There was mayhem from the beginning of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix, as soon as the lights went out, with five cars retiring before it had barely started. However, polesitter Sebastian Vettel managed to avoid all of that, and he maintained...
There was mayhem from the beginning of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix, as soon as the lights went out, with five cars retiring before it had barely started. However, polesitter Sebastian Vettel managed to avoid all of that, and he maintained the lead from team mate Mark Webber. For only the second time this season, the German driver, successfully converted pole position into a race victory, with the last occasion occurring at the European Grand Prix. Webber made it a Red Bull one-two finish, with Fernando Alonso taking the final spot on the podium.
Despite Vettel taking the win over his Australian team mate, Webber did have a taste of success on the final lap, as he recorded the fastest lap of the race over the other front-runners. His very quick lap to top the timesheets was 1:33.474s, and the race winner completed the last lap in 1:33.653s.
Even though he was not quite as fast as Webber at the very end, Vettel was very pleased to take the first place podium finish, and the points that come with it.
"This circuit is very special - the fans are incredible here and to get my second win in Suzuka is fantastic. It was a nice Sunday; to have qualifying and the race in one day is a unique experience and to finish top in both is great. Thanks to the team, to those here and also back in the UK - they all work very, very hard. We had some small upgrades here and they were a step forward. Our car loves this type of circuit and I'm very happy and very proud of today's result"
The first cause for the safety car to be deployed on lap one, was as a result of Vitaly Petrov for Renault, veering off the track and into the wall. As he turned to the left, he had contact with the Williams of Nico Hulkenberg, who then made an early exit from the race as well.
The race stewards subsequently investigated the incident, and deemed it to be an avoidable collision. The Russian rookie will now face the consequences of his actions in the incident, and he will suffer a five-place grid penalty for the next race in South Korea.
The stewards had another incident to look into as well, when Felipe Massa went up the inside of Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi, as the Ferrari driver went into Turn one. The gathering between the two drivers added them, onto the list of retirements early on in the race. It has now been declared that no further action will be taken with regard to the collision.
Robert Kubica also followed suit on lap three, with a suspected driveshaft problem, which then saw his right rear tyre detach itself from the car. This came at an unfortunate time for the Renault driver, as he was running in second place when the safety car was still on track.
When the race was re-started on lap six as the safety car went in, all of the top five contenders fighting for the Drivers' title, were in the first five places, with Vettel leading Webber, Alonso in third, Lewis Hamilton in fourth and Jenson Button was fifth at the time.
The McLaren drivers had a fairly steady race until the end, although Lewis Hamilton did lose third gear, and reported the problem to the team on lap forty. The 2008 World Champion nursed his car to a fifth place finish, just behind his team mate, defending World Champion, Jenson Button, who made the most of the opportunity to nip passed, and take fourth place from him.
Button did lead the race from lap twenty-six, while the other front-runners decided to pit. Vettel did regain the lead from lap thirty-eight though, and he kept it all the way to the chequered flag. Up until the point with the gearbox issue, Hamilton was running quite well after pitting on lap twenty-three, and he managed to steal fifth position from Kamui Kobayashi in his Sauber.
The Japanese driver had an eventful home race, and was definitely in the limelight for his performance today. Just a few laps previously, he was fighting for position with Adrian Sutil for Force India. Kobayashi made an impressive manoeuvre on the German driver, to grab ninth place from him. Sutil sadly joined the other retirees in the race on lap forty-four, but was able to drive himself back to the pits. He is thought to have had an engine failure, which left traces of oil on the track, for the rest of the field to dodge passed.
In the latter stages of the race, Kobayashi fought for position with the Toro Rosso driver, Jaime Alguersuari, for eleventh place at the notorious 130R corner and did take it. Alguersuari did not benefit from this, and as a result of them banging wheels, he had to make a swift pit stop. The Spaniard finished in eleventh place, with his team mate, Sebastian Buemi just beating him, to the last top ten point scoring position.
Kobayashi suffered slight damage on his car, but that did not stop him from chasing down the Williams driver, Rubens Barrichello. He was aiming to take ninth place from the Brazilian, and did follow it through on lap forty-seven. Barrichello picked up a few points for the team, as he secured ninth position back, and crossed the finish line there. Luck was clearly on Kobayashi's side on his home soil, and he was able to go two places better by the end, to finish in seventh position and just ahead of team mate, Nick Heidfeld.
Other in-team battles were seen between the two Mercedes drivers. While the safety car was out on lap one, Nico Rosberg took advantage of the situation, and decided to pit for new tyres. The German seemed to reap the reward later on, when his team mate and fellow countryman pitted on lap twenty-three. Rosberg was then ahead of the seven time World Champion, to take eighth place at that moment. Sadly, things took a different turn, and Rosberg retired from the race on lap forty-nine. He was in thirteenth place at that stage, and travelling at 130mph towards Turn five, when his left rear tyre came off, and this spelt the end of the race for him. Meanwhile, Schumacher brought home some valuable points for the team as he secured sixth place.
The outsiders towards the back of the pack, should by no means be forgotten for their efforts. Throughout the season as a new team in Formula One, Lotus have impressed with the performances, that Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli have delivered, leading up to and on race days. Today was no different and both drivers, did a good job once again. The UK based team looks set to take tenth place in the Constructor's Championship, which gives them one up on their rivals, and a solid end to their first season.
In the race today though, Kovalainen managed to snatch twelfth place from his Italian team mate, Trulli, who finished just ahead of Virgin Racing's Timo Glock. The two Hispania cars finished next, with Bruno Senna ahead of team mate, Sakon Yamamoto. The Japanese driver did not end the race in quite as good a slot as his fellow countryman, Kobayashi, but did still complete his home race.
There would have probably been an extra car in the mix with the back markers, but Lucas Di Grassi in the sister Virgin car, did not even make the starting grid. On his way to line up for the race, the Brazilian driver lost control at the famous 130R corner, and the formation lap crash ended his race before the lights had even gone out.
After today's race around the Suzuka circuit, both Championship standings are even tighter between those battling at the top. There are just thirty-one points covering the top five for the Drivers' title, and Mark Webber leads the way with 220 points, from Fernando Alonso, who currently ties with third placeman, Sebastian Vettel and both have 206 points. However, the Red Bull driver does have the upper hand, in terms of race victories. Lewis Hamilton is fourth in the line up, with 192 points, and his team mate, Jenson Button is in fifth place, with 189 points, ahead of Felipe Massa who trails in sixth position.
Where the Constructors' title is concerned, Red Bull seem to be building up quite a gap, and lead by 426 points, while McLaren follow behind, with 381 points. The Ferrari team are in third place at present, carrying 334 points.
As Formula One heads for round seventeen, of the race calendar in two weeks time, the drivers and teams will be on new territory, as they land in South Korea for the first Grand Prix to be held there. With only three races to go until the end of the season, when the titles will definitely be confirmed, there are still 75 points up for grabs which is a race win, and if the changes in the weather are anything to go by, then it is quite possible that the lead, could still adapt before the last race of the season.