Vettel dominates Suzuka in Red Bull 1-2

Sebastian Vettel took victory in the Japanese Grand Prix today, ahead of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. This leaves Vettel joint 2nd in the championship, while Webber extends his lead at the front. This is what happened:

The first corner saw instant carnage, as two separate incidents resulted in the deployment of the safety car. Vitaly Petrov turned left into Nico Hulkenberg, ruining the Renault and taking out the Williams, while Felipe Massa ran wide at Turn 1, and speared into Vitantonio Liuzzi, and threw debris all over the track.

On the third lap, while the safety car was still out, Robert Kubica, who had jumped Mark Webber at the start, pulled over to retire with a missing back right wheel, which came off during the lap. This was to prove crucial to the race, as now Webber’s slow start was cancelled out, while Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton moved up the grid.

The safety car peeled away at the start of Lap 7, and the race got properly underway. The Mercedes cars gave us the great racing action, Nico Rosberg trying a move on Sebastien Buemi on 130R but ran wide, while Michael Schumacher got past Rubens Barrichello at the final chicane to take 6th.

Up front, Vettel set fastest lap after fastest lap, while Mark Webber kept him honest in 2nd. The two Red Bulls soon showed their hands, as their lap times were a half a second faster than Fernando Alonso in 3rd. Further back, Kamui Kobayashi impressed the crowd with a brave dive down the inside of Jaime Alguersuari for 10th place. He later made the same move on Adrian Sutil on Lap 19.

Sutil soon pitted, and triggered a charge for the pit lane. Barrichello and Alguersuari soon followed, and were among the fastest on track, prompting Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher to make the change. Lewis emerged behind Kobayashi, but quickly made a move on the main straight to get himself clear track ahead.

Once the Red Bulls and Alonso pitted, Button was left in the lead, while Hamilton set a chain of fastest laps on a new set of tyres, and got closer and closer to Fernando Alonso. In 2nd and 3rd, Mark Webber was getting very close to Sebastian Vettel, who seemed to be struggling with his tyres.

Button finally pitted on Lap 39, and handed the lead back to Vettel. Kobayashi stopped also, and dropped to 11th place. Hamilton, however, was in trouble, telling his team that his gearbox had lost 3rd gear, which is surprising considering the gearbox change he had yesterday.

He began to lose up to 2 seconds per lap to team-mate Button, and Jenson soon sailed past on Lap 44. This left the McLarens 4th and 5th.

Kamui Kobayashi was down to 12th, but decided to make another banzai move on Jaime Alguersuari around the outside. However, Jaime made a silly mistake, by banging wheels with Kobayashi when he had already gotten past. The Toro Rosso sustained damage to his front wing and was forced to pit. The Sauber had damage to its sidepod and turning vane, but was able to continue.

Adrian Sutil’s engine exploded on Lap 46, spewing oil over the back wheels, and forced the Force India into a perilous spin at 130R, but was well held by Sutil, though he was still forced to retire.

Button tried to put pressure on Alonso’s 3rd place, but was just too far back to be a concern to the Ferrari team. With 5 laps to go, a huge crash occured at Turn 5, when Nico Rosberg’s back left wheel flew straight off the car, spearing the car into the barriers, although the safety car was not deployed.

In the last few laps, a fantastic battle began between team-mates Nick Heidfeld and Kamui Kobayashi was the focus of attention. As expected, a dive down the inside of the hairpin was the way to get into 7th place.

After all of this, Sebastian Vettel crossed the line first, to take a dominant win, and push himself back into the title fight. Mark Webber was 1 second behind, and Fernando Alonso 3rd. Button and Hamilton were 4th and 5th, while Schumacher Kobayashi, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Buemi took the rest of the points. Heikki Kovalainen was 12th, which almost definitely secures Lotus’ 10th place in the constructors championship.

A dominant 1-2 was the minimum expected result by Red Bull, and helped both drivers in their championship assault at the same time. Ferrari didn’t expect to match Red Bull, so 3rd position was well-appreciated by Alonso. McLaren, meanwhile, were slightly disappointed by Button’s failed strategy.

Despite all of this, Webber didn’t leave Vettel all the glory. On the very last lap, the Australian took the fastest lap, to steal the jewel in Sebastian’s crown.

The standings have been updated, you can view them here.

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