Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Sunday (October 7th) – the win allows the defending champion to close the gap to just four points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, who dramatically crashed out of the race at the first turn.
Defending champion Sebastian Vettel started from pole position in the Red Bull RB7 and was hopeful of victory – which would allow him to close the 29-point gap to Championship leader Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari. Vettel’s hopes of a third consecutive title were handed a major lifeline heading into turn one.
Alonso made contact with the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and appeared to sustain a puncture, fishtailing off the track and the car stalled, leaving a disconsolate Alonso to trudge back on the short walk to the pits.
It was a tumultuous start to the race with a series of collisions early on that also saw Lotus’ Romain Grosjean ram into the Red Bull of Mark Webber, putting the Australian to the back of the field after starting from second.
Vettel avoided all the trouble behind him at the first turn, and quickly established a comfortable lead. With Vettel comfortable at the front, the focus for many of the partisan fans became the battle for third place – where Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi was slugging it out with the McLaren of Jenson Button.
Kobayashi won that fight and sealed his maiden F1 podium finish, becoming the first Japanese driver on a podium since 1990.
Alonso’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa finished second, 20.6 seconds behind the race winner for his first podium since Korea in 2010, putting in a performance that should boost his chances of retaining his place in the team.
But victory belonged to Vettel, who also won the previous race in Singapore and was able to trim the deficit to Alonso to just four points with five races remaining this term.
If the German did secure the 2012 title for his third in a row, he would accomplish something only previously achieved by Juan-Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton finished in fifth, 20 seconds off Button, and Kimi Raikkonen in sixth – ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Pastor Maldonado of Williams eighth and Webber recovering for ninth.