With a number of changes in the top ten, it was no change at the top of the order with Nico Rosberg ready to start the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Penalties for Jenson Button starting at the back of the grid, and both the Ferrari drivers – with Kimi Raikkonen taking a new gearbox and Kimi Raikkonen taking a three place penalty for the actions he took at the Malaysian Grand Prix last week.
As usual, everyone in the top ten will be starting on the soft tyre, the softest of the range this weekend. The Williams drivers starting on the Medium tyre, with Palmer also on the Medium with Ericsson. Palmer, Button and Magnussen would start on the hard tyre.
Rosberg was on the grid early, which was part of a slow warm up lap from Mercedes. With the grid forming slowly, the lights went out with a great start from Rosberg. It was a really bad start for Lewis Hamilton, who fell back behind Hulkenberg in 8th.
Vettel was the driver on the move though, first overtaking Perez and then making his way onto the back of Verstappen in second. Hamilton was finding it more tough though, trying to do down the inside of Hulkenberg in 130R, but did get ahead down the start/finish straight.
On the Medium tyre, Williams had lost ground and Bottas was in 13th, overtaken by both Toro Rosso drivers who were on the soft tyre.
At the front Nico Rosberg was sixteen seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton by lap 8, with the British driver now in seventh after overtaking Hulkenberg. Hamilton was closing the gap on Raikkonen, in part helped by the Finn going wide at Degner, in which he brushed the gravel.
Fernando Alonso was the first to pit on lap 10, with the McLaren driver taking the hard tyre. Verstappen was also saying at the front of the field that he wanted to pit, with Hamilton also struggling with tyres. Verstappen pitted a lap later, with teammate Ricciardo following immediately. Grosjean and Kvyat also followed the Red Bull drivers. Ricciardo had traffic on his outlap, with him coming out behind Ericsson’s Sauber. He overtook into the hairpin, with the Sauber driver giving him enough room down the inside. The second Haas came in on lap 12 with Hulkenberg.
At the front, the Battle between Perez, Raikkonen and Hamilton continued. Rosberg pitted on lap 13, with Vettel, Raikkonen and Perez also stopping. He got out ahead of Verstappen who got quite close to the Mercedes given the undercut. Ricciardo was ahead of Perez and Raikkonen, but that train was stuck behind Palmer’s Renault. Ricciardo tried to make a move into Spoon, but went wide. A lap later and he made the move stick.
Hamilton pitted on lap 14 for a set of the hard tyre. He came out in front of the Raikkonen and Perez battle, three wide into the first corner. Hamilton was immediately on the back of Ricciardo overtaking even before the 130R, but it was Vettel who was the fastest on the circuit, closing on Verstappen with Hamilton closing the gap to the leaders. Williams were going long in the first stint, with Hamilton first overtaking Massa and then Bottas to take fourth place, which would then give him clear air. The gap then increased to over 19 seconds to his teammate. Raikkonen also overtook Massa for seventh.
Ricciardo overtook Bottas, with Perez overtaking Massa. Williams were falling backwards with those getting ahead on newer tyres. At the front, Vettel was still closing in on Verstappen for second, with Hamilton in fourth in clear air.
Button pitted from the back of the field on lap 20, one of the drivers who started on the hard tyre. Hulkenberg got ahead of Bottas on lap 21, with both Force India drivers getting ahead of both Williams drivers by this point in the race. Williams looking like they would be one stopping. Verstappen said over the radio he was struggling with the rear, with the Dutchman keeping the gap to Vettel behind.
Grosjean, who had dropped outside the top ten, overtook a non-stopping Palmer on lap 25, as Kvyat pitted on the same lap. He was at the time battling with Fernando Alonso, who was immediately on the back of Felipe Nasr’s Sauber.
The one stoppers were pitting thick and fast, with Felipe Massa pitting on lap 25, swapping his set of Medium tyres of the hard at near half distance. Alonso got ahead of Nasr after the Brazilian got a flat spot heading into the hairpin., who also let Sainz through in the process. Both Palmer and Magnussen pitted on the same lap, with Renault also doing the one-stop strategy.
Raikkonen pitted on lap 27, taking a set of the hard tyre for Ferrari. It was a slow stop for Bottas at Williams, while Sainz was battling with Alonso, the youngster coming off worse at the first corner.
Raikkonen was really fast on his outlap, which forced Red Bull to react with Verstappen. The Ferrari driver also set the fastest lap of the race, while Hulkenberg also stopped for the second time and was clear of the Williams drivers. Massa and Bottas were getting through the traffic of Sainz quickly.
Rosberg pitted on lap 30, another set of the hard compound tyres for the Mercedes, with Verstappen falling further behind him. Perez pitted for the medium tyres with 23 laps of the race remaining, with Raikkonen still setting fastest lap after fastest lap. Vettel was aggrieved that a Manor meant that he lost over a second through the first fast complex of corners.
Ricciardo pitted on lap 33, where there was a problem on the right front. The stop time was five seconds, and put on the hard tyre which brought him out behind Raikkonen. Hamilton also pitted with Mercedes also putting the hard tyres on, coming out just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who had stopped much earlier.
It was Vettel’s turn on lap 35, with a set of the soft compound tyres on the Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo was going quickly after his pitstop, although Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen were all very close together on the track. Despite being on the hard tyre, Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race, Vettel stuck to the rear of his car as well.
With Vettel pushing Hamilton, the pair of them were closing in on Verstappen. Hamilton was going really quickly compared the leaders, a second a lap faster with fifteen laps of the race remaining, with Vettel on the soft tyres keeping to the back of the Mercedes. The next lap brought lots of traffic fro Hamilton, only closing a couple of tenths on the leaders.
Hamilton was really closing on Verstappen with the gap down to just about a second on lap 45 of the 53 lap race. The pair were still closing in on Rosberg at the front who was still cruising around keeping a gap of around five seconds at the front. having closed in, it was then difficult for Lewis to do anything about the Red Bull.
Further back, and Grosjean was still catching the Williams drivers for the final point, with Rosberg catching the group at the end of the race to lap them. Hamilton with just three laps remaining was falling back from Verstappen with the gap to Rosberg remaining the same.
Hamilton attacked Verstappen on the penultimate lap into the final chicane, although there was a tough defence from the Red Bull driver. The move meant Hamilton was a long way behind Verstappen on the final lap, taking the fizz out of the final lap.
It was Rosberg though who would take the win from Verstappen and Hamilton.