The Japanese Grand Prix was the latest race run, as Season Two of this little adventure enters its twilight phase. Coming to this race, I was 29 points clear of Jensen Button, with only 30 points available. Owing to being guaranteed a better record on count-back (thanks to more wins), Button needed me to score no points in the final three races, and he had to win them all.
Suzuka is a track that is deceptive. It looks fast, and certainly has fast sections, but grip is more important, especially through the high-speed sequence of corners that are turns 1 to 8. The aerodynamic properties of the car need to be set for downforce, to keep the car on the road through this sequence.
In practice I did simulation runs on hard tyres, trying to see if I could get through the race on two stops rather than the three stops that I usually favour. Japan is a 53-lap race, and I determined that I could stretch the hard tyres to 20 laps. Two stints on the hard compound and one on the soft would see me cut a stop out, thus saving time.
Normally in qualifying I end up not being especially quick in Q1, but I do enough to get through to Q2. This time around, I topped the time sheets in each session, so it was yet another pole.
Confession time. When I ran the race, on lap three I ran wide at turn 1 and lost my front wing. I was prepared to accept this – it was my error (I carried too much speed into the corner). However, upon rejoining the track a driver ahead went wide and triggered yellow flags (meaning no overtaking). I couldn’t control my car (an F1 car without a front wing is a very different beast to one with a front wing), and accidentally slid past another car – for which I earned a drive-thru penalty.
Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared to accept this – I felt it was overly harsh.
Upon restarting the race, things went smoothly. I lost out to Button at the start of the race but after a couple of laps was back in front and was able to build up a decent lead, so much so that I pitted on lap 21 and out back out in the lead (albeit narrowly). By the time I had pitted again on lap 41, I was very in the clear, and on the soft tyres I was able to pump in some quick laps. In fact, my advantage was so much that I lapped the entire field – passing Webber and Trulli on the final lap!
I don’t think I’ve managed to do anything like that on this game before. Regardless, it was merely icing on the cake. I had my second championship, this time with two races to spare!