stuff.

Replays show Ericsson and Verstappen going either side of Button's McLaren into Turn 1 - the McLaren car just had no power down that main straight compared to those two cars.

"Okay Lewis, we'll open this gap out, we need about ten seconds."

Lap 6

Right on cue, Hamilton sets a fastest lap of the race, a 1:39.140.

Rosberg, with new engine boost at his disposal, is now reeling Bottas in.

Its painful watching the McLaren-Honda drive in a straight line. The lack of battery power is the main thing hurting them and Ericsson eases past the two-time world champion into Turn 1.

Alonso on his lack of pace down the straights: "Embarrasing. Very embarrasing."

Lap 7

"Engine temps are high, causing damage," Mercedes tells Rosberg. He's already in penalty territory and that will be an order not to follow Bottas too closely down the straights.

Lap 8

Rosberg has dropped two seconds behind Bottas as he tries to cool that engine. Mercedes telling him to cool the engine for five laps. He's in a lot of trouble at the moment.

Hamilton's lead now 4.2s.

Button's pace on the hard tyre is still pretty good, he's lapping in the high 1:42s. Pirelli predicts the first pit stops to take place around lap 18 for those on a two-stop strategy.

Verstappen piling the pressure on Nasr but tells Toro Rosso: "I can't go fast!" Love watching this kid drive, though.

Lap 9

Verstappen has a think about a dive down the outside of Turn 1 but Nasr places his car well to make that option impossible for Verstappen.

Kvyat pits for new medium tyres and what should be a long second stint.

Verstappen dropping back into the clutches of Button as he's being held up behind Nasr's Sauber but he's much closer on this lap.

Lap 10

Hamilton starts lap ten and as he flies through Turn 1 only Vettel is visible in the distance. The gap now 5.2s. Vettel has 4.8s in hand over Bottas, while Rosberg is holding steady 2.2s behind the Williams driver waiting for permission to turn his engine back up.

Alonso pits much earlier than we would expect, taking on hard tyres. Verstappen also pits, so Toro Rosso reacting to the fact he couldn't get past Nasr and trying to undercut the Sauber through strategy.

Lap 11

Onboards with Raikkonen through 130R show the Finn making about three changes on his steering wheel through the quickest part of the track.

Ericsson and Nasr approaching 130R wheel-to-wheel and Nasr gets past his team-mate, and it looks like Button might have a go of his own but he peels into the pit lane as well. Nasr did as well so Ericsson actually lost nothing.

Replays show Ericsson having a spin at Spoon, where he went off during qualifying as well.

Verstappen has successfully undercut Nasr and Button, so a great job from Toro Rosso to pit the 17-year-old when he did. Nasr may have been held up by his team-mate on that crucial final sector.

Wow. Nasr goes side-by-side with Rossi's Manor through Degner 1.

Lap 12

Bottas pits from third! Lovely stuff, just as Rosberg is told to turn his engine up. Williams taking the fight to Mercedes with an aggressive call from the pit wall, something they have been guilty of shying away from at times this season.

How long can Rosberg stay out on these tyres?

Kvyat's early stop really spicing this one up with a lot of teams reacting earlier than they may have otherwise.

Lap 13

Rosberg is flying, lapping quicker than anyone else. But Bottas is flying on his out-lap as well so it's going to be touch-and-go for Mercedes to get Rosberg out in front of the Williams.

Hulkenberg dives past Ericsson into Turn 1. Lovely move for seventh.

Hamilton now leads by 7.5s.

Ericsson is really moving slowly and Grosjean passes him through Degner 1 with a lovely move.

Lap 14

Vettel pits from second, but unlike a lot of others he gets a fresh set of medium compounds. A 2.2s pit stop from Ferrari - mega job.

Kvyat up to 13th and hunting down Alonso, who is still struggling with Honda's battery issues. He seems to be having some issues on the radio, however, being given some instructions on an engine mode and telling Red Bull "I am, I am, it doesn't work".

Lap 15

Raikkonen pits, as does Sainz with an absolutely shredded set of tyres on.

Kimi easily re-claims fifth place with Hulkenberg in the distance.

Rosberg's gap over Bottas is currently around 13 seconds. "Box, box, box," comes the call from Mercedes. The hard compound looks decent out here.

Lap 16

Rosberg pits.... for a set of hard compound tyres. Bottas clears the Mercedes with ease! So Rosberg re-joins in fourth and still has it all to do to get anything from this decision - good early call from Williams.

However, crucially, Bottas is on mediums, Rosberg on hards, so he'll have the benefit of softer tyres for the final stint.

Race leader Hamilton will pit at the end of this lap.

Lap 17

Kvyat and Verstappen lining up behind Alonso's McLaren-Honda.

Hamilton takes on the mediums and re-joins with a huge gap. Everything fall into place perfectly for the championship leader.

Fastest lap from Sainz, who is on the hard compound tyre.

Rosberg is half a second behind Bottas already, he'll have a go with DRS this next lap. However, we've seen how difficult Bottas can be to pass.

"Push to attack Bottas to destroy his tyres," Tony Ross tells Rosberg.

Rosberg dives down the inside at the chicane and forces Bottas to brake later and that's a lovely move from the German. Catches Bottas sleeping slightly and forced him wide.

Verstappen hanging on across the kerbs at 130R as he has a go at Kvyat! Balls of steel that kid.

Lap 18

"Dany, this is a reliability issue, do not use the overtake button," comes the call to Kvyat. That will explain why he's currently unable to get past Kvyat.

Replays show Verstappen sizing Kvyat up around the outside of 130R. He did it at Blanchimont at Belgium and he's showing again he's absolutely fearless.

Lap 19

Fastest lap from Hamilton, a 1:38.121. His lead up to eight seconds.

Raikkonen sets a personal best and is now 1.5s down on fellow Finn Bottas.

So, when battling another car unable to use an extra stab of battery power, Alonso is able to hold Kvyat at bay. The Red Bull has mirrors full of Dutch rookie as well with Verstappen hounding him behind.

Lap 20

Hamilton's lead up to 9.2s.

Verstappen not close enough to replicate his attempt through 130R and can't catch Kvyat as both men get DRS down the pit straight. They are getting closer and closer to the gearbox of Alonso's McLaren.

Lap 21

Hamilton is flying. A 1:37.961 is the new fastest lap. By comparison, Vettel sets a personal best - a 1:39.315.

Vettel is slipping backwards towards Rosberg.

Kvyat has a think of a lunge at the final chicane but opts against it and Verstappen is released into 11th as Kvyat pits for hard compound tyres. Nothing else Red Bull could really do there.

Meanwhile, team-mate Ricciardo is all the way down in 17th after that first-lap puncture.

"This is good Kimi, good, let's have him," Ferrari tells Raikkonen. He's seven tenths down on Bottas and in DRS range.

Lap 22

The gap between Vettel and Rosberg now under two seconds. Raikkonen not close enough to pass Bottas with DRS into Turn 1 but that gap is falling and falling rapidly.

Vettel asks Ferrari if he should race Rosberg hard - they reply he needs to keep the gap at two seconds.

Vettel responds with two personal best sectors so the fight between the two Germans shaping up very nicely.

Lap 23

Barely anything in it in lap times between Vettel and Rosberg. The gap 1.8s.

Rossi the only man yet to pit, which is why he's ahead of Stevens currently.

Verstappen still behind Alonso but is well inside DRS range of the McLaren driver. Ericsson has a look down the inside of Button's McLaren but opts against it.

"No brakes in Turn 11!" Kvyat tells Red Bull. A split axle is given as the explanation from Red Bull. That pit stop earlier has moved him on to a three-stop strategy, by the way.

Rossi pits from 18th, so now everyone has pitted at least once.

Lap 24

Vettel responding well to the pressure from Rosberg as he almost matches the Mercedes driver once again. The gap 1.9s.

Perez dives down the outside of Nasr at Turn 1 for 14th place. Lovely stuff from the Mexican, courtesy of our friend Mr DRS.

Lap 25

Alonso driving the paint off that MP4-30 to keep Verstappen behind but the Toro Rosso driver is just three tenths down. He's still not close enough to make DRS work for him but at the moment Alonso doing a great job keeping him behind.

Kvyat runs wide at Spoon on those fairly new hard tyres. That will do them the world of good....

Lap 26

Vettel sets a personal best lap, the gap now up to 2.3.

"You're doing a strong job, very good job," Ferrari tells Vettel. Splitting the Mercs would be a wonderful result.

Verstappen gets alongside Alonso into Turn 1 with DRS and he makes the move stick around the outside. Patience the key for the Toro Rosso rookie after a long, long time sat looking at that McLaren-Honda gearbox.

In the battle for fourth Raikkonen locks up into the final chicane and loses a bit of time on Bottas.

"GP2 engine! GP2 engine! Agggh!" cries Alonso. Horrible to see such a talented driver so hamstrung by an awful power unit.

Lap 27

Alonso not a happy bunny in that car and can you blame him? The president of Honda is here this weekend, I imagine that message was aimed towards the Honda hierarchy.

Lap 28

Hamilton out in a world of his own, 13.7s clear. We've seen barely any of him on the FOM broadcast.

Sainz pits from ninth but its a very slow stop - he is getting a new front wing. It seemed Toro Rosso didn't initially realise he needed a new front wing as the mechanics scrambled around.

Ah, replays explains exactly why. Sainz clouted the bollard as he entered the pit lane and damaged his front wing.

"There's a lot of debris on the main straight," Perez reports. Might need a VSC as that piece of debris is right in the middle of the track, just off the racing line.

Lap 29

Raikkonen pits from fifth for a fresh set of boots - the orange striped hard tyre.

Replays show Kvyat passing Nasr down the inside of the chicane for 13th.

Alonso pits for the hard compound tyre. Both he and Raikkonen will hope to go to the end on those tyres, makes sense as the cars will be slightly easier on the tyres as they burn through their fuel.

Lap 30

Rosberg pits from third, Bottas pits from fourth.

Raikkonen jumps Bottas so the undercut works for Ferrari.

Hamilton complaining of big vibrations from his tyres.

Bottas immediately clears the Lotus of Grosjean and will want to hunt Raikkonen down again.

Lap 31

Vettel pits from second and this will be close..... Rosberg jumps him for second into Turn 1! Mercedes is back to first and second. The undercut works for one Ferrari but is used against the other one. They should have pitted Vettel earlier and they'll be kicking themselves.

Lap 32

Race leader Hamilton pits. He departs with new hard tyres.

Rosberg sets a fastest lap on the hard compound tyre, a 1:37.147, showing what the Mercedes drivers can do with some clean air. Hamilton's tyres should be up to that sort of speed before long.

Hulkenberg pits from eighth.

Nice battle developing between Sainz and Perez for ninth.

Lap 33

Hamilton's lead over Rosberg 9.2s. Vettel sets a personal best but is 1.5s off Rosberg's pace and looks good for the final spot on the podium only.

Grosjean and Maldonado sixth and seventh but still need to pit again.

Force India tells Perez he can use everything from the tyre - in layman's terms, "push lad, push!"

Lap 34

"Tell Charlie there is a lot of debris," Perez tells Force India, as Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:36.145.

Perez and Sainz lock up at the hairpin. The gap around half a second.

Replays show Grosjean having a huge lock up at the chicane and running across the green astroturf on the exit of that corner. The Frenchman pits. Will Stevens pits and drops to last.

Lap 35

Perez not able to shake Sainz currently. The gap has stayed the same for a few laps now but this one will come down to how much the Force India driver can get out of his car.

Hulkenberg, in the other Force India, sets a personal best lap which is almost similar to the leaders. He's done a great job after a poor qualifying yesterday. He has stopped twice, too, so that's his genuine position.

Lap 36

"Okay Lewis, everything looks under control, we just need to look out for flat spots so look after this set," is the call to race leader Hamilton. He has a nice 9.5s lead in his back pocket.

Will Stevens under investigation for speeding in the pit lane. At least that Manor is quick somewhere.

Some activity in the Williams garage and Massa pits from 18th - he's been nowhere since first-lap contact with Perez and Ricciardo.

Lap 37

Alonso, equipped with that "GP2 engine", has dropped to 12th.

Maldonado pits and that elevates Hulkenberg to sixth position. The Le Mans winner having a very good race.

Sainz finally gets past Perez as the Force India driver pits having used all the life on those tyres. Remember, Perez had to pit on the first lap after getting a puncture from contact with Massa so its been an uphill battle for the Mexican.

He re-joins just behind race leader Hamilton but crucially behind Button's McLaren, so that's 13th place for the Force India man.

Lap 38

FOM feed seems to be doing its best to not show either Mercedes.

Kvyat still complaining about his brakes.

"Who are these guys we're racing with?" Alonso says to McLaren.

There's a massive train of cars behind Button's McLaren as they sweep into Turn 1.

Lap 39

This is the battle for 13th. Button ahead of Perez, Kvyat, Ricciardo and Nasr. This one could get a little spicy.

Keep an eye on this one - Vettel has trimmed the gap down to 1.8s and Rosberg still needs to pass that almighty group of cars. But then again, so does Vettel. Blue flag boulevard out there currently.

Perez eases past Button through 130R to take 13th.

Lap 40

Will Stevens will get a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Rossi is just six tenths behind him so that could be enough to swing the in-house Manor battle.

It's all getting a bit tasty behind Button. Rosberg will be tentatively approaching this these cars.

Aggh, it's so painful to watch - Button loses places to Ricciardo and Massa through 130R. The 2009 world champion kept well out of the way but that's what happens when you have a 160BHP deficit, which is what Honda's power unit is lacking without ERS.

Lap 41

Rosberg has dropped to 12 seconds back thanks to that traffic, Vettel now to within a second of the Mercedes man.

Ericsson and Perez battling for 12th and the Force India man has a go at the hairpin but Ericsson does well to hold the line.

Lap 42

Rosberg now benefiting from the traffic as the gap climbs back to 1.7s.

Ericsson driving well to keep Perez behind him at the moment. Ricciardo and Massa lurking in the background as well.

Everyone from Alonso down has been lapped, so basically everyone out of the points.

Perez locks up again behind Ericsson, this time through Spoon.

Correction, its Kvyat, not Ricciardo, behind Perez. He's been told not to use the overtake button so actually getting past will be a difficult job.

Lap 43

"Ericsson is moving under braking," Perez tells Force India, wanting them to relay the message to Charlie Whiting.

Lap 44

Ericsson moves over to cover Perez on the run down to Turn 1, Perez goes wide and they go wheel-to-wheel through that corner and the Sauber driver holds on to the position. Ericsson left him plenty of room on the outside.

"I am losing the brakes, guys, again," Kvyat tells Red Bull. "On the last chicane, no brakes, again."

Ericsson takes a wide line through the hairpin. The FOM cameras fixated on this battle for 12th.

The timing screens show Verstappen has caught team-mate Sainz. I doubt Sainz will be giving Verstappen an inch after what happened in Singapore...

Lap 45

Perez has another look around the outside but Ericsson plants the car on the inside line and holds the position. Perez has to yield to second-placed Rosberg.

Replays show Stevens spinning on the exit of 130R and Rossi does very, very well not to clatter into the side of his team-mate as they were close.

Sainz locks up at the chicane and Verstappen dives down the inside to pass his team-mate for ninth. Sainz didn't put up too much of a fight there, as I thought he would have.

Lap 46

Vettel clearing the Ericsson/Perez battle which appears to have cost him a bit of time. Vettel has slightly fresher tyres so can he cut the gap to Rosberg in front?

Kvyat closes up to the battle ahead through the first sector, the Red Bull's strongest point of this circuit. Perez still having no joy passing the blue and yellow Sauber in front.

Lap 47

The FOM cameras still sticking with this battle for 12th.

Vettel has dropped to 2.3s behind Rosberg. The Mercedes race pace looks to be too good.

Perez gets so close to Ericsson through the hairpin and he's put himself into a great position to strike.

Lots of chatter on social media that Mercedes' lack of coverage from the FOM cameras is punishment for not supplying Red Bull with an engine. Only Twitter chatter, I'll add, but in case any of you want a new conspiracy theory to chew over.

Lap 48

Kvyat has another massive lock up into the hairpin.

Lap 49

Hamilton has 16.4s advantage with five laps left.

Sahil says: "The race just keeps getting boring, but thanks to your commentry its better."

We do our best.

"Right. It's going to get tasty ahead," Red Bull tells Ricciardo who, in all of this, has moved into the position behind Kvyat.

And while he gets that message Perez passes Ericsson on the inside of Spoon and makes the move stick on the run down to 130R. Kvyat has a think about passing Ericsson at the chicane...

Lap 50

...He doesn't but he gets a stab of DRS down the pit straight. He has a look into Turn 1 as Ericsson runs a little wide.

"Fight the Red Bulls!" Sauber tells Ericsson. He's all over the track at the moment.

Kvyat has a look into Degner 1... no joy. Red Bull struggling.

The battle subsides for a second as they let Raikkonen through with blue flags waving.

Replays show Ericsson running wide at Spoon, where he's looked pretty shaky all weekend, and Perez needed no second invitation.

As Ericsson moves over to let Raikkonen through Kvyat takes full advantage and takes the position through the chicane! Not a great place for Ericsson to let Raikkonen through and its cost him dearly.

Lap 51

Replays of that moment again show Ericsson slowing on the outside of the chicane and Kvyat does very well to follow the Ferrari's gearbox down the inside of the corner.

Sauber will be frustrated with that one. Let him through down the start/finish straight.

Lap 52

Hamilton leads by 17 seconds on the penultimate lap.

Honda will be crossing their fingers for a retirement from the top ten as Alonso is 11th. I doubt a point will calm the Spaniard down after the radio messages we've heard today.

Nasr trudges down the pit lane after retiring, the first DNF of the day.

Lap 53

Hamilton starts the final lap of the race and finally the FOM cameras show us the Mercedes man out in front.

Lewis Hamilton wins the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix and pumps his firsts with joy. A huge step in his quest for a third world championship.

Rosberg finishes second, Vettel third, in a repeat of last year's podium here. Raikkonen fourth after a good drive, Bottas fifth, Hulkenberg sixth. Grosjean, Maldonado, Verstappen and Sainz round out the points finishes. Everyone else is a lap down and won't complete this lap.

"Fantastic job guys!" Hamilton says. "Absolutely flawless again, as always. Great job."

"Not more that I could have done in that lap, sorry," Vettel tells Ferrari, referring to his in-lap which saw Rosberg undercut him. Was the difference between second and third.

This win, of course, moves Hamilton level on career victories with childhood idol Senna.

All smiles from Hamilton.

The look on Rosberg's face says it all, he looks like a man well and truly beaten for the world. championship. It will take something pretty seismic for Hamilton not to claim a third title from here.

Vettel's good form continues with third. The world championship looks a step too far but it looks like Rosberg's second position could be there for the taking if Ferrari can have a strong finish to the season.