Hamilton wins shortened Japanese GP to extend championship lead

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Lewis Hamilton has taken a huge step towards winning his second Formula 1 world championship by winning a rain-affected Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka today.

Despite an early red flag period due to torrential rain, an improvement in the conditions allowed the race to get underway, but it was eventually suspended for a second time with six laps remaining as conditions worsened and the light faded.

The aftermath of the race was overshadowed by the news that Jules Bianchi was unconscious and being transported to hospital following a collision with a recovery truck being used for Adrian Sutil’s Sauber.

The persistent threat of Typhoon Phanfone finally reared its head on Sunday at Suzuka, with the rain intensifying in the hour leading up to the race. This left the FIA no decision but to start the race under the safety car after the drivers reported poor visibility on their laps to the grid, with Sergio Perez even spinning off at the esses.

At 3pm local time, safety car driver Bernd Maylander led the grid away to start the race in the order that they qualified in. Through the spray, the drivers struggled to keep the cars on track, complaining of aquaplaning even at low speeds.

After just two laps behind the safety car, race control took the decision to bring out the red flag, ordering all of the drivers to return to the pits to wait for a break in the weather. After just ten minutes though, the stewards deemed the conditions to have improved enough to get the race restarted, with the safety car leading Rosberg and Hamilton away once again on lap three at Suzuka.

Fernando Alonso had been the centre of attention for much of the race weekend at Suzuka, but his race was over before it had properly started. Just three corners after restarting under the safety car, his Ferrari ground to a halt, forcing him to park up at the side of the track and retire from the race.

As the safety car continued to circulate, a number of drivers radioed over to their teams to say that the track was dry enough to restart the race, with some even saying that intermediate tires could be used, such was the improvement in conditions.

On lap 10, the race finally went green as the safety car peeled in, allowing the drivers to go racing. Hamilton immediately went on the attack, trying to find a way past Rosberg through the spray as Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado opted to make the switch to intermediate tires. Button immediately proved his wet-weather credentials, matching the pace of the Mercedes drivers immediately and sparking a flurry of activity in the pit lane as others switched for intermediates. Once all of the drivers had pitted, the Briton was running in third place.

Mercedes tried to keep its drivers out, but ultimately had to bail and brought Rosberg in at the end of lap 13. He came back out in second place as Hamilton stayed out for another lap. It proved to be a costly decision as he ran wide at Spoon, allowing Rosberg to retake the lead when the Briton pitted for intermediates.

Williams’ wet weather pace has been a cause for concern in 2014, and this immediately showed at Suzuka as both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo managed to slip past Felipe Massa for fifth place before duly passing Valtteri Bottas in fourth with some spectacular overtakes.

At the front, Rosberg and Hamilton renewed the rivalry that has made this year’s championship so enthralling. Through the spray, they continued to exchange fastest times and quicker sectors, with the gap stabilizing at around one second as the race hit half distance. With DRS now enabled though, Hamilton was cranking up the pressure on his teammate and championship rival, moving to within striking distance as they battled in the slippery conditions.

Rosberg began to find himself struggling for grip on his intermediate tires and complaining of oversteer, and it proved to be too much in his bid to keep Hamilton back. After getting a better exit out of the final corner, Hamilton used DRS to close on Rosberg before sweeping around the outside of the first corner through the spray with a sensational move.

With no answer to his teammate’s overtake, Rosberg dropped back from Hamilton and continued to struggle on his intermediate tires, but Mercedes looked to keep both of its drivers out to save them a pit stop at the end of the race.

In the fight for third, Jenson Button’s hopes took a hit when he had to come in for a change of steering wheel, dropping him behind Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, with the four-time world champion flying after stopping for a fresh set of tires.

Vettel’s pace forced Mercedes to look over its shoulder, bringing Rosberg in for a second stop on lap 34. The Mercedes driver emerged in third place behind Hamilton and Ricciardo, who were both yet to make their second pit stop. Both eventually came in within a lap of each other, with Hamilton retaining the lead as Ricciardo dropped down to fifth place behind Rosberg, Vettel and Button.

As the race entered the final few stages, the rain began to fall heavily once again, prompting a number of drivers to make the switch to the full wet tires. After losing a position to Ricciardo, Button made the switch given that he had nothing to lose, coming back out in fifth place.

Behind the safety car, Vettel took to the pits to allow Daniel Ricciardo up into third place as the train of cars bunched up with seven laps to go. However, race control took the decision to red flag the race for a second time, bringing the drivers back to the pit lane in their running order.

The result was soon declared, giving Lewis Hamilton his first win at Suzuka and allowing the Briton to extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship. With Rosberg in second place though, the gap stands at just ten points heading to the Russian Grand Prix next weekend.

Despite his late stop, Vettel stayed in third place as the red flag saw the result taken at the lap before he stopped. However, in fourth, Ricciardo will still be happy after a strong driver. Jenson Button finished fifth for McLaren ahead of the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Jean-Eric Vergne came home in eighth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.

However, all of the paddock’s thoughts and prayers lie with Bianchi and Marussia at this time. The FIA has confirmed that he is on his way to hospital and unconscious, but no more details have been revealed at this time.

After eating just one chip, NHRA drag racer says: ‘I seriously thought I was going to die’

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Editor’s note: Due to rain, Sunday’s final eliminations of the NHRA Carolina Nationals have been postponed to Monday morning at 10 a.m. ET. In the meantime, check out this rather unusual tale:

Remember the old Lays Potato Chips commercial from back in the 1980s that bragged “No one can eat just one”?

Well, ask NHRA Pro Stock driver Alex Laughlin and a few members of his team, and they’ll tell you they learned a very valuable lesson that there indeed IS a chip that you can only eat one of.

According to NHRA’s National Dragster, Laughlin and Elite Motorsports crew members Chase Freeman, Kelly Murphy and Brian Cunningham took part Friday night in the Paqui One Chip Challenge.

If you haven’t heard of the Challenge, Paqui Chips has produced a tortilla chip that the company boldly claims is the hottest chip ever made anywhere in the world. The secret is the “Carolina Reaper” pepper, considered the hottest chili pepper in the world, with a rating of 1.9 million Scoville units, according to PuckerButt Pepper Company.

How hot is 1.9 million Scoville units? Let’s put it this way: the Devil might even have a hard time taking this kind of heat. By comparison, a Jalapeno pepper only reaches 10,000 units on the Scoville rating. 

So while they were enjoying some downtime Friday night after the first two rounds of qualifying for the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina (suburban Charlotte), Laughlin and Co. paid $30 for one chip – you read that right, $30 for one chip, it’s THAT hot – and thought they could take the heat.

They thought wrong.

“This is the hottest chip in the world,” Laughlin said on an Instagram post that documented the entire experience, adding a warning, “What to expect: Mouth on fire, short-term loss of speech, impaired vision from tears, extreme profanity — or death.”

View this post on Instagram

Never. Ever. Again.

A post shared by Alex Laughlin (@alexlaughlin40) on

 

Laughlin’s post also includes several reader comments that Laughlin and his crew should have had milk on hand instead of water to try and cool things down because milk has a natural antidote to cool your mouth down after eating hot food.

Sunday morning, with his mouth and throat still a bit sore, Laughlin recalled the red-hot episode to National Dragster’s Kevin McKenna:

Never again. Never. Ever. Ever,” Laughlin told McKenna. “It was definitely not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

One of our guys showed me a You Tube video and it looked like it wasn’t going to be too bad. I like spicy food and it’s usually never a problem. I’ve been to those places with hot wings where you have to sign a waiver before you eat them and that’s never been a problem.

But this? This is on a whole different level. I thought it might last ten minutes. Fourteen hours later, I was still in bad shape. I woke up at 3 a.m. and Googled “internal bleeding.” I seriously thought I was going to die. We all did.”

So if the heat from the chip was off the hotness Richter scale, where did the stunt rank on Laughlin’s own personal Richter scale?

I’ve done some dumb things, but this is right up there.

Well, I really didn’t think it would be that bad,” Laughlin told McKenna with a shrug. “I mean, it’s just one tortilla chip. Like I said, I can usually eat stuff that other people won’t eat, but I had no idea what I was in for.

“I’ve done some dumb things, but this is right up there.”

If you’re up for another challenge in the future that involves eating hot food, Alex, here’s a suggestion: Even though it’s a few years old now, maybe you should try the Ice Bucket Challenge (but fill it with milk) to cool down quick. Just a thought.

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