After the delights of a podium finish and a big points haul in Singapore just a week ago, there was huge disappointment in Suzuka as both Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo hit problems in the Japanese Grand Prix, with the duo eventually finishing in P13 and P15 respectively.
Daniel's difficulties began almost as soon as the lights went out at the race start. The Aussie made a good getaway from seventh on the grid and he attempted to exploit the space between Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönnen, who started sixth, and Williams Felipe Massa in fifth. The gap was narrow, however, and there was contact between Felipe and Daniel, with the Infiniti Red Bull Racing driver suffering a punctured left rear tyre. Massa, meanwhile, punctured his front right.
Both drivers limped back to the pit lane for repairs. The incident dropped him to 19th place and his race thereafter was a salvage operation as he struggled with a damaged floor.
Dany, meanwhile, was forced to begin his race from the pit lane after a heavy crash in qualifying led to a full car rebuild overnight. And his problems didn't end there. On an aggressive three-stop strategy Dany made his first visit to the pit lane on lap eight and he then took another set of tyres on lap 20. By lap 31 he had made his way to P11.
He therefore pitted on lap 34 and took on a final set of tyres that despite dropping him to P15 allowed him to attack in the final third of the race. He first completed a brave move on McLaren's Jenson Button through the fearsome 130R for P14 and he then rapidly closed the gap the battle for P12, which was being held by Sauber's Marcus Ericcson, with Force India's Sergio Pérez in P13. The Mexican moved past the Swede with a good move when the Sauber man ran wide at the Spoon corner but Dany's pass was even better.
However, despite the late-race action Dany was left disappointed with his race, saying: "It was pretty boring for me out there this afternoon, because a combination of circumstances meant I had to just sit back and was unable to attack.
"I had a completely new car, so that wasn't so easy. We had difficulties with the tyres, the brakes and the overtake button, which made life complicated. In the end, I did manage to overtake some people, but it wasn't great. It's frustrating and annoying, but there was nothing I could do. Battling for P13 does not give you much satisfaction. But a big thank you to the team, they had a lot of work to do on Saturday night to get the car ready for the race."
Team Principal Christian Horner echoed the frustrations of his drivers but hailed the work done overnight by the race crew in giving Dany a new car with which to start the race.
"It was a frustrating afternoon for us from lap one onwards," he said. "Daniel made a great start, then found himself the cheese in a sandwich between Massa and Raikkonen, resulting in a puncture, which is the worst thing that can happen on the first lap. This cost him a huge amount of time. His recovery and pace was decent after the stop for fresh tyres but with no safety cars, catching up was a tough task.
"For Dany, it was a busy afternoon; we elected to go onto a three-stop strategy and he endured some brake issues throughout the race which caused a few lock ups and made the car quite difficult to drive, which comprised his pace throughout the race. It was a frustrating Japanese Grand Prix for the team and our first non-scoring race of the season. On another note, the boys in the garage did an incredible job on Dany's car overnight, with both sides of the garage working side-by-side to get the car ready for the race."
At the front, the race was won by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who took the lead at the start after making a better getaway than pole position man and team-mate Nico Rosberg. The German finished second, with Vettel taking third place.
Fourth place went to Räikkönen, with Williams' Valtteri Bottas fifth. Nico Hulkenberg was sixth for Force India ahead of Lotus' Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado. Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz finished ninth and tenth respectively.