Sebastian Vettel drove a totally dominant race to win the Japanese Grand Prix, ahead of Jarno Trulli and Lewis Hamilton. It was Vettel’s fourth victory and the third of this season.
Vettel took the lead from pole position, taking a very assertive line into Turn 1 to stop Hamilton, using the KERS on the McLaren to good effect, from passing. Hamilton was able to jump Trulli for second and from then on he drove an incredible race, fighting throughout to get the position back. He achieved it at the second pit stops.
A substantial late accident by Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Ross brought out the safety car and offered Hamilton the chance to attack Trulli again, but his KERS system had malfunctioned and he wasn’t able to mount a challenge.
All three drivers were euphoric when they came into the TV unilateral interview room after the race, all had thoroughly enjoyed driving flat out on this majestic circuit and Trulli and Hamilton in particular had enjoyed their tense race-long battle. Trulli said it was like ‘a race of qualifying laps’.
It was one of Trulli’s most impressive performances, as was his lap in qualifying yesterday. Toyota have been making more positive noises this weekend about staying in the sport until 2012 at least and Trulli, like Glock last weekend, has stated his case very clearly for being retained, despite the team’s indication that both are free to look elsewhere for a drive.
At one point it looked as though the Brawn team would clinch the Constuctors’ Chamionship today, but it didn’t quite happen, with Rubens Barrichello heading home his team mate Jenson Button for the third time in the last five races. However they need just one more point to clinch that championship. They thought they might get it when the stewards investigated Nico Rosberg for speeding under the safety car on his way into the pits. But he was cleared because the ‘low fuel’ indicator overrode the speed/time screen on his dashboard display.
Button was down in 12th place at one point, but fought his way back up once again. he had a stroke of luck when the cars he was following, Adrian Sutil and Heikki Kovalainen, collided. Sutil had been building up to a pass and lunged down the inside into the chicane. He then didn’t leave Kovalainen room in the second part of the chicane and was spun around. Button gratefully sailed through to gain two places.
In the closing stages he caught Barrichello, but wasn’t able to pass and the pair ended up 7th and 8th.
So the championship goes on at least to the penultimate round in Brazil. Barrichello is 14 points behind Button with a maximum of 20 available, while Vettel has closed the gap to Button down to 16 points, one less than the margin Kimi Raikkonen successfully closed down on Hamilton in 2007.
“Anything can happen and we are here to fight,” said Vettel. “The target is to win the next two races and then see what the others can do. If that’s good enough to win it, then fine. The next track we know and this year we have a stronger car. Abu Dhabi it’s difficult to know.”
As we saw in 2007, anything can happen.