In the end, it was all too easy for Nico Rosberg. On an overcast, slightly damp day at Suzuka, Rosberg led the Japanese Grand Prix from start to finish whilst his team mate, Lewis Hamilton, laboured behind to finish a distant third.
The start was a snapshot of where these two Mercedes drivers currently are at the moment. Rosberg, rejuvenated since the Summer break, has barely put a foot wrong over the past four races and is enjoying his racing. Hamilton, on the other hand, looks a completely different driver and has been blighted by mistakes and poor luck. At Suzuka yesterday, his start off the line, painfully slow, suggested his mind isn't all there at the minute. Coupled with the various incidents with the press this weekend, and we're looking at a driver who is throwing away a championship title.
Lewis Hamilton is a better racing driver than Nico Rosberg; nobody would dispute that. However, Rosberg's mentality is far superior to that of Hamilton at the minute, and that is the crucial difference. Hamilton simply isn't dealing well with the bad luck and negative press he's getting at the moment.
Rosberg holds a 33 point in the Drivers' Championship table with only 100 left to grab this season, and so it'll take an almighty effort by Hamilton to turn this around. Rosberg can afford to let Hamilton win two of the remaining four races, providing he finishes runners-up or P3. Of course, a retirement to Rosberg, which isn't overly far-fetched given the pair have clashed this season (and reliability has been a slight issue for the team), could turn the whole thing on it's head, but at the moment it looks like Rosberg is driving towards his first Drivers title.
Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel put in a strong drive yesterday to put paid to any suggestion he's 'lost' the desire to be in F1 anymore. Having been hampered by a grid penalty, the German was sailing in the top 3 before Ferrari's infamous strategists got involved and decided they didn't want a podium finish. After calling in Vettel way too late for a stop, he emerged behind Hamillton and had surrendered his podium chances. One can imagine the rage was at boiling point within the four-time champ's helmet.
The race wasn't a classic by any means. The rain stayed away and the action was few and far between. This was only the seventh race in F1's history that passed without a single retirement. The most controversial part came in the final corners, when Max Verstappen invoked more debate over his defensive driving by appearing to block off Hamilton's last ditch overtake for P2. The young Dutchman retained his position whilst Hamilton had to abort the final chicane. He wasn't happy, nor were Mercedes, who later lodged and then retracted an appeal to the stewards. All in a day's racing in F1