Sebastian Vettel has nicely positioned himself for a tilt at a third consecutive world championship after taking victory at today’s Japanese Grand Prix. Really, it was a walk in the park for the Red Bull driver too, taking victory by a comfortable 20 seconds.
Surprising us all was Felipe Massa who crossed the line in second place for Ferrari. It’s his first podium since late in the 2010 season. A timely boost, perhaps, for Massa who is one of the highest profile drivers under pressure to keep his seat for 2013.
Ensuring the home town crowd were in raptures Kamui Kobayashi drove a strong race for Sauber to finish in third place. It’s the team’s fourth podium this year, the first for Kobayashi. Which makes it the first time since 1990 that a local driver has stood on the podium in the Japanese Grand Prix. There were great scenes from the Japanese fans chanting Kamui’s name as he arrived on the podium.
Vettel’s seemingly easy victory was set up thanks to opening lap dramas going on behind him. Most notably, Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) got involved in a bit of kerfuffle in Turn 1, which resulted in Alonso retiring from the race. The 25 points clawed back by Vettel sees him only four points behind Alonso, with the better form going into the final five races.
Unfortunately, the other notable incident on the opening lap involved Mark Webber (Red Bull) who was tagged and spun around by Romain Grosjean (Lotus). Webber was dead last and was lucky to escape the contact relatively unharmed. He then did very well to fight his way back into the top 10, claiming two championship points on offer for P9. Grosjean was given a 10 second stop-go penalty for his troubles and ultimately retired late in the race while sitting outside of the points.
Post-race comments attributed to Mark in reference to Grosjean include calling him a “first lap nutcase” and saying his driving is “embarrassing at this level.” Webber rounded out his discontent by suggesting Grosjean should “have another holiday”, that is another suspension from the stewards.
Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) did a sterling job to keep a charging Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) at bay in the closing laps to finish in P10 and claim the last point up for grabs. Ricciardo’s teammate, Jean-Eric Vergne, finished in some margin back in P13.
So, with five races to go we’re looking at another nail biting race for the world drivers’ championship. Alonso won’t give up his lead easily, but he’ll have a tough fight on his hands as it appears Red Bull has been able to bring some very effective updates to their car which has given them the edge over Ferrari. Vettel will have great confidence going into the final races.
Helping to boost his confidence is the fact that Vettel’s win today makes him the first driver this year to win back-to-back races. With Red Bull’s good previous form in Korea, you’d reckon the chances of Vettel making it three in a row are quite good. We’ll find out next weekend.
2012 Japanese Grand Prix final placings
- Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) – 25pts
- Felipe Massa (Ferrari) +20.6 – 18pts
- Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) +24.5 secs – 15pts
- Jenson Button (McLaren) +25.0 secs – 12pts
- Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) +46.4 secs – 10pts
- Kimi Räikkönen (Lotus) +50.4 secs – 8pts
- Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) +51.1 secs – 6pts
- Pastor Maldonado (Williams) +52.3 secs – 4pts
- Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing) +54.6 secs – 2pts
- Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) +66.9 secs – 1pt
- Michael Schumacher (Mercedes AMG) +67.7 secs
- Paul di Resta (Force India) +83.4 secs
- Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) +88.6 secs
- Bruno Senna (Williams) +88.7 secs
- Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham) +1 Lap
- Timo Glock (Marussia) +1 Lap
- Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) +1 Lap
- Pedro de la Rosa (HRT) +1 Lap
- Romain Grosjean (Lotus) +2 Laps
Charles Pic (Marussia) +16 Laps
Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) +21 Laps
Sergio Perez (Sauber) +35 Laps
Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) +53 Laps
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes AMG) +53 Laps
Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1:35.774 (Lap 52)
2012 World Championship top 10 (Drivers) – Round 15
- Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) – 194
- Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 190
- Kimi Räikkönen (Lotus) – 157
- Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) – 152
- Mark Webber (Red Bull) – 134
- Jenson Button (McLaren) – 131
- Nico Rosberg (Mercedes AMG) – 93
- Romain Grosjean (Lotus) – 82
- Felipe Massa (Ferrari) – 69
- Sergio Perez (Sauber) – 66
2012 World Championship (Constructors) – Round 15
- Red Bull Racing-Renault – 324
- McLaren-Mercedes – 283
- Ferrari – 263
- Lotus-Renault – 239
- Mercedes AMG – 136
- Sauber-Ferrari – 116
- Force India-Mercedes – 81
- Williams-Renault – 58
- STR-Ferrari – 15