Vettel usually starts at the front and stays there for the whole race. But in Suzuka, he had to share the lead with his teammate Mark Webber, who beat him to the pole on Saturday, and with Romain Grosjean (Lotus), who ran strong all race long.
The three men managed to open up a big gap after the first round of pit stops, as the rest of the field was held up by a late stopping Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso).
|Sebastian Vettel, Romain Grosjean (Photo: WRi2)|
On lap 41, Vettel probably felt he had shared enough and drove around Grosjean. One lap later, their two-stop strategy allowed them both to stay out as leader Webber pitted for his third and final stop. With fresher tires, the Australian was able to track down Grosjean, but ran out of time to close the gap to his teammate.
|Romain Grosjean, Mark Webber (Photo: WRi2)|
Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) was the first to cross the finish line after them, as the first to find a way passed Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber). Before the end of the race, the German would also allow Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) through, but nevertheless held on to finish an impressive sixth.
His teammate Esteban Gutierrez also performed very well. Albeit a full 20 seconds behind Hulkenberg, he finished seventh and picked up his first points in F1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) survived a dicy fight with Sergio Perez (McLaren) to come home eighth, ahead of Jenson Button (McLaren) and Felipe Massa (Ferrari).
|Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W04 (Photo: WRi2)|
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) could not reach the finish after he touched with Vettel at the start.
The results in Japan means the championship fight is still alive. But Vettel only needs to finish fifth once to win his fourth consecutive title, even if Alonso wins the four remaining grands prix.
Race results* – Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka)
1 - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB9-Renault) - 53 laps 1.26'49"301
2 - Mark Webber (Red Bull RB9-Renault) - 7"129
3 - Romain Grosjean (Lotus E21-Renault) - 9"910
4 - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F138) - 45"605
5 - Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus E21-Renault) - 47"325
6 - Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber C32-Ferrari) - 51"615
7 - Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber C32-Ferrari) - 1'11"630
8 - Nico Rosberg (Mercedes W04) - 1'12"023
9 - Jenson Button (McLaren MP4/28-Mercedes) - 1'20"821
10 - Felipe Massa (Ferrari F138) - 1'29"263
11 - Paul Di Resta (Force India VJM06-Mercedes) - 1'38"572
12 - Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso STR8-Ferrari) - 1 lap
13 - Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso STR8-Ferrari) - 1 lap
14 - Adrian Sutil (Force India VJM06-Mercedes) - 1 lap
15 - Sergio Perez (McLaren MP4/28-Mercedes) - 1 lap
16 - Pastor Maldonado (Williams FW35-Renault) - 1 lap
17 - Valtteri Bottas (Williams FW35-Renault) - 1 lap
18 - Charles Pic (Caterham CT03-Renault) - 1 lap
19 - Max Chilton (Marussia MR02-Cosworth) - 1 lap
Fastest lap of the race: 1'34"587 (Mark Webber)
Lap 7 - Lewis Hamilton
Lap 1 - Giedo Van der Garde
Lap 1 - Jules Bianchi
1.Vettel 297; 2.Alonso 207; 3.Raikkonen 177; 4.Hamilton 151; 5.Webber 148; 6.Rosberg 126; 7.Massa 90; 8.Grosjean 87; 9.Button 60; 10.Hulkenberg 49; 11.Di Resta 36; 12.Sutil 26; 13.Perez 23; 14.Ricciardo 18; 15.Vergne 13; 16.Gutierrez 6; 17.Maldonado 1.
1.Red Bull-Renault 445; 2.Ferrari 297; 3.Mercedes 277; 4.Lotus-Renault 264; 5.McLaren-Mercedes 83; 6.Force India-Mercedes 62; 7.Sauber-Ferrari 55; 8.Toro Rosso-Ferrari 31; 9.Williams-Renault 1.