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Japanese GP 2011

OCTOBER 9, 2011

Race Notes - Button wins Japanese GP, Vettel takes championship

Jenson Button, Sebastian Vetel, Japanese GP 2011
© The Cahier Archive

Jenson Button won the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka today in his McLaren-Mercedes, taking the win by 1.1 seconds over a closing Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari in second place. Sebastian Vettel finished third, 2.0 seconds behind in his Red Bull-Renault, clinching the 2011 Drivers World Championship with four races remaining.

Vettel joins Alberto Ascari, Juan-Manuel Fangio, Jack Brabham, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso as only the eighth driver to win back-to-back drivers championships - and the youngest ever. The win is Button's third of the season and the 12th of his career - McLaren's fifth of the season.

Mark Webber (8.0s) finished fourth in the Red Bull, followed by Lewis Hamilton (24.2s) in the McLaren in fifth place, Michael Schumacher (27.1s) in the Mercedes GP in sixth place, Felipe Massa (28.2s) in the Ferrari in seventh place, Sergio Perez (39.3s) in the Sauber-Ferrari was eighth, Vitaly Petrov (42.6s) in the Renault was ninth and Nico Rosberg (44.3s) in the Mercedes GP took the final points paying position.

At the start Vettel forces Button onto the grass, Vettel takes the corner, Button has to back off - Hamilton flashes by to take second. Vettel leads Hamilton, Button, Massa, Alonso and Webber - Kamui Kobayashi falls back to 12th.

Button tells his team that surely they will need to penalise Vettel for the move. Race control says that the incident is under investigation, but it was probably not enough for any action to be taken.

At lap 3 Vettel leads Hamilton by 1.7 seconds, followed by Button (4.3s), Massa (5.7s), Alonso (6.5s), Webber (7.3s), Schumacher (8.7s), Di Resta (10.6s), Sutil (11.1s) and Petrov (14.1s) in tenth place.

Rosberg, after starting at the back of the field is up to 19th place.

On lap 6 Alonso passes his team mate Massa into the first corner for fifth place. Vettel sets fastest lap at 1m39.8s and extends his lead to 3.1 seconds. Vitantonio Liuzzi goes off track but continues.

On lap 7 Rubens Barrichello passes his team mate Pastor Maldonado for 14th place.

On lap 8 Hamilton slows and Button passes him for second place. Hamilton pits for new soft tyres - his right rear tyre has had a puncture. Adrian Sutil pits as well. Vettel's lead is out to 5.2 seconds. All the front runners on a three-stop strategy.

On lap 10 Vettel pits for soft tyres and rejoins in sixth. Schumacher pits from seventh place.

Button, Alonso, Webber, Paul di Resta, Kobayashi and Heikki Kovalainen all put on lap 11. Massa stays out and takes the lead, and pits the next lap, along with Buemi and Trulli.

On lap 12 Buemi is off the road with his right front tyre detached.

On lap 13 Barrichello and Rosberg pit. Vettel leads Button by 2.5 seconds, Alonso 1.3s further back followed by Hamilton, Massa and Webber.

On lap 15 Schumacher passes Petrov for seventh place into the first corner. Mercedes reports to Schumacher that the front tyres that came off the car are very blistered and that he needs to take care of the current set.

On lap 16 Bruno Senna pits and has a slow stop. Button sets fastest lap at 1m39.0s.

On lap 17 Maldonado pits. Kobayashi passes Jaime Alguersuari at the hairpin for 12th place. Massa closes up on Hamilton in fourth place. Alguersuari pits.

On lap 19 Petrov makes his first pitstop from ninth place. Button closes the gap to 1.6 seconds.

On lap 20 Vettel pits fro the second time. Webber pits as well from sixth place, and just arrives as Vettel leaves the the pit stall.

Button pits from the lead the next lap, arriving just ahead of Vettel as they arrive at the first corner - Button stays ahead. Perez finally makes his first pit stop - the last driver to stop.

On lap 22 Alonso pits from the lead. Hamilton slows as he prepares to pit, Massa runs up the side of him and they make minor contact. Hamilton pits for tyres. Webber sets fastest lap at 1m39.0s. Kovalainen pits.

Massa pits from the lead then next lap. Button sets fastest lap a 1m39.4s.

At lap 22 Button leads Vettel by 0.7 seconds, followed by Alonso (5.6s), Webber (7.8s), Massa (15.2s), Schumacher (16.4s), Hamilton (16.9s), Sutil (28.8s), Di Resta (31.3s) and Kobayashi (37.9s) in tenth place.

Sutil pits from eighth place.

On lap 24 the safety car is deployed because of debris on the circuit. Schumacher pits from seventh place, as well as Di Resta, Kobayashi, Barrichello and Rosberg. Maldonado pits the next lap.

The Hamilton-Massa contact is under investigation by the stewards.

Behind the safety car Button leads Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Massa, Hamilton, Schmacher, Petrov, Perez, Di Resta, Sutil, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Barrichello, Alguersuari, Senna, Kovalainen, Maldonado, Jarno Trulli and Jerome D'Ambrosio in 20th.

A replay shows Webber and Schumacher making slight contact. Race control says no action will be taken on the Hamilton-Massa incident.

The safety car comes in at the end of lap 27 and the race resumes with the cars filing through in the order. Hamilton complains of understeer - the team says that they detected no damage to the car at the pit stop. Button runs out to a 1.2 second lead and sets fastest lap at 1m37.5s.

Petrov, Sutil, Rosberg and Kobayashi battle for 10th place.

At lap 30 Button leads Vettel by 2.2 seconds followed by Alonso (4.5s), Webber (5.3s), Massa (6.2s), Hamilton (7.4s), Schumacher (10.7s), Perez (13.1s), Di Resta (15.7s) and Petrov (18.2s) in tenth place.

Button sets fastest lap at 1m37.5s.

On lap 31 Sutil passes around the outside of Petrov into the first corner. Rosberg passes Petrov for 11th at the hairpin.

Webber closes to within a second of Alonso. Hamilton closes on Massa.

On lap 34 Vettel pits from second place, taking on the medium tyres, and rejoins in 11th place. Webber pits from third place the next lap for medium tyres rejoining just behind his team mate.

Vettel passes Rosberg for ninth place. Hamilton pits from fourth. Di Resta pits from seventh place. Vettel passes Sutil into the first corner.

On lap 37 Button pits from the lead taking medium tyres. Massa pits from third place, Alonso takes over the lead. Vettel is told on the radio to try to get to the end of the race on the current set of tyres.

On lap 38 Alonso pits from the lead, along with Perez, Sutil and Barrichello.. Vettel sets fastest lap at 1m37.4s. Hamilton passes Massa into the first corner. Vettel re-sets fastest lap at 1m36.9s.

Schumacher leads, still needing to pit. Vettel closes on Alonso. Vettel sets the fastest lap at 1m36.6s.

Petrov pits from ninth. Perez sets fastest lap at 1m36.5s. Perez passes Maldonado for 11th.

At lap 40 Schumacher leads Button by 0.5 seconds, followed by Alonso (5.3s), Vettel (5.7s), Webber (11.3s), Rosberg (17.9s), Hamilton (18.1s), Massa (18.9s), Kobayashi (29.0s) and Perez (30.3s) in tenth place.

Hamilton passes Rosberg into the first corner for sixth place. Schumacher pits and Button retakes the lead. Alonso defends as Vettel attacks him for second place. Vettel needs only one point to take the championship.

On lap 42 Rosberg pits from sixth place, Maldonado pits as well. Timo Glock runs off track but continues.

At lap 45 Button leads Alonso by 4.8 seconds, followed by Vettel (6.1s), Webber (9.0s), Hamilton (18.9s), Schumacher (20.9s), Massa (21.7s), Perez (28.8s), Sutil (38.6s) and Kobayashi (39.2s) in tenth place.

On lap 46 Sutil passes Kobayashi for ninth place into the 130R corner. Petrov passes Di Resta, Rosberg passes the Force India as well.

On lap 47 Petrov passes Kobayashi for 10th place into the first corner. Alonso closes to under three seconds behind the leader. Both Red Bulls drivers are told to not take any risks.

On lap 49 Alonso closes to only 1.6 seconds behind Button - down to 1.0 seconds the next lap - Vettel 1.8 seconds behind in third.

On lap 52 Button responds and sets fastest lap at 1m36.5s and extends his lead to 1.7 seconds, and holds on to take the win by 1.1 seconds ahead of Alonso and 2011 World Champion Vettel.