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Sebastian Vettel cruises to Japanese Grand Prix win and blows championship open
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Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Oct 2012   |  8:34 am GMT  |  358 comments

Sebastian Vettel became the first back to back race winner in 2012 at the Japanese Grand Prix, cruising to an easy win after a start line accident eliminated championship leader Fernando Alonso for the second time in four races.

A separate incident also dropped Mark Webber down the order, Romain Grosjean once again the culprit in triggering an accident at the start. Webber recovered to finish 9th.

Felipe Massa scored a potentially vital second place, as far as his Ferrari career is concerned, from 10th place. It was his first podium for two years, although Ferrari celebrations will be muted as their hopes of winning the drivers’ championship took a massive blow today.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third, his first F1 podium, to the delight of the Japanese fans, the first home podium for a Japanese driver for 22 years.

It was Vettel’s third win of the season and the 24th of his career. It was also his third Japanese GP in the last four years and it means that he cut Alonso’s championship lead to just four points with five races to go. His winning margin was a massive 20 seconds and several times he had to be told to slow down by his engineer.

And with Red Bull hitting peak form in its car development and rumours of a double DRS device on the car this weekend, there is a momentum about Vettel’s campaign which Alonso will find extremely hard to halt.

“We had a good start which was important because there was a crash,” said Vettel. “I saw a Ferrari was out and I worked out it must have been Fernando. When you dream at night you dream about being able to drive a car like this.

“It was an important step today. We don’t know what happens in the next race, but it was good to take the points today.”

Kimi Raikkonen moved into third place in the championship on 157 points, amazingly just 37 off the front, thanks to his sixth place, with Hamilton five points behind the Finn.

Pre-race expectations were that tyre degradation could be a decisive factor, with the front tyres the limitation. In the end everyone was able to make it in a conventional two stop strategy, although Webber effectively did a one-stop after pitting on the first lap.

The start was explosive; Fernando Alonso was eliminated by an incident into Turn 1, as he squeezed across to the left and tagged Raikkonen, getting a puncture which put him into a spin. He was out for the second time in four races, so too Nico Rosberg.

Alonso questioned why Raikkonen had not lifted off, but accepted that it was a racing incident. Raikkonen had been involved in hurting him for the second time in the weekend, after the Lotus driver’s spin in qualifying had ruined his chances of starting on the front two rows.

Meanwhile Webber’s race was ruined by Grosjean driving into the back of him into Turn 2. Webber had to pit on the first lap and switched to the hard tyre and a one-stop strategy from there, as a Safety Car was sent out.

The race was restarted before Webber had rejoined the tail of the pack, he was 20 seconds off the back of them at the restart.

Grosjean was given a 10 second stop/go penalty by the stewards, which he served on lap 8. It was a suitably tough penalty for Grosjean, the stewards clearly sending him a message that they were unhappy he had not learned from the one race ban after Spa.

Webber called Grosjean a “first lap nutcase” and added, “The rest of us are trying to fight for decent results. Maybe he needs another holiday. He needs to have a look at himself, how many times can you make the same error. It’s embarrassing at this level.”

It was a dream scenario for Vettel from a race and championship point of view, with two of his main rivals taken out of contention and Kobayashi in second place as a buffer to hold up the cars behind him.

At the restart Raikkonen made a bold pass on Perez into Turn 1, for fifth place.

Perez and Hamilton battled, with the Mexican ambushing the man he will replace at McLaren next season.

After 10 laps Vettel led by almost 6 seconds from Kobayashi, with Button up to third from 8th on the grid, Massa fourth, Raikkonen fifth, Perez sixth, Hamilton seventh, Hulkenberg eighth, Maldonado ninth and Riccardo 10th. Heikki Kovalainen was up to 11th.

The first stops came on lap 14 with Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Button pitting for hard tyres. Kobayashi came in a lap later.

Kobayashi and Button were held up by Riccardo, as Massa took his chance to pit and rejoined ahead of the pair of them, up to second place, clever strategy giving him a chance to make a big gain.

Sergio Perez was eliminated on lap 20, as he came out of the kink too quickly and almost collided with Hamilton in sixth place. Hamilton had got ahead in the pit stops.

Button meanwhile was struggling with a gearbox issue, ironic given that he had been forced into a change before this race and a 5 place penalty as a result. It stabilised and he was able to continue pushing.

At the half way stage the order was Vettel ten seconds clear of Massa, with Kobayashi third four seconds ahead of Button, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Webber in ninth and Ricciardo 10th.

Webber had done 25 laps on a set of hard tyres when he pitted on lap 26, taking a second set of hards. This told all the strategists that the hard tyres were easily good for a two stop strategy.


Felipe Massa was running well in second place, the Ferrari lapping consistently and with Kobayashi not making any ground on him, the top three looked fairly static.

Raikkonen pitted on lap 31, Hamilton a lap later and he rejoined alongside the Lotus, holding his line into Turn 1 and taking the seventh place.

Button stayed out longer than Kobayashi trying to jump him, but his pitstop wasn’t fast enough due to the right rear wheel taking longer than usual to go on, so Button came out behind Kobayashi.

Massa pitted on lap 37, with Vettel a lap later, the race completely under control.

Vettel had a 17 second lead over Massa by lap 40 but had to be told to slow down by his engineer, who was worried about him overheating his tyres.

The main interest of the end of the race was whether Jenson Button could catch and pass Kobayashi. McLaren had managed the strategy so that Button would have the fresher tyres for the end of the race. He closed right up on the final lap but couldn’t pass him. It was Sauber’s fourth podium of the season.

Lewis Hamilton was fifth, ahead of Raikkonen and Hulkenberg.

Mercedes ended up without any points again, Rosberg out at the start and Schumacher unable to pass Ricciardo for tenth place at the end of the race.

JAPANESE GRAND PRIX, Suzuka, 53 laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 1h28:56.242
2. Massa Ferrari + 20.639
3. Kobayashi Sauber + 24.538
4. Button McLaren + 25.098
5. Hamilton McLaren + 46.490
6. Raikkonen Lotus + 50.424
7. Hulkenberg Force India + 51.159
8. Maldonado Williams + 52.364
9. Webber Red Bull + 54.675
10. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1:06.919
11. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:07.769
12. Di Resta Force India + 1:23.400
13. Vergne Toro Rosso + 1:28.600
14. Senna Williams + 1:28.700
15. Grosjean Lotus + 1 lap
16. Kovalainen Caterham + 1 lap
17. Glock Marussia + 1 lap
18. Petrov Caterham + 1 lap
19. De la Rosa HRT + 1 lap

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1

I refer you to my earlier letter. Conspiracy, Conspiracy and Conspiracy. Reminds me about the crashgate affair a few years ago when a Renault crashed purposefully and timeously brought out the safety car which allowed the other Renault to win on that day. This is my opinion.

2

Alonso said in Bahrain

all the time you have to leave space

and his car wasn’t side by side with rosberg

now at suzuka,we must ask Alonso directly

where is the space that you ordered rosberg to leave

i think Alonso are saying things but dosen’t do it

BAD PERSON

3

Was it not a Renault (kimi) that crashed during qualifying after the Red Bull (Renault) pair set their qualifying times that brought out the waved Yellow Flags preventing the others to qualify properly and was is not a Renault (Vettel) who hindered Alonso during qualifying And subsequently Vettel was reprimanded for the incident whereas Jean Eric Vergne (williams) was given a 4 place grid penalty for hindering a Toro Rosso (team N Was it not a Renault (kimi) that crashed during qualifying after the Red Bull (Renault) pair set their qualifying times that brought out the waved Yellow Flags preventing the others to qualify properly and was is not a Renault (Vettel) who hindered Alonso during qualifying And subsequently Vettel was reprimanded for the incident whereas Jean Eric Vergne (williams) was given a 4 place grid penalty for hindering a Toro Rosso (team No.2 of Red Bull). Was it not a Renault (kimi) that touched Alonso’s Left rear wheel in the start of the race, slit the tyre and ended Alonso’s race and was it not a Renault (Grosjean) again that took off Mark Webber from the equation at the start of the Japan GP. Vettel had to capitalise and there is no question about it.

4

Ahmed: I really like to know what you were trying to say, here.

Could summarize that into one sentence?

5

So much has been talked about this Kimi-Nando incident in so many forums but nobody bar Luca, even the drivers involve even consider it as much as a bad day in October. It just a racing incident. The only thing that Nado said is “why Kimi did not lift?”. That was just a moment thing, just after that he said its just a matter of “bad luck”. And he knows that is what it is. He knows his real big problem is the car. Writers/press is just selling you a story. Luca is a also politician, a politician talking politics. Its his 2nd job and could be his day job soon if his ambitions come true. In reality both drivers respect each other and are- not close but are friends. This is just simply a racing incident, real racing fans will consider it as that. It can happen to any driver in any race.

6

James Lewis reported that his car felt good after 20laps. That he heard a Thud and he was able to steer his car better?……have you found out why this can happen or is to do with load settings that dropped to the correct level?. If his setup was good i reckon Lewis would have got 2nd or 3 rd at qualy as race pace improved quite late. We will have to wait and see Korean GP if Mclaren made a setup fiasco like in this Gp.

7

Hi james

A few comments on the weekend’s race. I thought some BBC comments (not yours I’d add)that Alonso was ‘taken out’ by Kimi were harsh to say the least. What’s more I missed quali but was amazed to hear that Kimi was similarly blamed for affecting Alonso, and others’, qualifying runs. From what I’ve heard and read it was everyone’s final run and if you’re going to leave it late that’s the risk everyone runs. Kimi seriously affected his own quali, forget anyone else that’s racing folks.

The first corner insident was similarly Alonso’s luck running out. He’s a great driver but seems to think that everyone should jump out of his way. It’s been reported that Kimi’s front wing clipped, took out, hit Alonso’s rear tyre – of what I’m aware driver’s can’t actually see their front wings so how could Kimi possibly know contact was imminent? Had he lifted off there’s a good chance someone would have run into the back of him. Equally, I’m not blaming Alonso, it was a racing incident, sh*t happens on the track – get on with it.

I do however think that Alonso has had the rub of the green on occasions. Grosjean has had his ctitics this year, rightly so, however he would have been perfectly within his rights to hold his line at Valencia when Alonso went around him, but he didn’t – he gave him room and what a race he had. In this instance had Grosjean hit Alonso would he have been in his rights to say “there was no space I don’t know why Alonso didn’t ease off?” – no I doubt it.

I don’t mind people having opinions or disagreeing but I think consistency is key and I don’t think it’s always the case. The beeb obviously have their favourites, no problem, but try and be consistent – Andrew Benson & Gary Anderson’s first corner summary was poor in my opinion.

I’ve no ill will to Alonso, I hope the Ferrari is competitive until the end of the season. I’ve no interest in Red Bull running away with it, but let’s have some consistency away from the track as well as on it.

8

have I missed something here ? has there been a rule change ….if you get partly past another car you are entitled to pull across and force them to brake ?

because otherwise alonso’s DNF was 100% his own fault

can’t see past vettel for the WDC now , with the latest update it is again in a class of it’s own…if webber hadn’t been grosjeaned would have been an easy 1-2 ; only good thing about that is that it leaves some small doubt about the destination of the WCC ,not much I admit

and where are the …..the ferrari is not very good but massa got 110% out of it ….comments ? we have been hearing it all season when alonso gets a good result

had to laugh about the …button has stopped following hamilton on twitter story ; I don’t either …but then , neither has button lol

9

Lewis Hamilton on Twitter on JB

> = Following

KK. Oh no! Sorry! It was LH he was >. Turns out that LH thought he was ahead of JB ‘cause JB was > him. Erm…..JB was unable to < KK in the race & didn't manage to LH in the first place. Blimey! I’m confused. Never mind. At least I’m not as confused as LH.

10

Sorry! Half the above is missing for some reason, so it makes less sense than it originally did. Ooops.

11

Hello there,

I got two questions, if it was only a puncture (Alonso) why didn’t he try to continue, the car stalled or there was something else? I guess it must be very difficult to keep the motor alive while in a meddle of an accident, do you know whats the procedure?

Thanks

12

Hello there,

I got two questions, if it was only a puncture (Alonso) why he didn’t try to continue, the car stalled or there was something else? I guess it must be very difficult to keep the motor alive while in a meddle of an accident, do you know whats the procedure?

Thanks

13
tom in adelaide

The JAonF1 comments section is always interesting. You learn quite a bit about F1, but even more about the psychology of human beings.

14

Indeed you do!

15

Wow… interesting reading all the comments about todays race…. a lot of discontent about the race today. I think the one thing we can all agree on is that nobody is happy Vettel won again and congrats to Kobayashi and Massa on their podiums? 😀

16

People who have a problem with Vettel winning haven’t been paying enough attention to have seen that he has been the best driver for about four or five races.

Red Bull have not been dominant with their machinery, this season. Nobody has been outright dominant; that is one of the reasons it is such a good spectacle this year.

McLaren have been dominant lately, and over the course of the whole season, McLaren, Red Bull, and even Ferrari have been very competitive, again, overall.

17

Is it just me or did massa jump the start? It certainly looked like his wheels were moving before the lights went green.

Possible protests?

18

It’s monitored electronically, so if it wasn’t picked up it can’t have been a jump start

19

Just because the system didn’t pick it up, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. If you watch the start from Massa’s perspective, he is clearly inching forward before the lights turn green.

20

I have just watched the BBC highlights and when when they showed Massa’s getaway, he clearly jumps the start; as his wheels are rotating when the red lights are still on. Check it out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01n8kbs/Formula_1_2012_The_Japanese_Grand_Prix_Highlights/ at approximately 1:38:30 and see what everyone else thinks

21

Is it just me or anyone else also thinks that Mclaren seems to have been suddenly slowed down after Ferrari complained of flexi wings. Until Singapore, they were untouchable and today Massa was clearly faster than Jenson. Even in qualifying Mclaren were suddenly half a second down on RedBull.

22

Good one Syed, I was wondering the same thing. I was convinced that both Red Bull and McLaren had got a ‘wing rotating about its axis’, and that by qualifying, they’d have installed ‘plan b’, and it would have taken them down a notch. Maybe I got it right with McLaren. Maybe their is some high level gamesmanship going on, and Red Bull always anticipated a challenge should a ‘flex-wing’ issue come up.

I don’t have any inside information, I just read the tea leaves.

23

Hadn’t thought of it but “hmm, muse muse”. Interesting point. After I first heard of this had a look at some recent slo-mo footage of McLarens. Wing actually looked really stiff. Couldn’t see any flex at all. But I’m about as far from an engineer or a video analyst as it’s possible to get so………………

24
Luciana Gutierez

I have a question. Mark Webber took a very bad hit but managed to recover and finish in points. Fernando Alonso had a puncture but parked his car in the middle of the track and walked away. What exactly went wrong?

25

Alonso stalled it.

26

And Alonso’s left rear had no rubber on it at all, it was torn away during the spin.

27

It’s a foregone conculsion that as soon as Newey comes up with a technical breakthrough Seb is good enough to dominate. Vettel is a special talent and though he may not have Alonso’s (or Hamilton’s) knack yet of winning in an inferior car, he only needs that extra edge from Newey to conquer all. I was wondering where RBR found the new advantage and now it’s coming out. Well, they deserve it and Ferrai also deserves their technical inferiority. It’s just too bad for the drivers that machinery is the decisive factor but that’s always been the case in F1.

28

Even more interesting. As Alonso said, a mini championship begins. Let’s see it with passion, does not happen every year.

29

KOBAYASHI!!! BANZAI!!!!

30

Alonso is out of touch with reality:

http://aijaa.com/0064511049587.jpg

31

Wow!

Vettel:

as previously stated, is the hottest driver in F1, and now that the Red Bull has been brought onto pace, leap-frogging Lotus, who has been in the news so much with their inability to get their double-DRS working, he will, as predicted, win the world championship this year.

Alonso:

If he has a weakness, could it be over-bearing vindictiveness? He couldn’t let go the last moment spin by Raikkonen in qualifying, hardly worthy of a second thought, however, it looked like Alonso was delivering retribution by moving Raikkonen off the track. Contrary to his clear-headed focus on doing what he has to to garner the most points, Alonso lost focus and tried to punish Kimi with an uneven squeeze; and it may prove decisive with Vettel cruising through to within four points of Alonso.

Raikkonen:

If anyone has earned respect, by driving fair in wheel to wheel dueling this year, it is Kimi. Alonso’s insistence that he should have ‘lifted’ is ridiculous, after Alonso’s bizarre squeeze tactic at the start. Despite a lack-lustre performance, all weekend really, by Kimi, the distance between him and the lead has been reduced again. But if Lotus cannot get at least on par with Red Bull, Vettel will cruise to the world championship this year with as much difficulty as he won Suzuka 2012.

Red Bull:

Who doubted their development prowess? All one needs to say is, “Adrian Newey”. The Red Bull has peaked at just the right time, and they look very, very solid to win another couple of championships, both Constructors’ and drivers’.

Conclusion:

With the way Vettel is driving, anyone who shall vie to challenge him will have to have a batter car, and that just does not seem likely.

32

I think only an equal car is needed to beat Vettel at this stage, not a better one. Especially for Alonso. The others a bit back probably need a (slightly) better car, or some unreliability in the RB8.

33

Hmm, only an “equal” car needed to beat Vettel? Like Mark Webber’s?

34

An equal car, well sure, but I think you’re deluded about the driver aspect KRB; just ask Mark Webber.

35

Agreed. Hence the qualifiers about those further back in the points. To Dean above, I agree that Vettel is faster than Alonso over a flying lap, and would be in the same car.

I hope Vettel goes to Ferrari, so we can see them side-by-side.

36

KRB: I appreciate the feedback, but Alonso is not as fast as Vettel right now; in the same equipment, I pick Vettel over Alonso right now, and for most of Vettel’s career.

Don’t get me wrong, anyone who underestimates the prowess of Alonso has not been paying attention. But his greatest comparative advantage is in team management and motivation, followed closely by sheer psychological mania to win. His weakness is shown again this past weekend, vindictiveness. Every time I see it again, I see Alonso roaring over to give Kimi a message one can’t ignore. And I see the only chink in the armour of Alonso; look at the points he, Alonso, put on the line to deliver that communication! What would he have got? MASSA GOT SECOND! It almost goes without saying that if Massa got second, Alonso would have had second!

Explain where I have it wrong.

Now, think of Kimi and his driving record; go back and review his F1 driving career, if you want to see for yourself. He rarely drives anyone off the road, but he NEVER backs down when someone is putting the squeeze on him, NEVER!

What was Alonso thinking? He ought to know. His mind was working below the ruthless effectiveness he has displayed this season. The question is why?

But Alonso blew it! He tried to put an unfair (more appropriately described in Canada as “an @$s#0L& move”) squeeze on Kimi!

That probably cost him, at minimum, ten points; if Massa was that good, and I know that he was better for the entire weekend, this weekend, unusually, but when it comes to the race… I really don’t know if Massa has EVER, beaten Alonso on a race day!?! Maybe once or twice, max?

So think of the cushion, HE COULD HAVE HAD, still 20 points? That is a big difference from 4 points.

Unless Ferrari get some upgrades to a minimum of the RB8 capability, Vettel will beat Alonso in the championship this year.

37
Val from montreal

Vettel best driver of his generation – Will win his 3rd title in a row in not the best car – Reminds of Schumacher just a bit – dominates the field in competetive machinery and is capable of race wins and championships when his car is second best – just like Schumacher / / / 2010 – 2011 – 2012

38

Second best or 1 second quicker? Yeah you could really see Vettel wrestling that dog of a Red Bull around Suzuka. Actually same goes for 2010 and 2011….how he managed to win in a car thats second best is just amazing.

To be fair to the screaming girl with the index finger, he deserves every title he gets. Thankfully thats the one thing that wont follow a similar route in Seb emulating his hero. He wont rely on the FIA to change the rules mid season to slow the opposition down. Its Red Bull being slowed down…

Schumi’s glory years = so many gifts. Just ask Williams and McLaren. I wish Michael signed a two year extension cos i can watch him run into the back of other drivers all day.

These last 3 years has been great fun. We had Pirelli, DRS and Michael missing his breaking point

Val stick to CFL…….GO ROUGHRIDERS!!!!!!

39

Think RB8 is as good / better than any since Singapore- that DDRS is working well. They were fastest at a few other races earlier also. Not taking anything away from Seb

40

Those are two tracks that would have suited the Red Bull anyway. We won’t know until Korea if they now have the fastest package across all types of circuit.

41

Alonso often cuts across over aggressively at starts and this time he had to pay the price.

42

Feel gutted for Fernando but Suzuka is over and its time to looks forward. One of the positives is that he saved mileage on his engine.

Championship is far from over. Sebastian cannot win all races and Fernando won’t be taken out each time.

It’s a straight fight between Red Bull’s speed and Fernando’s extraordinary talent now.

Fernando has done his job for 15 races, lets see if Ferrari development can do theirs for remaining 5.

43

+1

45

I believe that the Ferrari’s speed and Vettel’s talent might also play their parts 😉

46

Please help me out with my Japanese: Was Kamui Kobayashi stating: “Arigato Vettelmassa” at the podium?

47

Accidental similarity 🙂

He said “arigato gozaimasu”, which is a polite way of saying “thank you”.

48

Japanese is such a beautiful language, I like how personal names sound; Kobayashi,Yamamoto,Takuma Sato, Kawasaki, Honda etc. simply beautiful! Well, arigato gozaimasu!

49

One has to feel sorry for Alonso. For the third season in a row he’s been fighting like hell every weekend to try to win a WC is a car that realistically has no right to do so.

His rivals can afford mistakes a DNFs, like Vettel’s in 2010 and now in 2012 that Alonso just can’t afford if he is to stay in the fight.

McLaren and Red Bull drivers are doing pole positions with a margin up to a second from Ferrari. Today Vettel had to be told to slow down in the final laps. Can you imagine Alonso in a car with such performance advantage over the rest? The championship would be over by mid- summer…

50

Over the course of the season, Red Bull haven’t had a performance advantage over the rest. Mclaren, Lotus and Ferrari have undeniably been up there as well.

51

Really….After 15 rounds i think McLaren had the quickest car at least 8 or 9 times and the Bulls were quickest the other 6 or 7 times. To say the Bull hasnt had a performance advantage over “the rest” like lotus and Ferrari is laughable. The only time the Ferrari was quickest in qualifying was when it was wet…….and we saw in those subsequent races that in the dry on race day, the Ferrari was slower. Kimi has good race pace but its not quick in qualy. How does it make you feel better to say that the Red Bull has no performance advantage over the Ferrari and Lotus. Havent seen Fernando or Kimi leading races by 20 seconds or being told to slow down while leading.

Actually, please tell me a story where you spin some facts and figures to prove that the Red Bull has no performance advantage and is equal to the Ferrari and Lotus. McLaren has been quickest more often but the Red Bull has had its share of quickest weekends…..for real

52

IMO the RB8’s been better at more races than the McLaren. The McLaren has had better qualifying pace than race pace, the opposite to the last two seasons.

RB8 best or close second on race pace – AUS, BHN, MON, EUR, GBR, GER, BEL, SIN, JAP

MP4-27 best or close second on race pace – AUS, CHN, CAN, GER, HUN, BEL, ITA, SIN

So I have it 9-8 for RB8. GER was a very equal race between the Ferrari, Red Bull, and McLaren.

I would say though that the McLaren has lacked race pace (BHN, EUR, GBR) at more races than the RB8 (ITA).

Conclusion? RB8 a better overall car than the MP4-27, over the season so far.

53

Gee we agree on something

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