Sebastian Vettel wins Japanese Grand Prix victory at Suzuka

 

Sebastian Vettel gave his hopes of claiming a third-consecutive world title a huge boost as he took advantage of Fernando Alonso's first-lap retirement with a consummate Japanese Grand Prix victory at Suzuka.

Vettel cruised to his third victory of the season, and second in a row, to move him to within four points of Alonso at the top of the drivers' championship, after the Spaniard dramatically crashed out at the first corner after contact with Kimi Raikkonen.

Felipe Massa did his chances of staying with Ferrari the power of good with second place, and raised the spirits of the Italian team after Alonso's exit.

Kamui Kobayashi delighted the home crowd as he took a career-best finish third, becoming the first Japanese driver to finish on the podium here since Aguri Suzuki in 1990.

But it was another poor day for McLaren as Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth, although the latter moved to within 42 points of Alonso.

Raikkonen was sixth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado - scoring his first points since winning in Spain - Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo.

Webber had started second but his race was ruined as Romain Grosjean again played a part in a chaotic start.

While Vettel got the jump from pole, mayhem erupted behind him.

Alonso was edged to the outside on the run down to turn one, but clipped Raikkonen's front wing, running wide before spinning and coming to a halt in the middle of the track.

The drama was not over and Grosjean, who received a one-race ban after causing a pile-up at the start in Belgium, turned Webber around as the field negotiated turn two.

The Frenchman received a 10-second drive-through penalty for his trouble but that will be little consolation to Webber, whose chances of victory were well and truly wrecked.

Nico Rosberg also retired after a collision with Bruno Senna as the safety car made an appearance for the fourth straight race here, coming in after just one lap on track.

Vettel escaped into a lead he held for the rest of the afternoon, with Button the main beneficiary of an eventful first lap, moving up from eighth to third behind Vettel and Kobayashi's Sauber while Massa was fourth.

Hamilton briefly moved up to fifth after Sergio Perez's over-ambitious move on Massa at turn one, but the Mexican put one over on the man he will be replacing at McLaren next year with a strong move at the hairpin.

Hamilton had the last laugh though when Perez's effort to go around the outside left him in the gravel at the hairpin.

With Vettel streaking away the status quo at the front remained until the first stops.

But while Kobayashi and Button were among those to stop first, Massa was able to stay out for a vital few laps more and was able to get ahead of the pair at his first stop.

The only other move among the front-runners was made by Hamilton after the second round of stops.

The Mercedes-bound Briton had been behind Raikkonen since the start, but braved it out with the Finn as he rejoined from his stop to take what became an eventual fifth place.

The two battles during the closing stages saw Button try to close in on Kobayashi and the gap was down to 1.8 seconds with seven laps to go.

But the Briton could not get close enough, missing out by half a second, while Michael Schumacher, having started 23rd, could not overhaul 10th-placed Ricciardo.

But no one could match Vettel as he claimed the full set of pole position, fastest lap and race win, the 24th of his career.

The German has to be favourite to take the crown given Red Bull's exceptional pace this weekend, with the reported introduction of a Double DRS device giving them a further edge.

Massa's second place gave him his first podium since the 2010 Korean Grand Prix, while Kobayashi became the first Japanese driver on the podium since Takuma Sato at Indianapolis in 2004.

Vettel admitted it had taken him half the race to realise his principal title rival was out, but admitted his car was "a dream" to drive.

He said: "I saw there was a safety car at the very beginning, we had a very good start which was very important as behind me there was a crash.

"I saw a Ferrari had crashed, but I was not sure who it was but halfway through the race I looked at the (timing) tower to see where the others are and I saw the car that was still racing was Felipe, so I assumed Fernando was not racing any more.

"The guys have pushed so hard over the last couple of months and when you dream at night you dream about being able to drive a car like that, the balance was fantastic and I was enjoying every lap, which I think was why we had such a big gap to the others and I am very happy."

PA

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick