Japanese Grand Prix 2011: Vettel seals title as Button wins

Sebastian Vettel secures back-to-back world titles with third place, as McLaren's Jenson Button wins in Suzuka

By Gareth Llewellyn
sebastian vettel
Vettel sealed back-to-back titles with third place in Suzuka Getty Images, courtesy of Red Bull Racing

sebastian vettel

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel secured the 2011 world drivers’ championship with third place at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka as McLaren took the chequered flag from Fernando Alonso.

Button capped off a superb weekend in his adopted homeland after dominating free practice and qualifying second, as he ended Vettel’s run of wins at the Honda-owned circuit to win his first Japanese Grand Prix.

“It gives us as a team a lot of motivation,” Button said. “It is good to see three different cars within three seconds, it shows how competitive F1 is at the moment.

“I need to say a big thanks to the team for the improvements we had over the last few races and today they were impeccable, congratulations to them.”

Vettel became the youngest double world champion after his third place was more than enough to secure back-to-back world drivers’ championships with four races to spare.

“A strong result again today to win the championship here, it’s fantastic,” Vettel said. “There are so many things you want to say in this moment but it’s hard to remember all of them, so I am just so thankful to everyone in the team.

“We have so many people here at the track and at Milton Keynes, day in and day out, not only Friday, but also Saturday and Sunday and Monday to Friday, every day pushing hard, fighting hard for points and fighting for the championship.”

Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher, who was sixth.

Felipe Massa finished seventh behind his former Ferrari team-mate, with Sauber’s Sergio Pérez eighth ahead of Renault’s Vitaly Petrov.

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg produced a stunning drive to round out the top 10, despite starting 23rd on the grid after a hydraulic problem prevented him from qualifying,

Vettel chopped off Button at the start as the McLaren driver got a better drive off the line, crowding the Briton on to the grass and allowing Lewis Hamilton to sweep past into second place at the first corner.

“He’s got to get a penalty for that,” screamed Button to his team later in the lap, but despite investigating, stewards decided to take “no further action” over the move.

Hamilton picked up a puncture on lap eight, forcing him to release Button before recovering for a fresh set of tyres and dropping him to fourth behind Massa.

Vettel pitted at the end of lap nine for another set of option tyres before Button, Alonso and Webber all followed suit on lap 10 – Button was clearly able to look after the blistering soft tyres better than his rivals.

After gaining over a second in time, Button emerged from his second pit-stop ahead of Vettel, and quickly set about opening an advantage.

Vettel was able to close up again as the safety car came out to allow marshals to clear debris from the track, including part of Massa’s front wing after yet another collision this season with Hamilton – but this time the 2008 world champion avoided any penalty.

With Vettel in traffic after the safety car, he pitted early to switch to the medium compound tyres for the rest of the race, Button emerged still ahead after his stop, but Alonso managed to get a jump on the German as he struggled with the slower tyres.

After initially pressurising Alonso, Vettel was told to cool it by his team. The German was happy to secure another podium, and his second successive world championship.

Schumacher enjoyed an eventful race, which saw him lead for the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix in 2006 as he ran a very long second stint, coming out of his final stop ahead of Massa.

Japanese Grand Prix 2011 – Race result

1 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1hr 30min 53.427secs

2 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:30:54.587

3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:30:55.433

4 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:31:01.498

5 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1:31:17.695

6 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:31:20.547

7 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:31:21.667

8 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 1:31:32.804

9 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:31:36.034

10 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:31:37.749

11 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:31:47.874

12 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 1:31:55.753

13 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 1:31:57.132

14 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1:31:57.621

15 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:32:00.050

16 Bruno Senna (Bra) Renault 1:32:06.055

17 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams 1:32:07.618

18 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 1:32:21.251

19 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus F1 1:32:29.567

20 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing at 2 Laps

21 Jerome d’Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing at 2 Laps

22 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 at 2 Laps

23 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) HRT-F1 at 3 Laps

Not Classified:

24 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso 11 Laps completed


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