Vettel Victory Piles Pressure On Alonso Championship

Never hassled from the start, Sebastian Vettel kept his lead from the start and took the maximum 25 points as he effortlessly won the Japanese Grand Prix. His main rival for the championship, Fernando Alonso, failed to finish the race as the two-time champion got into trouble at the race start, coming into contact with Kimi Raikkonen and receiving a puncture, ending his race.

It cuts the points gap between the two leading drivers from twenty eight points to just four with fives races of the season left. Sebastian Vettel must be seen as the favourite, with the German taking the pole and win without much challenge. Alonso stood on the podium at the two previous races in Italy and Singapore but the Ferrari has been the third-fastest car for much of the year and it is through Alonso’s sheer tenacity and consistent point-scoring whilst his rivals’ form fluctuated that he has led for long spells in the championship. Red Bull are back in fine form and hold the pace advantage.

Commenting on the 24th win of his F1 career, Vettel was wary of talking up his championship hopes, instead speaking about how things can and have changed quickly in recent races.

“If you look at the last couple of races, after Spa it was very much up and down.

“I don’t know what happened today, but at Spa Fernando was unlucky. You don’t hope those things will happen to yourself but you know over the next few races it could happen. It is long season and crazy racing so far.”

He added: “I am very careful. I think we had a long journey so far. It has been a tough year and there are still many races to go. Today I don’t want to talk about the championship.”

Massa’s result gave Ferrari big points on a day when Alonso failed to finish

Ferrari had a day of mixed emotions as Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa finished in 2nd, his first podium in two years. Massa’s seat for next year has been under pressure but he is confident that his performance will have boosted his chances of staying with the team for next year.

I think so,” said Massa when asked if the result will help his future.

“It is nice. It is like a relief. It was great. It was a great race anyway. I was able to push hard from the beginning to the end and show that we are here to fight for victory and the podium and not just points.”

Kobayashi’s third place is his highest finish to date

Much to the delight of the home crowd, Kamui Kobayashi stood on the podium for the first time in his F1 career as the Sauber driver held off Jenson Button on the final lap to finsh in third. Not since Takuma Sato at Indianapolis in 2004 has a Japanese driver finished in the top three of an F1 race. Kobayashi was thrilled for the home fans and also hopes it will help his own chances of staying with Sauber for next year.

“We were really working hard to get a podium and my team-mate has a couple of podiums already.

I had a couple of chances in qualifying with good grid positions – but I never had luck. I’ve struggled on starts – many starts – but this time I think it was good to start in third. It was not a front row but the feeling was good because we had a long run on Friday and that was pretty good pace.

“I think finally finishing in points is fantastic, especially in front of my home grand prix,” said Kobayashi.

“This is my first podium and it’s amazing. I am happy for the fans and so many people supporting me.

“When you look around circuit, it is amazing. So thank you to the fans and we need to keep going for the future.”

Button finished ahead of his team-mate Hamilton who was fifth

Jenson Button hoped that Red Bull’s speed was not a taste of things to come and also suggested that Ferrari were quicker than his McLaren team. The Englishman chased down Kamui Kobayashi but could not pass the Japanese driver.

“Red Bull was very strong and we weren’t on their pace today,” Button admitted.

“We were very similar to the Saubers and the Ferraris. The Ferrari was probably a little bit quicker. We’ll see what happens when we get to Korea.

Last year, you’d say they weren’t as quick as normal, and that’s the reason we could fight for the win. But this is, for some reason, always a very good Red Bull circuit.

We’ve got to hope that this is a stand-out race for them but I’d be surprised.

They’re going very well and they’re doing a good job. Getting both cars on the front row proved that.”

Hulkenberg and his team-mate Paul Di Resta have both been linked with Ferrari drives

Starting from fifteenth on the grid, a points finish was not going to be easy but Nico Hulkenberg defied the odds and finished seventh, collecting points for him and his team who had their work cut out for them as both Force India drivers crashed during the weekend’s practice sessions.

“If you had told me before the race that we would finish seventh, I would have taken it straight away – so I’m very happy with today’s result,” said Hulkenberg.

“I made a great start, moving ahead of several cars and was able to keep out of the trouble in turn one. By the end of lap one I was already in eighth and as it turned out we had good pace.

“The car felt strong throughout the race: there was a nice balance and I was able to chase Lewis and Kimi hard and put pressure on them. They edged away towards the end and for the closing laps I just had to make sure I kept ahead of Maldonado.

“So another seventh place – a well-deserved result for the team after a tough weekend for the mechanics and six important points for the championship.”

Maldonado ended his continued failure to score

He had not scored a single point since his Spanish Grand Prix win but a tenth-placed finish put that to bed as Pastor Maldonado scored for the first time since May.

“Since Barcelona we had a couple of mistakes, but not all was from my side. We had some problems with the car and lost quite a lot of points,” said Maldonado after the Suzuka race.

“But the combination of many things was the cause of that, but we have always been optimistic and competitive.

“I never lost the confidence in myself and in the team. The potential is so good, and we showed our consistency in qualifying. The car is there. Maybe it’s not the best car but we have good pace, especially in the race.

“I’ve had bad times during the season, but now everything is back to normal, which is good for the team and for myself.”

Webber suffered at Turn 1 but it was Alonso and Rosberg who couldn’t carry on and retired from the race

Involved in yet another incident on the first lap, Romain Grosjean tangled with Mark Webber and forced Webber to make an unscheduled pitstop to repair damage which sent the Australian to the back of the field. Webber was unhappy and suggested that a ban similar to the one which left Grosjean sitting out the Italian Grand Prix should perhaps be handed out again.

“I haven’t obviously seen what happened at the start but the guys confirmed that it was the first-lap nutcase again Grosjean,” he said.

“The rest of us are trying to fight for some decent results each weekend but he is trying to get to the third corner as fast as he can at every race.

“It makes it frustrating because a few big guys probably suffered from that and maybe he needs another holiday.

“He needs to have a look at himself, it was completely his fault. How many mistakes can you make, how many times can you make the same error? First-lap incidents… yeah… it’s quite embarrassing at this level for him.”

Japanese Grand Prix Result

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 + 1:23.460
13. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:28.645
14. Senna Williams-Renault + 1:28.709
15. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
16. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
17. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
18. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap
19. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 2 laps

Not classified/retirements:

Driver Team On lap
Pic Marussia-Cosworth 39
Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 34
Perez Sauber-Ferrari 19
Alonso Ferrari 1
Rosberg Mercedes 1

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