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Vettel dominates Suzuka, can he do a Raikkonen and win the title?
Vettel dominates Suzuka, can he do a Raikkonen and win the title?
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Oct 2009   |  8:28 am GMT  |  69 comments

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.

Picture 43
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.

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Get your head out of the sand Silverstoned, Toyota is not exiting F1. They will 100% be on the grid next year.


“Can he do a Raikkonen and win the title?”

James, the question is not CAN he do it as this question clearly answers itself. Statisitics clearly illustrate that he can. It is undoubtedly possible.

The question you should have asked is WILL he do it? Now that’s altogether harder question to answer.

Raikkonen’s triumph was a rarity. Will lightening strike twice?


Hi James,

Just a comment on the Rosberg safety car incident.

I was watching the BBC coverage and they Jake Humphrey et al interviewed Rosberg right after the race and he clearly stated that he was watching the delta on his steering wheel and therefore knows that he was within the prescribed time to get back to the pits.

However in the re-run of the race later that day Sam Michael stated that they had been able to prove Rosberg had not intentionally done anything wrong because his low fuel light had over written the delta information.

How come we have 2 conflicting stories here, surely Rosberg must have known what was on his steering wheel as he was in the car at the time?


Just a note – this is a common mistake I see making the rounds, but at no point in the post-race BBC interview did Rosberg say he was watching the delta on his steering wheel. He explained lap delta for the viewers because DC asked him to, but did not apply it to his situation. In response to Jake’s “Did you stick to what you should have done as far as you were concerned, looking at the lap delta time on your steering wheel? Were you within the rules?” he only replied “As far as I’m concerned, I definitely did what I should do, so I think it should be fine” – as he later said, “[the stewards are] up there discussing at the moment, so that’s all I can say for now.”

Unless there were other public interviews with differing information, the misconception that he claimed to be below the delta speed limit appears to be a misassumption sources such as Ted Kravitz’s summary during the Forum and the Autosport article made and circulated based on a misinterpretation of the original BBC interview before any concrete information about the incident was released.


J – good point, it was very early in the morning when i watched the original interview if that’s an excuse.

it is interesting though how canny Rosberg is with the media, a good spokesman for a Mercedes engine?


Apparently teams can disable the low fuel setting and many do, Williams do not.


Isn’t that similar to Melbourne? The first hint we saw of liegate was 2 conflicting stories to the media.


As another site says, Rosberg’s was the “dog-ate-my-homework” of excuses.

Apparently NR gained 6 seconds on his in-lap, when he ought to have dropped by 2 seconds.

*That* kind of pace should be immediately obvious to an experienced driver, and it makes me disbelieve the steward’s conclusion that NR had reacted sufficiently to the yellows. Does this mean that all the other driver’s over-reacted? Does this mean the on-board delta’s are too conservative?

Misjudging your pace by half a second might bring the “low-fuel-display” excuse into play.

Misjudging by 6-8 seconds deserves a punishment.

And I’m not impressed by NR’s excuse to the BBC after the race. There was no gain? This is a safety issue, and gain is immaterial. And actually, jumping from a potential P8/P9 up to a P5 is quite a considerable gain.

The Brawns, Alonso and Sutil took their quali penalties on the chin. That Nico & Williams did not is saddening.


It’s a but tighter than that – Rosberg’s in-lap was three seconds slower than Barrichello’s had been a few laps earlier. He was four seconds behind Barrichello before RB made his second stop and Rosberg emerged in front from his.


What’s the situation with Vettel’s engines? I know he has used his allocation, but how many races have the engines he’s using done? I read somewhere that 4 are not usable, 2 have done their life cycle and are being used for practice sessions and the remaining 2 have been used for qualifying and races.

Also, did Mark change his engine and gearbox for today’s race? Nothing was mentioned in the build up today, nor have I read it elsewhere, but it would seem only logical to do so.


am i right in thinking button only needs 4 points from the last 2 races


Nope, he needs six.


Button was stunning today, very easy to overlook his performance. Will he win the championship i think so. And for people who will knock him for not winning a race in the last 7 races , just look how close the cars are. Can anyone really say who will be in the top 3 for the last 2 races.

God im loving this season 🙂


Not a chance. Button all the way. However his time will come in the future, possibly in 2012.


Congratulations to Vettel, it’s a joy to see drivers like him in F1.

But once again, Kovalainen is a total disapointment.

Last year, Mclaren lost the constructor’s title because of him. And while Hamilton was being put under pressure and criticized, KV wasn’t even fast enough to be his wingman.

This caused LW to fought the entire championship alone against Massa and Raikkonen until the last second. In a 2008 World Champion winning car, he managed to finish only 7th in the end!

This year he’s 12th overall, and although having a deeply updated car since Massa’s unfortunate accident, still hasn’t out-scored the Brazillian with 5 more races than him!

Mclaren may well not get the 3º place in constructor’s, again due to KV lack of performance.

I don’t really understand why they’ve even signed them for this year.

This are harsh words, I know. And he may be a good driver, but only as much as a Toro Rosso driver.

Speaking in teammates, everyone says Raikkonen may go to Mclaren, but because of his personality, some would prefer rather that he didn’t. This is because he doesn’t give much info and cooperation with both team and teammate.

I understand that it may well be a sponsor move from Santander, but I really think that there are at the moment, two much better options: Rosberg or Kubica.

Why doesn’t Mclaren goes after one of this two? If they couldn’t get Rosberg away from BrawnGP, they certainly could get Kubika away from Renault.

What do you think James?


“Speaking in teammates, everyone says Raikkonen may go to Mclaren, but because of his personality, some would prefer rather that he didn’t. This is because he doesn’t give much info and cooperation with both team and teammate.”

This is a very common claim against Raikkonen on forums and blogs, but is it really true? All the engineers that have worked with him (be it McLaren or Ferrari) that I’ve heard of have said the opposite (perhaps he’s not the most talkative, but gives precise information about the car and always goes to the point). Some drivers need to talk more to the engineers to get the best out of the car, some less. In a recent interview, Andrea Stella, Kimi’s race engineer, praised Kimi’s ability to find the quickest way around the track on his own, and in fact to do better than the engineering data would suggest, and compared that to Schumacher, who needed to constantly consult the computer data from the engineers to find the best line around the corners. Marc Gene, in his column in El Mundo, says how much he will miss Kimi, not just because he is a uniquely talented driver, but because as a person he is such that you can talk with him about anything, not just things related to work (apparently they bonded fairly well).

All in all, I think this “Raikkonen doesn’t communicate with the team” is just a myth based on Kimi’s public image, everybody keeps saying that behind the cameras he is a totally different person. Besides, McLaren knows exactly how well he cooperates with the team.


I’m not saying that Raikkonen isn’t a good driver, he’s an a excelent driver. You can see what he’s achieved this year in a poor Ferrari that’s stopped development, it’s impressive.

But also, you saw at the beginning of the season, the mediocre performance that he had. I know the car was never good, but you saw him getting passed several times in a ridicolous fashion. He lacked the motivation and was on a mind of his own.

I’m sure if he went to Mclaren he would be great, but I think he would do much better as a Nº1 driver, for instance in BrawnGP or Williams.

A team is like a marriage of several people, and I just think that the Mclaren partnership would do much better with Kubica or specially with Rosberg.

It’s not that they’re better than Raikkonen, they’re on the same level, but I just think with either of them, Mclaren could work much better as a team.

That said, I think if Raikkonen does go to Mclaren, they’ll be very strong too.


James, no mention of JB’s overtake on Kubica? Seems like JB has made several of these critical points paying moves stick over the course of the season (Bahrain springs to mind). He will win the championship not because of dominant wins but because of these types of move, and thoroughly well deserved.


I agree entirely. Everyone keeps saying how Jenson has tailed off towards the end of the season and how Vettel would make a better champion. Forgive me if I am wrong but i can’t remember Vettel doing a single overtaking manouver this season. In fact the only person in the title hunt i can remember doing any overtaking is Button; and he has done this several times.

If the championship comes down to who has had the better car for the larger majority of the season then it would be a shame, since what we all really need to see is the driver who has done the most and put the most into it; as good a driver as Vettel is he has only shown can only go fast with clear tarmac in front of him.


Of the 3 drivers, Vettel deserves the championship the most, no question.

He drives like a real champion, always on the edge (which of course results in some mistakes too, because he’s taking risks all the time, as you could also see in the amazing quilufying lap).

Button is not worthy of being called a champion, sorry. I ised to support him in the beginning of the season. Since Turkey it is rather pathetic what he has shown. All he seems to do since then is drive around like a scared little mouse, hoping others will have a DNF.

Bari is driving better than Button but still not anywhere near the level of Vettel. Unfortunately of course, Button will win it, with a very small margin, Vettel second. Not thanks to his driving skills, killer instinct or hunger…no because he was lucky he had the best car in the first 7 races and took the cowardice road after that.

Anti-climax to the max.


If it weren’t for rotten Renault reliability, Vettel would be a lot closer to Button than he is now. He also had a few DNF’s early in the season which cost him.

Never mind, he’s in a team with loads of money, Adrian Newey designing his cars and hoefully a Mercedes engine in the back.

If he’s not fighting for the WDC next year, I will be very surprised.


Vettel’s Red Bull contract is up at the end of the end of 2011, is that right? Maybe Kimi will hang up the helmet around then… and there’ll be a seat at McLaren (German engine, German driver… not to mention Red Bull and Merc next year). Vettel and Hamilton… vs Alonso and whoever


James, I think analysis of Jenson and Rubens performance this year needs a bit of balancing against Vettel’s (and indeed Mark Webbers). By my (crude) reckoning Vettel has hardly passed a car in ‘race mode’ after lap 1 during any of the grand prix’s. Stick him on pole and he looks good but other wise forget it. By contrast both Jenson, Rubens and Mark have successfully pulled off many overtakes in a more ‘Champion’ like manner when in the pack. RB will be up for it in Brazil (as will LH), Jenson will get his fifth and Abu Dhabi will be a full-on race with JB winning in style.

James – What is your insight on Vettel’s failure to make overtakes? I heard early in the season that the RB was overly aero sensitive in the wake of another car. Mark W seems to be able to give it the beans though!!

Worthy of some analysis? Becoming a more obvious flaw in the Vettel armoury?

True ‘Champions’ can surely win from the back also. Hail Jenson or Rubens as the worthy champions elect.


I agree here.

An article about JB’s first lap (or early lap) overtakes and the impact on his WDC title will be worthwhile. If he gets the title, it’s bound to have been an important part. In contrast to SV’s holdups…


Hmmm. This is reminding me of the current baseball season! Will Button be the LA Dodgers or the Detroit Tigers here?


James can you expand on the non Rosberg penalty.

Did he drive to fast under the safety car but was unaware of the fact because the lap delta did not show up being over ridden by low fuel indication. If that was the case my next speeding defence will be “I know I had my throttle pressed to the floorboards but the speedo was stuck pleaselet me off”.

I know it does not matter that much but I thought the penalty applied to driving to fast not to what was displayed in the cockpit.

Yet another inconsistency from the Stewards??


So Nico breaks the rules and gets away with it?

I guess the software programmers at the other teams will be busy making modifications so that when another safety car comes out their cars conveniently display a message over the delta time – allowing their drivers to rush back to the pits and gain places.

Can’t help but think this is Bernie meddling to prolong the constructors championship another race.


Its standard FIA software for all teams – but you’re undoubtedly right.

The question I have is… if this “delta” time can constantly give an indication of the exact speed you should be doing, why do we need a safety car at all?


James, I would like to know in your opinion – is it Lewis Hamilton’s driving capabilities that has seen him drag that McLaren to podiums and wins in the latter part of the season or is it that the car is that much improved? For me, I think that Lewis and also Kimi to be honest have been very impressive but many people I speak to believe it is all down to the car. My answer is just look at Heiki and Fisi – do you agree?


Of course you are right about the team mate comparison. The Ferrari one is a bit tough because they stopped developing that car in late July and Fisi has only been in the team for a month. It is a difficult car, by all accounts. Heikki was again well off Lewis pace today. The McLaren has been improved a lot and continues to improve. Hamilton has had two poles and two wins lately and it’s a combination of an improved car and him dragging the best from it


And since Kovy is ahead of Fisi, can we deduce that the Mclaren is now a faster car than the Ferrari yet Kimi is giving Lewis a run for his money, hence Kimi will most likely match or beat Hamilton in equal cars next year?


Kimi v Hamilton racing in the same car will be dynamite – but if Kimi is thinking $$$ then he’ll be heading to Toyota.


He’s not thinking Toyota


There is no doubt in my opinion that Kimi will not only match Lewis at McLaren if he goes there – he will also beat Lewis too! What people tend to forget however is that Lewis is more than capable of beating Kimi too so it will be swings and roundabouts. I think they will push each other on to produce some fantastic results. I personally believe that anyone who thinks either of them will blow the other one away is completely out of touch with F1. They are both fantastic drivers and as a McLaren supporter I would love to see them pair up next season!!


Vettel and Hamilton both deserve massive congratulations. To so convincingly conquer Suzuka on their first attempts, without any of the dramas suffered by other circuit rookies, is impressive indeed. At least on the driving front, F1’s future is in good hands.


Hi James

I have nothing against Button but if it wasnt for a far superior car at the start of the season and a fare amount of luck in recent races to salvage bad performances, he wouldnt be leading the championship now, It would be a hollow way to win the title the way he’s currently defending his lead. No wonder Brawn arent fighting to keep him next year.


Great to see such an awesome drive by Jarno..

I hope he gets a top drive for next year..



I think Vettels in great shape for Interlagos, The Redbull should be quick there and he has the luxury of an effective rear gunner in Mark Webber. Plus Rubens has a great deal of expierience and will turn up highly motivated to please his home crowd and indeed humble his team mate. Jenson really has to up his game and prove he is a worthy world champion and not a mere flash in the pan, the second half of this season in my opinion has seen Jenson slug his way to the championship something which has been an utter bore for the viewers. Next year will be very telling if Jenson can indeed compete against the likes of Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel and ofcourse Rosberg in competitive machinary. James What do you make of Lewis’s result, Suzuka has been compared to Silverstone a track which underlined the Aerodynamic flaws of the Mp4-24, a 3rd place here, encouraging progress for next years challenger?


Re: Jenson .. the recent results speak for themselves .. seems to be that Ross Brawn not keen to offer him the big bucks for next season speaks volumes?


Jenson has won some races against better cars. He has beaten Barrichello when RB was on the stronger strategy.

The last 2 races you have to say that Jenson has been one of the best performers, especially when you consider that the safety cars in both races haven’t fallen well for him.

I honestly feel frustrated by the poor setup and qualifying in the last half of the year, but anyone who suggests that he isn’t giving his best in the race or is not “worthy” is not watching the same broadcast as me!

As far as Brazil goes, Rubens has traditionally had terrible luck there and on paper it ought to favour the Brawns. Jenson just needs to put in a huge amount of set up work over that weekend. A podium will finish this at Interlagos.


Except that he has a Renault engine and no KERS. Will be tough against McLaren up the hill and into Turn 1 with Mercedes engine and KERS


James, Trulli did very well, but why are Toyota spending money on development if they’re exiting F1?

Kimster remains the most consistent driver since Hungary, dragging a no-points car where it has no right to be. I’m still working out how he got ahead of Rosberg since his pitstop wasn’t speedy and he got out in heavy traffic.

Otherwise, it wasn’t the most boring race of the year, but close. I counted all the loose change in both pockets twice: 86 pence.


The script is perfect for Bernie, as the WC goes down to the wire, and more especially because he thinks the world of SV; however, if he was to win the WC it wouldn’t wash with Bernie’s previously stated wish that WC’s chould be crowned on the most number of wins! JB would have 6 if he doesn’t win again, and SV would have won 5 if he were to win the next two races. What now does Bernie wish for…!?


In my opinion Seb is the main rival to Jenson now. JB has shown he can match RB during the race despite being out performed on qualifying.

I have said on another blog that I think JB is a very worthy champion but that this season should be dubbed ‘The Curious Case of Jenson Button’ on account of him almost having the trophy in his hands in the first few races then slowly but surely it was up for grabs by anyone.

Imagine how excited we would be if he had been languising in the lower points or getting no points at all for the first half of the season then went on to win 6 out of seven of the last races. Just as deserving but more exciting.


I think there’s a very good reason that JB is matching RB’s performance at the moment… that’s exactly what he and his engineers are trying to do.

10 races ago, JB and RB would have had slightly different strategies that suited themselves & their drives more (remember RB chose a 3-stop at one circuit?).

Now, RB needs too many points at each GP. Button wins overall if he just matches RB’s strategy at each event as closely as possible – simply because he won’t get caught out by an unfortunate safety car.

So however hard RB tries to go with a wacky strategy to win. JB’s best strategy right now is still to mirror it. Either they both do well by it, or both do badly. But the delta isn’t significant.

The question now is… is Vettel a significant enough challenge to make JB go back to his own strategy?


Not really, because in the early season he had a massive car advantage with the double diffuser while in the second half of season everyone has that. So its not the same. And Rubens has beaten him quite comprehensively recently.


So when Schumacher won through having a huge car advantage he didn’t really desrve the title? Or any of the other champions who’ve had a far superior car..??


It hacks me off when people go down the ‘not deserving’ route! The rules are the same for everyone.

If you have a massively superior car (or bulletproof reliability), well done for designing and building it. That is just as much a part of the game.

If you score more points than anyone at the end of thseaon, Well done. You are are deserving WDC.

Anyone who says differently is usually just sticking up for the team or driver he supports when they have failed!


I didn’t say he did not deserve it, by definition if he or anyone scored the most points over the year is the deserved champion, that is an indisputable fact. What I said was when the cars are ‘more equal’ in 2nd half of season, he has been out performed by many others. So its not the same if he won all the races in the first half and perform mediocre in 2nd half, versus the other way around. Thats a subjective conclusion drawn from the stats which therefore is open to debate.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Exactly my point. Jenson is not really in the premier league. The best are Alonso, Hamilton, and Kimi.

If Jenson wins the WCC it’s only down to Rubens to blame. Rubens messed up in the first half of the season along with Ferrari and McLaren and Jenson lucked out in terms of minimal competition. Since the big boys started to come back he has struggled and will cling on to this WCC by the skin of his teeth.


Only in terms of qualifying pace. In the race I would say that JB has been the stronger.


Vettel is JB’s true challenger now. You’re right that Rubens is beating him on the track, his problem is that JB has managed to keep his scoreboard ticking over and Rubens only scores 1 or two points more than JB (Valencia apart). Brazil will either make the WDC a two-horse race or JB will be be thw champion.


that’s a perfect point at the end there Shaun… If the season was the other way round, and Jenson had won the championship by winning those races at the end of the year rather than the beginning, we’d all be calling him a genius!! Shows how fickle British sports ‘fans’ and ‘journalists’ can be… If Jenson had the chance to win every race I’m sure he would, why would he want to cruise round if it’s getting him all this jip!?!


Surely the title should read: can Brawn do a McLaren and lose the title?

That’s what really happened to loose so many points in 2 races, is more exceptional than to score them.

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