In a sub-plot perhaps typical of Hollywood, Lewis Hamilton and the man due to replace him at McLaren next season had
to find themselves on the same piece of tarmac not once, but twice, during the Japanese Grand Prix.
With Hamilton, who last week confirmed that he was finally cutting the apron strings tying him to Woking and heading for Mercedes, not enjoying the best of form at Suzuka, and Sauber again on the pace, it was perhaps inevitable that the Briton would be mixing it with the Swiss cars, but for Sergio Perez to be the one in closest proximity was perhaps inevitable following the confirmation of his move to McLaren at season's end.
Their first encounter of a race dominated by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel came on lap six when Perez lunged up the inside at the hairpin, in a move reminiscent of Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi's favourite passes. Crossed up, the Mexican managed to hook a wheel over the kerb, which helped him turn his car inside Hamilton's and claim sixth spot, but their positions were reversed during the first round of pit-stops, when Hamilton again emerged ahead.
Undeterred, and no doubt buoyed by his earlier success, Perez tried to repeat the move on lap 19 but, having found the McLaren moving to cover the inside line, thought he'd chance his arm around the outside. Unfortunately, his closing speed, combined with the comparative lack of grip, saw the Sauber slide off and into the gravel, ending Perez's race on the spot.
"I thought that he was going to do a crazy manoeuvre, which he did," Hamilton said of the first attempt, before telling Reuters
reporters that he knew what to expect second time around.
"When he was behind me [again], I saw it coming, so I moved a little to the inside, thinking that he was going to go up the inside, so he couldn't get by," he explained, "Then he just flew down the outside of me. Very interesting..."
Hamilton went on to finish fifth, one place behind McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, and trimmed points leader Fernando Alonso's points advantage after the Spaniard was eliminated at the first corner of the race, but admitted later that it will be hard for anyone
to deny race winner Vettel a third straight title [see separate story
] after Red Bull exhibited a fresh turn of pace at Suzuka, thought to stem from the introduction of its own 'double DRS' system.
Hamilton heads to this weekend's Korean Grand Prix 42 points adrift of Alonso, with five races and 125 points on offer. Vettel, meanwhile, capitalised on Alonso's early exit to reduce a 29-point deficit to just four points....