Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel cruises to Japanese GP victory
Sebastian Vettel kept his Formula 1 world championship hopes alive with an easy win in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Vettel started from the pole and led for most of the 53-lap race at Suzuka as Red Bull secured their third one-two of the season, edging out team-mate Mark Webber by just 0.9 seconds at the finish.
The German’s win is his eighth in F1 and second at Suzuka. Red Bull once again dominated the weekend as Vettel led the way in both Friday practices before claiming his eighth pole of the season on Sunday morning, just hours before the start of the race.
“It’s an incredible day obviously with qualifying and the pole position this morning and then this afternoon we continued,” Vettel said. “It was a good start for us, which was key from the clean side.”
Red Bull’s one-two finish strengthens their lead in the constructors’ championship with 426 to McLaren’s 381, while Vettel has moved into contention in the drivers’ championship along with Webber and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished third – his fifth podium in six races.
Webber now has 220 points with three races remaining.
“It was another good day for me,” Webber said. “I’m very happy with how I drove this weekend, and congratulations to Sebastian for the victory. He did a good job.”
McLaren’s British duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth. Button, on a different tyre strategy to the other top runners, led for several laps before he made his pit stop which allowed Vettel to reclaim the top spot for good.
The defending world champion fancied his chances for a podium, but McLaren’s decision to leave him out longer on underperforming hard tyres by at least 10 laps meant the best he could achieve was fourth, and now finds himself 31 points behind Webber.
Hamilton had a weekend to forget in Suzuka on the back of three DNFs in four races: crashing during Friday practice to limit his dry-weather running, before taking a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change before the race.
It could have been a lot worse for the 2008 world champion, after losing third gear during the race, but with enough distance between him and Nico Rosberg he managed to complete the race without losing any more points. Hamilton is now 28 points in back of the lead.
As if qualifying on a Sunday wasn’t bizarre enough, the race began one car down after Lucas di Grassi suffered a mysterious crash on his way to grid.
The opening lap then saw a number of crashes as Renault’s Vitaly Petrov bumped into Williams’ Nico HÃƒÂ¼lkenberg and then spun around before hitting the barrier. Seconds later, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made contact with Vitantonio Liuzzi, sending both drivers into the turn one barrier and heralding the deployment of the safety car.
It was then disaster for Robert Kubica, and a nightmare for Renault, as the Pole, running in second place at the time after a brilliant start, pulled off the track after his right-rear tyre came off.
The F1 circus moves on to the Korean International Circuit in two weeks as long as the South Korean circuit passes an inspection by FIA race director Charlie Whiting next week.