Please note, this grid is very much subject to change. The FIA have stated they will publish the final grid prior to the race on Sunday morning, and until then we are all left to guess. The reason for the sudden disruption to the regular running is because of the unusually high number of penalties handed out before, during and after qualifying. So far, nine drivers have accepted some form of penalty and therefore had their grid position altered. Prior to qualifying commencing, Mark Webber elected to start from the pitlane (although the Australian didn’t have much choice in the matter) as his car was being rebuilt following an earlier practice shunt. Timo Glock, if well enough to race, will also be starting from the pitlane.
Should Toyota or the FIA decide Glock is not fit enough to take part in the Japanese Grand Prix – remember, the German is also recovering from a fever – and presuming test and reserve driver Kamui Kobayashi is allowed to stand-in, then he will undoubtedly start from the pitlane.
Just before qualifying started, Force India changed the gearbox in Vitantonio Liuzzi’s car, meaning the Italian would be demoted five places regardless of where he qualified. As it turned out, Liuzzi qualified plum-last anyway, and so will start at the back of the grid, albeit ahead of the two pitlane starters. For reference, drivers starting from the pitlane are not allowed to leave the pits until the final car has passed the pit exit, assuming all cars actually make it that far, that is.
During qualifying, a number of drivers were found to have not backed off enough while passing yellow flags. The waved yellow flag indicates that a driver must slow down as there is a problem ahead, which is usually a car that has spun off into the gravel. For obvious reasons, it isn’t wished upon any following driver that they too spin off and instead of gracefully coming to a stop in the gravel, they instead slam into a stationary car. Double waved yellows indicates that a driver has to slow right down and be prepared to stop. This is shown when marshals are on the track.
Given the high number of incidents during qualifying earlier, there were quite a lot of yellow flags being waved, and some drivers were deemed to have not heeded them as well as they should have. Adrian Sutil, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Sebastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso each fell foul of the rule book and their own telemetry, and each received a five grid place penalty.
After qualifying, McLaren decided to change Heikki Kovalainen’s gearbox, demoting the Finnish driver from his original P9 to a post-penalty P13.
You’ve already asked the question in your head, no doubt… how has Kovalainen received a five grid slot penalty, but only moved down the order by four places? This is because Formula One likes to make it a little bit more complicated, but it is actually quite fair. Penalties are always issued in the order that the offense was committed. Therefore, Mark Webber was initially moved to the pitlane and essentially, P20 before qualifying started. Vitantonio Liuzzi was second to receive the elbow, and therefore definitely starts at the back of the grid. Liuzzi can still opt to start from the pitlane, but all things considered, he is probably better off where he is.
The last of the penalties receivers, so far, is Heikki Kovalainen. Therefore, all the yellow-flag-ignorers have had their demotions applied before Heikki gets his. And therefore, in a hopefully ultimate tone, will start in P13. Unfortunately, we do not yet know the exact order the yellow-flag offenses were committed, and so we do not know the final grid order. This grid is likely to change and is just a guesstimate.
Interestingly, Autosport seem to be under the impression Mark Webber will start behind Timo Glock in the pitlane. Although from my understanding, Glock received his punishment after Webber (and boy, it was more punishment than I think he was bargaining for), and so therefore is penalised after Mark. Which would surely put Timo just behind the Red Bull driver in the pitlane.
Either way, here is my stab at the grid for the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix.
Japan 2009: The Grid
|1||Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing
|Jarno Trulli Toyota
|3||Lewis Hamilton McLaren
|Nick Heidfeld BMW
|5||Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
|Nico Rosberg Williams
|7||Robert Kubica BMW
|Adrian Sutil Force India
|9||Rubens Barrichello Brawn
|Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso
|11||Jenson Button Brawn
|Giancarlo Fisichella Ferrari
|13||Heikki Kovalainen McLaren
|Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso
|15||Kazuki Nakajima Williams
|Romain Grosjean Renault
|17||Fernando Alonso Renault
|Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India
Mark Webber Red Bull Racing
Timo Glock Toyota