Victorious Vettel decimates Alonso’s advantage
Sebastian Vettel reduced Fernando Alonso’s World Championship lead to just four points with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix, after the Spaniard had crashed out on the opening lap of the race.
Alonso clashed with the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen heading into the opening corner at Suzuka, while Red Bull’s Vettel cruised home from pole position to claim the win.
Ferrari were given some cheer by Felipe Massa’s excellent second place, as the final podium spot went to Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi in front of his passionate home support.
Jenson Button pushed Kobayashi all the way for third place, but was forced to settle for fourth, a spot ahead of his McLaren teammate, Lewis Hamilton.
Sixth place went to Raikkonen, seventh to Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, and eighth to Pastor Maldonado of Williams.
Mark Webber finished ninth in the second Red Bull. Having been alongside his teammate on the front row, the Australian was forced to the back of the pack after starting poorly and being spun by the Lotus of Romain Grosjean at the first corner.
The final point was claimed by Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, who held off Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes in the closing laps.
Vettel enjoyed an excellent start from pole, while Kobayashi charged up to the second place, as Grosjean spun Webber, who pitted and rejoined at the back of the field. Meanwhile, Alonso came into minor contact with Raikkonen, but the clash was enough to puncture one of the Ferrari’s tyres, as the Spaniard spun out of the race and the safety car was called into action.
The restart saw Vettel make another impressive getaway before pulling away at the front, while the struggling Hamilton was passed by Sergio Perez, who will replace the Englishman at McLaren next season, at the hairpin.
Massa gained tremendously during the opening pit-stop phase. Kobayashi and Button were both held up by the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo after rejoining from the pits, allowing Massa to jump up to the second place.
After 19 laps, Perez made a mistake after finding himself behind Hamilton once again, and spun into the gravel on the outside of the hairpin. Unable to rejoin, the Mexican was out of the race.
The lead up to the second round of pit-stops came and went without much drama, although Button suffered a minor delay in the McLaren box. The Englishman, however, would have had no chance of jumping third-placed Kobayashi, regardless of the slight issue in the pits.
Vettel powered home at the front, with Massa equally comfortable in second place to secure his first podium result in almost two years, while Kobayashi refused to succumb to the pressure exerted by Button.
Japanese Grand Prix: Provisional race results.
Pos. Driver, Team, Time
1. Vettel, Red Bull-Renault, 1h28:56.242
2. Massa, Ferrari, +20.639
3. Kobayashi, Sauber-Ferrari, +24.538
4. Button, McLaren-Mercedes, +25.098
5. Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, +46.490
6. Raikkonen, Lotus-Renault, +50.424
7. Hulkenberg, Force India-Mercedes, +51.159
8. Maldonado, Williams-Renault, +52.364
9. Webber, Red Bull-Renault, +54.675
10. Ricciardo, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, +1:06.919
11. Schumacher, Mercedes, +1:07.769
12. Di Resta, Force India-Mercedes, +1:23.400
13. Vergne, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, +1:28.600
14. Senna, Williams-Renault, +1:28.700
15. Grosjean, Lotus-Renault, +1 lap
16. Kovalainen, Caterham-Renault, +1 lap
17. Glock, Marussia-Cosworth, +1 lap
18. Petrov, Caterham-Renault, +1 lap
19. De la Rosa, HRT-Cosworth, +1 lap
Driver, Team, Retired on lap
Pic, Marussia-Cosworth, 39
Karthikeyan, HRT-Cosworth, 34
Perez, Sauber-Ferrari, 19
Alonso, Ferrari, 1
Rosberg, Mercedes, 1