Hamilton wins Japanese GP marred by Bianchi crash
SUZUKA, Japan (AP): Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won a rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix yesterday, claiming his third straight Formula One victory in a race marred by a serious crash.
With Hamilton leading teammate Nico Rosberg, a red flag ended the race on the 44th of 53 laps, due to a crash involving Marussia driver Jules Bianchi. With heavy rain and visibility poor, race officials elected not to restart, and Hamilton was declared the winner. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel finished third.
Hamilton widened his lead over Rosberg in the race for the drivers' championship, but the race celebrations were subdued as Bianchi was taken to hospital and is in critical condition.
"Our first thoughts go to Jules," Hamilton said. "It overshadows everything else when one of our colleagues is injured, and we are praying for him. Next to this, the race result doesn't seem significant at all."
Hamilton now leads Rosberg by 10 points with four races remaining.
The rain also disrupted the early stages of the race, with the first nine laps run behind the safety car. After the rain abated and the safety car came off, Hamilton did everything possible to gain on his teammate, who started from pole.
Rosberg held the lead until the 29th lap, when Hamilton got a better run on to the pit straight and blasted around the outside of Rosberg into Turn One to take the lead for good.
The race was stopped after 44 laps, after Bianchi crashed at Turn Seven. He was taken to hospital and is undergoing surgery after a scan revealed a severe head injury, FIA spokesman Matteo Bonciani said.
Yesterday's race started at 3 p.m. local time. An approaching typhoon led to suggestions that the race should be pushed up to an earlier start, but it wasn't.
At the time of the crash, rain was falling steadily, and it was getting dark. Several drivers complained of not being able to see properly.
At the start of the race, the rain became heavier, and the drivers could only complete two cautious laps behind the safety car.
After a 10-minute delay, the race restarted behind the safety car, but Fernando Alonso's Ferrari ground to a halt with a technical problem. The Spaniard returned to his garage and threw up his arms in frustration.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who is a distant third in the drivers' standings, finished fourth ahead of McLaren driver Jenson Button.