Vettel’s race for Championship glory continues to progress in baby steps despite a well executed victory in Suzaka – his fourth in five years on this track.
Pinned back from his fourth consecutive title by Fernando Alonso – an achievement seen only twice in Formula 1 history – Vettel fought hard with Romain Grosjean and team-mate Mark Webber, as the Red Bull’s sealed both top spots in Japan.
It was Grosjean who got off to the strongest start. Despite beginning the race from fourth spot, the Frenchman took the Red Bull’s on the inside, establishing a firm lead early on.
However an early pit meant he relinquished some of his advantage to Vettel, while Webber was able to make up enough ground to come out ahead. In what was a three-horse race from the early stages, Webber stretched his legs, while Vettel took Grosjean in the 41st lap.
Webber had one pit stop remaining, leaving a tense finish for the Australian, who was forced an overtake out of the Lotus two laps from the end.
The start offered significant drama in itself. Cateram driver Giedo van der Garde collided with Marussia’s Jules Bianchi ruling both out from the off, while a minor knock to Lewis Hamilton’s rear Pirelli ruled him out of the points early, as he retired soon after.
In the rest of the points, the battle for fourth was somewhat interrupted by Daniel Ricciardo, whose Toro Rosso held up a string of six cars at one stage, before finally pitting.
It was Hulkenberg who emerged form this pack first, but strong racing from Fernando Alonso kept him in mathematical contention for the championship, as he grabbed fourth spot.
Kimi Raikkonen, able to extend his lead over Hamilton, made up four places himself – the overtake of the day coming on the final lap as the Finn took Hulkenberg on the outside of the chicane.
Elsewhere, Gutierrez secured his first ever points, as he and Hulkenberg help Sauber extend their lead over Toro Rosso in the Constructor’s Championship.
At the top, while Red Bull are home and dry, Ferrari extended their lead on a poor day for Mercedes, as Button and Perez failed to threaten. This leave Lotus hot on their heels too, as 3rd and 5th place finishes rounded off a good day for them.
Although Alonso has admitted defeat, he will have his work cut out to keep Ferrari in their second place position, as Felipe Massa again does nothing to convince his team of his abilities.
Image courtesy of F1 Fanatic