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Vettel leads Red Bull one-two in Japan Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel

Highlights - Japanese Grand Prix

By Richard Rae

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel reignited his world championship hopes with an emphatic lights-to-flag victory in the Japanese Grand Prix.

The German finished a second clear of team-mate Mark Webber, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in third.

McLaren team-mates Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were fourth and fifth.

Webber now has a 14-point championship lead, with Alonso second, tied on points with Vettel in third. Hamilton slips to fourth, with Button in fifth.

Hamilton had looked certain to finish ahead of his team-mate, but his run of poor results in recent races continued.

Having started the race with a new gearbox and taken a five-place grid penalty to do so, Hamilton was in fourth with 10 laps remaining but lost third gear, enabling Button to catch and pass him.

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso

Top three drivers - Japanese Grand Prix

With just three races to go this season, Hamilton is now 28 points behind Webber, and acknowledged his championship chances were slipping away.

"It's disappointing, we pushed as hard as we could and we're doing everything we can to score points, but the gearbox kind of broke during the race, I had to stay between fourth and seventh gear, so I'm thankful I at least saw the finish," he said.

Button made clear his disappointment with a tyre strategy that saw him stay out - on hard tyres - for much longer than his rivals.

"To stay out when everyone else pitted was probably the wrong thing, maybe you should cover the people you're racing," he said.

To add to Hamilton's frustration, he had made one of the best starts in the race, jumping both Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg to move from eighth into sixth.

Renault's Robert Kubica was also quick off the blocks, taking advantage of slow starts by Webber and Alonso to move past the Australian into second.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton thankful to finish

But the race had barely begun before it was over for Renault's Vitaly Petrov, Alonso's team-mate Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg and Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Petrov clipped Hulkenberg's slow-starting Williams, while Massa, trying too hard to make up for an appalling qualifying, lost control after putting a wheel on the grass trying to cut through on the inside and wiped out the unfortunate Liuzzi's Force India.

Afterwards, race stewards handed Petrov a five-place grid penalty for the next race in Korea after ruling that he had caused the collision.

Championship leader Webber must have been anticipating a tough fight to re-pass Kubica, but the field was still running under the safety car when the the rear right wheel simply came off the Pole's Renault.

It was a full six laps before the safety car came in as marshals cleared the various cars from the circuit, and Vettel nailed the re-start.


Within three laps, both Red Bulls were more than a second clear of Alonso in third and the interest seemed to lie in the competition for the minor places.

Hamilton, on softer tyres, was tracking Button on the harder 'prime' compound in fourth and fifth, while Michael Schumacher passed his old team-mate Barrichello for sixth.

Hamilton pitted at the end of lap 22, Vettel and Alonso two laps later, Webber three. Button, on his hard tyres, was left out in front, but had no chance of building the sort of gap needed to emerge from his own pit-stop higher than fifth.

So it proved when the world champion came in at the end of lap 38. Just ahead, Hamilton was catching Alonso but then reported he had lost third gear. Button caught and passed his team-mate quickly.

With four laps remaining, and the leading positions settled, Rosberg suffered a failure on his Mercedes, crashing out on the 'S' curves.

Jenson Button

Tyre strategy was wrong - Button

Kamui Kobayashi delighted his home crowd with a series of spectacular overtaking moves to take his Sauber into seventh, behind the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.

Afterwards Vettel admitted the Suzuka circuit was ideally suited to the strengths of the Red Bull cars.

"It could have been drawn for us, with all the high speed corners, and obviously with the car getting lighter towards the end it was more and more fun," he said.

"I made a good start, which was obviously the key, and then after the safety car, both of us were able to pull away from the field and control the race."

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Japanese Grand Prix

RaceLast updated: 15 Nov 2012 12:34 UK
Position Country Driver Race Time
1 germany S Vettel 1:30:27.323
2 australia M Webber 1:30:28.228
3 spain F Alonso 1:30:30.044
4 great britain J Button 1:30:40.845
5 great britain L Hamilton 1:31:06.918
6 germany M Schumacher 1:31:27.256
7 japan K Kobayashi 1:31:31.361
8 germany N Heidfeld 1:31:36.971
9 brazil R Barrichello 1:31:38.136
10 switzerland S Buemi 1:31:40.187

see also
Schumacher 'to continue driving'
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix race results
24 Feb 10 |  Results
Title a tough task now - Hamilton
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix as it happened
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese GP Sunday photos
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Vettel to start on pole in Japan
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese GP qualifying as it happened
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Five-place penalty for Hamilton
09 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Ferrari dismiss doubts over Massa
09 Oct 10 |  Formula 1

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