Vettel dominates in Japan and blows away Alonso’s championship lead
7 October, 2012
Oct.7 (Apex) Sebastian Vettel put himself in the driving seat of the world championship title race, by cruising to a dominant victory in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, as Fernando Alonso retired on the first corner of the first lap and blew his huge points lead.
The reigning world champion did not put a foot wrong all day, from the moment the red lights went out he powered into the distance, controlling every aspect of the race – when anyone tried to attack he simply put his foot down and went even faster, making his third title in a row now a very real prospect.
Vettel said afterwards, “I saw the safety car at the beginning but I had a very good start and that was very important. I knew [that] behind me there was a crash and I saw a Ferrari was out but wasn’t sure which. Halfway through I was looking to see the others and I saw their [Ferrari] car still racing Felipe, I didn’t know what happened to Fernando.
“The atmosphere has been unbelievable all weekend. There has been so much support, the stands have been full and that really makes our job feel very special. Thanks to the team, all the guys pushed so hard. When you’re dreaming at night, you dream one day about racing a car like that. The balance was so good and that’s why there was a gap to behind. I’m very happy.
“It was an important step today [in the championship] but there is still a long way to go. Look at the last couple of races and since Spa – it’s been very much up and down. We don’t know what will happen in the next race but let’s try and take the point points. It’s been a long season with crazy racing.”
Consolation for Ferrari, if there was to be any, came with Felipe Massa’s strong run to second place. The Brazilian did his shares no harm as he made a great start from 10th on the grid, avoided the first corner melee, and ended on the podium for the first time since Korea 2010.
Massa summed up his afternoon, “I think it’s fantastic to come here in Japan. My qualifying was not so good but we were able to get a good start. I was clever on the first corner to manage to avoid the accident and the pace was really good.
“I was quicker than Jenson [Button] then I was able to pass him and then Kamui [Kobayashi] so for sure it was a better race than what I expected. Unfortunately Fernando [Alonso] isn’t here on the podium fighting for the championship but hopefully we can keep on pushing.”
Unprecedented scenes greeted Kamui Kobayashi as he mounted the steps of the Suzuka podium after finishing third. Fans chanted his name in football stadium style as the Sauber driver produced a top order performance on home soil, fending off a nail biting challenge from Jenson Button in the McLaren right to the very end.
At his finest hour, Kobayashi was literally at a loss for words during the podium interviews, simply saying, ”Thank you very much everyone. This is my first podium, and in Japan. Fantastic, unbelievable.”
Later he added, ”It’s a fantastic race for me. I had good pace over all. The last stint was difficult to hold Jenson. I pushed really hard to try and gain a few tenths without making a mistake.”
It was heart break for Alonso and Ferrari, as the world championship leader, by 29 points before the start, saw his lead narrowed down to a mere four points thanks to a first corner incident which eliminated the Spaniard on the spot. The nightmare of 2010 is back to haunt them again.
Alonso understandably dodged the media immediately after the incident, but got tweeting after the race. Writing to his million plus Twitter followers: “Yesterday in quali and today in the race we had bad luck with Kimi, a yellow flag and a puncture today! Now all our efforts for Korea! Great race by Felipe Massa. Fantastic podium.”
Turn 1 had more victims on the day as Lotus driver Romain Grosjean ran into Mark Webber’s Red Bull which sent them both to the pits for repairs and relegated them to the back of the pack. Webber set about working his way through the field to finish ninth.
The straight talking Aussie called Grosjean a “first-lap nutcase” and added “maybe he needs another holiday” in reference to the one lap ban slapped on the Frenchman after his antics at Spa.
Grosjean did not feature again in the race and pulled into the pits late in the race to call it a day, and explained, ”After the ban, I’m very careful at the start. I kept my line and was trying to avoid contact with Sergio Perez. I didn’t see the delta speed with Mark [Webber]. I was just trying to avoid any contact – it didn’t work. It was a stupid clash. I haven’t had a chance to speak with the team.”
There was also contact between Bruno Senna’s Williams and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg which resulted in an early shower for the German, and a drive through for the Brazilian, who eventually finished 14th.
The early drama brought out the safety car for several laps which played havoc with well laid out pit stop plans, with the end result being that drivers were able to run longer first stints than expected.
Big winner, thanks to the retirements, was Jenson Button who found himself in third behind the safety car and thereafter was in the hunt after starting from eighth on the grid, he nearly took a podium spot. A gearbox niggle affected his progress as it kept shifting through neutral. Nevertheless last year’s winner gave it his best shot and perhaps an extra lap would have seen him steal the podium from the local hero.
Button commented afterwards, ”I had a good start, but I lost a place to Felipe during the stops. He was very quick so I don’t think I would have been able to keep him behind anyway. The Red Bulls are a little bit quicker than we thought. For some reason, this is always a good circuit for Red Bull. They’re going well and they’re doing a good job.”
For Lewis Hamilton fifth place after starting tenth was a good return for a days graft, although he was suckered by Sergio Perez going into the hairpin on lap five, but revenge was sweet after the stops, on lap 20, when Perez tried a move on the outside at the same place but out braked himself, got on the marbles ended facing the wrong way in the gravel and beached. Race over for McLaren’s soon to be new boy.
McLaren’s soon to be old boy went on to finish fifth but never really threatening his teammate ahead and comfortably fending off Raikkonen who survived the Turn 1 fracas and some wheel to wheel stuff to finish sixth in the Lotus – which appears to have lost its edge in recent races
Starting sixth on the grid, Force India and Nico Hulkenberg would have expected better things during the race. But it was not to be as the German had a busy afternoon defending, and was rewarded with seventh place.
Behind him in eighth was Pastor Maldonado who kept out of trouble in the Williams which lacked the kind of pace that has allowed the Venezuelan to challenge near the front. Consequently he had a subdued race in the Suzuka sunshine.
As mentioned Webber finished ninth, beating fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo who claimed the final point for Toro Rosso, after fending off Michael Schumacher in the final laps – the six times winner of the Japanese GP finishing 11th after starting down in 23rd.
Subbed by AJN.
Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka – Sunday, 7 October 2012
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||53||Winner||1||25|
|2||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||53||+20.6 secs||10||18|
|3||14||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber-Ferrari||53||+24.5 secs||3||15|
|4||3||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||53||+25.0 secs||8||12|
|5||4||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||53||+46.4 secs||9||10|
|6||9||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||53||+50.4 secs||7||8|
|7||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||53||+51.1 secs||15||6|
|8||18||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||53||+52.3 secs||12||4|
|9||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||53||+54.6 secs||2||2|
|10||16||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||53||+66.9 secs||14||1|
|11||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||53||+67.7 secs||23|
|12||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||53||+83.4 secs||11|
|13||17||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||53||+88.6 secs||19|
|14||19||Bruno Senna||Williams-Renault||53||+88.7 secs||16|
|15||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham-Renault||52||+1 Lap||17|
|16||24||Timo Glock||Marussia-Cosworth||52||+1 Lap||18|
|17||21||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham-Renault||52||+1 Lap||22|
|18||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||52||+1 Lap||20|
|19||10||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||51||+2 Laps||4|
|Ret||25||Charles Pic||Marussia-Cosworth||37||+16 Laps||21|
|Ret||23||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT-Cosworth||32||+21 Laps||24|
|Ret||15||Sergio Perez||Sauber-Ferrari||18||+35 Laps||5|
|Ret||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||0||+53 Laps||6|
|Ret||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||0||+53 Laps||13|
- Suzuka Qualifying: Vettel untouchable as Red Bull scoop front row
- Suzuka Practice 3: Vettel and Webber set the pace
- Victory for Vettel, agony for Hamilton in drama packed Singapore GP
- Monza Practice 2: Hamilton tops as McLaren dominates and Ferrari chases
- Rosberg dominates in China to win his first Grand Prix in 111 attempts