Sebastian Vettel has won his second Japanese GP in a row with a commanding drive from pole position. Teammate Mark Webber completed a 1-2 finish for Red Bull and extended his championship lead over Fernando Alonso, who finished third today. Webber now has 220 points, 14 ahead of Vettel and Alonso at 206 each with three races to go.
McLaren fell further in both championships as Jenson Button finished fourth (189 points) while Lewis Hamilton (192 points), who suffered a gearbox problem (he lost third gear), ended up fifth. Michael Schumacher had a good day at the office at sixth and Kamui Kobayashi was seventh. The daredevil Japanese driver overtook so many cars that we lost count – he’s my man of the match. The top ten was rounded off by Nick Heidfeld (Sauber), Rubens Barrichello (Williams) and Seb Buemi of Toro Rosso.
It was an exciting race, and we didn’t have to wait too long for drama. Even before the start, Virgin’s Lucas di Grassi had a big crash at the famous 130R high speed corner and didn’t make the grid. When the red lights finally went off, Renault’s Vitaly Petrov cut in too early after “passing” Nico Hulkenberg and was slammed into the wall. Both men were out before Turn 1, which saw Felipe Massa crash into Force India’s Tonio Liuzzi. Five cars out already!
The safety car was called into action, and something bizarre happened behind the Gullwing. Robert Kubica, who started from third after Hamilton was demoted five spots for a gearbox change, had split the Red Bulls and was looking good in second. However, his right rear wheel mysteriously disappeared when they were cruising and he was out.
So it was business as usual at the front – Red Bulls leading Alonso and Hamilton, with Button on an alternate tyre strategy. Using the hard tyres for a long stint didn’t really pay off for Jenson as he didn’t really have the pace to stick with the leaders. Neither did the on form Alonso, who drove a quiet race.
Much of the action was in the midfield. Michael Schumacher looked really hungry and had a good duel with teammate Rosberg, who pitted early in the race. The younger man wasn’t in a mood to give way though, holding on until five laps before the finish, when he crashed out in the S bends.
Kobayashi was clearly happy to be home. He overtook Alguersuari and Sutil in the same corner before pitting. Falling behind the same cars, he took the Toro Rosso again (banging wheels in the process) before gaining another place thanks to Sutil’s blown engine. He then did the trick again on Barrichello and teammate Heidfeld for seventh, much to the delight of the home crowd. Drivers getting too soft? Team bosses should feed them with whatever Kamui is eating!
In the dying seconds, cheeky Mark Webber pulled out the race’s fastest lap, denying Vettel bragging rights of a full house. Eight drivers out, lots of action, three more races to go. Next up is the inaugural Korean GP two weeks from now.