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Vettel wins Japanese Grand Prix as Grosjean comes of age
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Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Oct 2013   |  8:31 am GMT  |  588 comments

Sebastian Vettel won the Japanese Grand Prix, after a race long challenge from Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, who led for most of the race. Pole sitter Mark Webber passed Grosjean for second place two laps from the end to make it a Red Bull 1-2.

Fernando Alonso finished fourth, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg, who put in another strong performance.

It was Vettel’s fourth win in five years at Suzuka and his ninth win of 2013 and the 35th win of his career. It was also the first time he has won five consecutive races.

Vettel now has a 90 point lead over Fernando Alonso, who finished fourth today, which means that he is likely to clinch his fourth world title in India in two weeks time. He needs to finish fifth or higher in Delhi to finish the job off.

After three consecutive second places in Spa, Monza and Singapore, the Korea/Japan leg has not been kind to Ferrari, which has lost ground to Lotus in particular.

“I’d like to thank the fans, for the appreciation and respect they show the drivers,” said Vettel. “I had a very poor start. We were patient and looked after the tyres and had incredible pace in the end. I’m blown away. It (the championship) looks very good at this stage, but it’s not over until it’s over.”

It was a different kind of race from what we have seen recently in as much as Vettel didn’t drive away at the front; rather it was Grosjean, who controlled things in the first part of the race, with Webber behind him and Vettel in third.

Strategy was decisive; Red Bull split the strategies with Webber on a three stop and Vettel on a two. Vettel’s second stint was decisive; he was able to run a long middle stint and that gave him fresher tyres in the closing stages to pass Grosjean for the lead. Webber struggled to do the same on medium tyres in the final laps.

Teams were aware that a two stop strategy was around 8-10 seconds faster than three stops on paper, but there would be some teams possibly struggling to make the tyres last for a two stop.

Grosjean did a superb job throughout the race, but didn’t quite have enough pace on the strategy he was on to make it stick and take the victory. Another driver who excelled again was Nico Hulkenberg, who kept the Ferraris behind him for most of the race, but lost out to Alonso and Raikkonen in the final laps as his tyres faded.

At the start, Grosjean jumped into the lead, ahead of pole man Webber, while Hamilton and Vettel touched, Hamilton getting a rear puncture. Alonso moved ahead of Hulkenberg into 6th place, with Massa and Rosberg ahead of him.

At the back Van der Garde and Bianchi crashed in Turn 1, the Caterham suffering heavy front damage.

The order on the opening lap was: Grosjean, Webber, Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Perez, Gutierrez, Button.

Hamilton pitted on lap one and took on a set of new hard tyres, but he also had problems with aerodynamic loss from bodywork damage, up to one second per lap.

Vettel found himself third, obliged to drop back two seconds to protect his tyres, as was Webber.

Alonso was desperate to pass Massa in the opening stint, while on lap 9 Hamilton retired from the race. The opening stint was uneventful, little changing at the front through the first round of pit stops.

Button pitted on lap 9, Hulkenberg and Di Resta a couple of laps later. All moved onto the harder Pirelli tyre. On lap 12, Webber, Raikkonen and Massa pitted.

Lotus reacted and brought Grosjean into the pits on lap 13, retaining position ahead of Webber. This left Vettel leading on the medium tyres, trying to build a 22 second gap over Webber to jump him at his stop. He didn’t manage it and remained behind Grosjean and Webber.

Nico Rosberg was given a drive through penalty for unsafe release from a pit stop, he came out of his pit box into the path of Sergio Perez. Mercedes’ miserable race was compounded by Rosberg losing seven places, dropping down to 12th.

In the train which had formed behind Ricciardo, Alonso passed Massa, then a lap later Hulkenberg and Alonso both passed Ricciardo.

The Australian had started on hard tyres and this showed the others that they were good for at least 20 laps, which helped them to plan their strategy for the remainder of the race.

Grosjean maintained a 2.2 second gap over Webber, with Vettel a similar margin behind.

Webber pitted for the second time on lap 26, as Red Bull split strategies with Webber moving to three stops and Vettel on two stops. Grosjean kept going until lap 30 the pitted with 23 laps to the finish. He dropped in third behind Webber. Vettel pushed hard in the lead.

But Grosjean had it covered and maintained the gap below 20 seconds, not enough for Vettel to pit and rejoin before the finish. Vettel’s tactic was to have fresher tyres at the end of the race to challenge Grosjean in the closing stages.

Vettel pitted on lap 37 and rejoined on fresh tyres less than two seconds behind the Frenchman. He passed him four laps later for second place.

Webber pitted on lap 43, losing the lead to Vettel; he put on a set of medium tyres for the final stint. He attacked Grosjean on lap 47 and lap 48 into Turn 1 but couldn’t get through and that cost him the momentum he’d built up to potentially challenge Vettel for the win in the closing laps.

He passed Grosjean with two laps to go to the end.

The sixth place for Hulkenberg and seventh for Gutierrez (his first points in F1) meant that Sauber closed on Force India for sixth place in the constructors’ championship, the gap is now just seven points. Hulkenberg has scored points in the last four races.

1. Vettel Red Bull 1h37.410s
2. Webber Red Bull +7.1s
3. Grosjean Lotus +9.9s
4. Alonso Ferrari +45.6s
5. Raikkonen Lotus +47.3s
6. Hulkenberg Sauber +51.6s
7. Gutierrez Sauber +1m11.6s
8. Rosberg Mercedes +1m12.0s
9. Button McLaren +1m20.8s
10. Massa Ferrari +1m29.2s
11. Di Resta Force India +1m38.5s
12. Vergne Toro Rosso +1 lap
13. Ricciardo Toro Rosso +1 lap
14. Sutil Force India +1 lap
15. Perez McLaren +1 lap
16. Maldonado Williams +1 lap
17. Bottas Williams +1 lap
18. Pic Caterham +1 lap
19. Chilton Marussia +1 lap

Drivers’ Championship
1. Vettel 297 points
2. Alonso 207
3. Raikkonen 177
4. Hamilton 151
5. Webber 148

Constructors’ Championship
1. Red Bull-Renault 445 points
2. Ferrari 297
3. Mercedes 277
4. Lotus-Renault 264
5. McLaren-Mercedes 83

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Do you think there’s any truth to the idea that Redbull might be using KERS to circumvent traction control restrictions?


here’s the thing…

everyone was unhappy with Vettel walking away at the start of races…”F1 has become boring” “F1 Snorefest” etc..

Sunday we saw the little team that could take the fight to the big boys…Lotus vs RB, and you guys are STILL not satisfied!

Vettel drove well to make his tyres go the distnace when he needed to, and passed Grosjean at his 1st attempt…

Webber chewed up his rubber trying to get past the Lotus, and didn’t have the traction out of spoon, the ability to follow as closely through 130R or the traction out of the Casio Triangle to blitz Grosjean in the way Vettel did.

Hulkenburg drove well again.

Hamilton Vettel was a racing accident, similar to Alonso Raikkonen incident last year.

Speaking of, Alonso and Raikkonen did well to move up 5 places each to score 4th and 5th…

a great race…lets just hope Kimi can qualify a bit better…imagine having had both Lotus cars challenging the RBs…

Kudos to Vettel. I’m not a big fan, but the kid’s good. 4 and 9/10’s WDC confirms it.


Webber had difficultys to overtake Grosjean with much fresher tires.

It´s unlikely he would been able to prolongue his second stint like seb did.

Therefor he wouldn´t been able to create a tire diffrence in a two stop strategie like Seb did.

=> For a 2 Stopper he would´ve needed to box very close to the round Grosjean did it.

No tire diffrence => difficult/impossible to overtake. He would been locked behind Grosjean.

I don´t undertand why Red Bull do officially hide that they have a number one driver.

That would make life much easier for them and seb.

Still in this race i´m convinced they did choose the right strategy for both drivers.


This race has produced some of the funniest anti-Vettel nonsense so far. Pro-tip: you don’t have to like the 4x consecutive world champion, just because you acknowledge that he is good. I am a case in point. Can’t stand him.

He is, infact, the best.


Great race. Would love to have seen Grosjean win this one. He really has impressed me the second half of this season especially the last few races. Raikkonen may be the more experienced and tactical driver of the two, but Grosjean definitely is faster now and that come from someone who is a massive Kimi fan! Impressive race too by Vettel. Good to see him actually having to earn a win for a change!


After watching today’s race I felt empty so I dug out the 2005 japanese grand prix to see some really hot stuff. With all due respect there’s something missing from F1 today.



when VET overtook GRO, it looked as if he did not have his DRS open for the pass itself, he only opened it very briefly once he was already passed.

Did anyone else spot that or comment on it?




Yes VET spoke about it himself, rather embarrassed!


And everyone was wondering how the team would move SB aside to get a win for Webber.. this race makes that sound a little naive now…


Hey please don’t write off Raikkonen or Alonso because they weren’t on the podium today. Look at the driver standings. They are both up there just behind Seb


It seems that there is more attacking of other posters on this thread than usual. It really is a shame, since I personally watch this blog to hear from JA and other experts (to grow my understanding of F1), AND to hear from knowledgeable and passionate fans (to enhance the experience). I’m confident that JA (and his moderators) will eventually get it back to what it was. Sigh, until then…


“We were patient and looked after the tyres…”

I wish someone looked after the fans.

2014 is going to be even worse for F1 Pacing. Not only tyres [pirelli haven’t learnt their lesson] but fuel management will doubly impact pacing.


Everybody praying Romain, he had podiums before. This was more like a win oppurtunity that got away.


Why is there no outrage that Massa defied a team order?

Double standards?


I’ve been checking Joe Saward’s blog to see what he has to say this time, since he blasted Vettel so much after the Malaysian GP. Will be very odd if he has nothing to say about Massa.


Yes, it is.

We like Massa, so when he tells Ferrari to stick it we cheer him.

Go figure…


What is your take on this blog guys?

James if you don’t mind also would like to know what you think


Amazing blog. Especially liked: “The Japanese Grand Prix this weekend showed exactly why F1 has got so dull, and it has nothing to do with the genius of Sebastian Vettel or his car designers at Red Bull.

It’s because they’ve discovered that the way to win isn’t by trying to drive faster than the other guys, like it used to be in the good old days when duels could last half a race. It’s about managing tyres.

All of the first three drivers spent the first half of the race not trying to catch each other, simply because they knew that preserving their tyres would ultimately prove faster over the 200-mile race than pushing hard to overtake a rival.

Genuinely, the most interesting thing about the race – and perhaps the only noteworthy thing – is that Vettel won the race by choosing to change one less set of tyres. His average speed around the circuit while in motion was several seconds slower than that of team-mate Mark Webber, but he won because he needed only two pits stops instead of three.

That’s it. That’s your two-hours of entertainment in a nutshell”!!!!


Amazing, Vettel wins through sheer intelligence and canny driving and STILL people believe the myth that it’s all the team and poor old Mark is being robbed. Mark has simply never been quick enough to win a WDC and even on his fastest day, Vettel is still quicker. It might not be a comfortable truth, but it is (unfortunately for some) true all the same.

I’m not Vettel fan, but one must wonder what else he needs to do to prove the doubters wrong.


Vettel is faster than Mark, but don’t forget Mark damn near won the WDC in 2010.

One unlucky spin in Korea, a bad final race in Abu Dhabi, in my eyes that was what lost it.


Wouldn’t try to add to the speculation about why, who or what, but (unless I’ve missed it above somewhere) no one’s commented on the “stressed-out” radio messages broadcast by NBCSports channel from the leading driver in the last part of the race. Makes ya wonder about the real character and true quality.


I guess many of you have never experienced “the heat of the moment”.

I thought Jesson was cool. But Perez made him yell too, remember? Perez made Kimi say that someone should punch him. Perez made Rosberg ready to explode as well…


I wonder why Lotus did not ask RG to pit immediately after MW’s 2nd pitstop. This was the only thing they could do against RBR.


Good point. I guess they did not think it through. Or they believed more in the Lotus relative performance than it actually had.


No doubt who is number 2 at Red Bull…


You been judged by performance?


Ronnie, not sure what you mean.

I have stated before on this site that I don’t like SV, but I admit that he is in a class of is own at the moment. I will also state once more that people that say it is only the car are wrong. SV is incredibly fast. Credit where it is due.

I have no doubt that SV is faster than MW, SV proved it time and time again over the years. But I also believe that on this occasion SV benefited from a highly suspicious strategy call for MW. MW himself couldn’t quite understand why Red Bull did what they did. I think this cost MW first place. Yes he couldn’t overtake RG fast enough, but would he have even been in that situation if he had two stopped? We will never know.


Red Dull again GAVE the victory to Fettel by changing Webber’s race stragey during the race…

All credit to Red Dull making boring racing even more boring!


That is not true. How else can Webber pass Gro?


Another time traveler. Awesome.

Well Jyrki, pleased to meet you.

You find yourself in October, 2013, where we just watched a thrilling race at Suzuka in which Red Bull deliberately chose two different strategies for their drivers before the race in order to maximise their potential.

Webber gave it a good shot on his planned three stop strategy, but was held up near the end by Grosjean for a few laps which killed any chance of him catching and passing Vettel, but still it was the closest and most hard fought finish we’d seen for a little while.

Sorry for the spoiler, but I figure if you want payback you’ll just hop forward to the end of 2014 and tell us know how it all pans out 🙂


As previously suggested, Big John is on the rise.

Some people say that Kimi is declining; but the facts do not support this.

A better alternative explanation of the trend is that Grosjean has always been fast, as Boullier has said, and is now gaining his confidence to challenge in the fully supported Lotus, which has finally come good.

Clearly the tire switch favoured Romain over Kimi.

Webber and Vettel were set up quite differently, and in that set up Webber couldn’t make a two stop work.

Another good job by Hulkenberg; he should drive Red next year; though it would be great to see Hulkenberg against Grosjean; it might even be better than Alonso-Kimi.

Good job Vettel, you make any strategy work as well as it can.


What a race for Grosjean. Amazing that a year ago, everyone was dismissing him and that he wouldn’t get a seat ever again… just goes to show that if you nurture someone and don’t get rid of them because they didn’t perform that well in their first season, you can get a true gem.


I don’t mean to quibble, but he didn’t perform well in his first season and they did get rid of him.

He is starting to make a nice comeback though.

Alexander Supertramp

Come on, Christian “Two-face” Horner: “Good drive Mark, strategy didn’t work out in the end.” They were never planning on letting Webber fight for the win with Seb in the equation. Awful stuf..

On a side note, I have a feeling that RB are right up there with Lotus on tyre management, Mark was lapping strong times before his last pit stop.

Very bad week-end for Merc, they should look back, Lotus is nearing.. Lewis did what he had to do, i.e. go for the gap and try to fight the mighty Bulls. Can’t believe some people out here criticize him for that :D.The guy is a magnet to bad luck, look at what happened to Nico last week :D.

The Hulk confirms and Gutierrez shows his skill. Sauber will chase Force India now.

Impressed by Grosjean. He has been maturing as a driver and his last grand prix have been consistenly strong. Let’s see what he can achieve next year without Kimi but possibly alongside Hulk.

Perez confirms as well, he confirms that he’s not up for the job. What bothers me is that he’s full of excuses, that’s not the attitude that will make him a better driver. The best way to progress is to aknowledge your weaknesses and attack them.

Lastly, I still believe only Mercedes can really take the fight to Red Bull next year. This is just a subjective gut feeling and Mercedes will need to get their act together, but I have a feeling they are the only real hope for a more competitive F1.

Go Merc, #Merc’14!


So, no comments on Red Bull’s TC-like system and whether it’s really on Vettel’s car only? I was thinking that’s what every journalist would look at this weekend.


Vettel was sooo stiff and keen to overtake Grosjean. He had one shot and he made it stick.

He even forgot to open DRS half the straight,


Display of a 4 time WDC and a (insert name here), who was on at least 8 laps fresher tires, but needed 5 laps and couldn’t take the fight to Vettel once more!


A really intriguing race and James’s Strategy Report will make for fascinating reading.

Obv the conspiracy theorists have smelt a rat but were they right? It’s difficult to say because, at this moment, we don’t know what the trajectory of Webber’s laptimes would have been relative to Grosjean’s in the build-up to the second stops and again at the end of the race.

Mark will probably feel the team have pushed him onto his sword in the name of ensuring Red Bull had a better chance of beating Grosjean, or by simply wanting a “Vettel-Webber” order, by splitting the strategies. However it’s worth pointing out that if he’d won the start (from pole after quali) I somewhat suspect the whole debate would have been irrelevant. Also, if he’d passed Grosjean quickly and Vettel had hesitated, we could well have had a ding-dong in the final few laps between the team-mates so credit to Vettel for making his strategy work and for clearing Grosjean quickly. Webber gave it everything but deep down will know he can’t give Vettel second or third chances; if he carries that forward to India in two weeks time he may still win.

Regarding Grosjean he really made Vettel fight for the win today and it was another really good performance, uninterrupted by Safety Cars thankfully! For a while I thought he might just have the legs to pull off the victory but, as Eric Boullier said, as the second stint developed it became apparent that Red Bull still had some reserves spare in the tank while Lotus didn’t.


+1, The strategy report will be a fascinating read indeed.

I believe Webber had to make the third stop as Vettel was closing in really rapidly. Question is: Did Webber had to make his first stop so early? Because that really set him up for a three stopper.

Vettel is definitely king of the Pirelli F1 era: Aggressive when it counts, tyre management in between. I don’t believe Webber would’ve been able to make a two stopper work. He is more like a racer. A three stopper was the right thing to do for him, me think … Let’s see what the Strategy Report brings us …

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