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Japanese GP 2012

OCTOBER 7, 2012

Race Notes - Sebastian Vettel wins Japanese GP with ease

Start, Japanese GP 2012
© The Cahier Archive

Sebastian Vettel won a flag-to-flag victory at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in his Red Bull-Renault. Felipe Massa in the Ferrari was second, 20.6 seconds behind and Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber-Ferrari was third, 24.5 seconds behind the winner.

This weekend Vettel took pole, fastest lap and the win, his third victory of the season and the first driver to score back-to-back wins - his 24th career victory. This is Vettel's third Suzuka victory in four starts at the Japanese track, and Red Bull's current form puts them in a strong position for both championships with five races remaining.

In the Drivers Championship, Vettel with 190 points has closed the gap to Alonso, with 194 points, to just four points with five races left to run. Raikkonen is third with 157 points, Hamilton is fourth with 152, Webber fifth with 135 and Button sixth with 131 points. In the Constructors championship, Red Bull-Renault, with 325 points, leads McLaren-Mercedes with 283, Ferrari with 263, Lotus-Renault with 239 and Mercedes with 136 points.

Championship leader Fernando Alonso was out of the race in the first corner, after Kimi Raikkonen touched him from behind, puncturing his tyre and sending him into a spin.

The podium finish is Massa's first since the Korean Grand Prix in 2010. Kobayashi's third place is his career best finish and his first podium.

Jenson Button (25.0s) comes across the line right on the tail of Kobayashi to finish in fourth place in his McLaren-Mercedes, followed by his team mate Lewis Hamilton (46.4s) in fifth, Raikkonen (50.4s) in the Lotus-Renault is sixth, Nico Hulkenberg (51.1s) in the Force India-Mercedes was seventh, Pastor Maldonado (52.3s) in the Williams-Renault was eighth, Mark Webber (54.6s) in the second Red Bull was ninth and Daniel Ricciardo (66.9s) in the Toro Rosso-Ferrari finished in the final points position in tenth.

Before the start, Vettel sits on pole, Button who qualifying third, was given a 5-grid position penalty for a gearbox change and will start eighth. Hulkenberg is pushed back to 15th on the grid.

Japanese driver Kobayashi starts a career best third. Michael Schumacher starts 23rd after his ten-place penalty for colliding with Jean-Eric Vergne in Singapore.

Drivers are expected to run a two-stop strategy in the race - only Vergne, Charles Pic and Schumacher are starting on hard compound tyres, all the rest are on the soft tyres.

At the start Vettel takes the lead, Kobayashi jumps into second place on the run down the straight. Into the first corner Kimi Raikkonen touches Alonso's left-rear tyre. Alonso spins with a punctured tyre. Separately Romain Grosjean runs into Webber who spins. Webber continues to the pit and changes to hard tyres and a new front wing. With the action happening ahead, Nico Rosberg checked up, and Bruno Senna ran into him from behind, sending Rosberg spinning. Grosjean pits for a new front wing.

World championship leader Alonso and Rosberg are out on the spot.

The safety car is deployed.

Senna pits for a new front wing.

On lap 3 the safety car is in and Vettel takes the lead once again. Sergio Perez tries to pass Raikkonen and runs wide at turn 1. Perez drops to seventh.

On lap 6 Vettel has a 3 second lead, and Button closes on Kobayashi in second.

On lap 7 Perez passes Hamilton for sixth place. Grosjean is given a stop-go penalty for the first turn incident with Webber.

On lap 8 Grosjean serves his penalty. Hulkenberg is pressuring Hamilton for seventh.

At lap 10 Vettel leads Kobayashi by 6 seconds, followed by Button (8.1s), Massa (8.9s), Raikkonen (11.4s), Perez (12.3s), Hamilton (15.7s), Hulkenberg (16.6s), Maldonado (19.5s) and Ricciardo (20.0s) in tenth. Schumacher up to 14th, Webber in 19th.

On lap 12 Webber passes Vitaly Petrov for 18th.

On lap 14 Button, Hulkenberg and Raikkonen pit, changing to hard compound tyres. Button rejoins in eighth.

On lap 15 Kobayashi pits from second place, rejoining in seventh. Raikkonen passes Vergne for tenth.

On lap 16 Perez pits from fourth and rejoins in ninth. Hulkenberg passes Vergne for 11th into the first corner.

On lap 17 Hamilton and Maldonado make their first stops from third and fourth. Vettel leads Massa by 11 seconds, both yet to pit.

On lap 18 leader Vettel and Massa make pitstops. Perez sets fastest lap at 1m38.9 seconds. Button reports a gearbox problem on the radio - the team says it is okay.

On lap 18 Button sets fastest lap at 1m38.9s.

On lap 19 Massa sets fastest lap at 1m38.9s. Perez attempts a pass on the outside of Button at the hairpin. He locks his rear tyres, and then spins into the gravel. He is out on the spot.

Petrov pits.

After the first round of stops, at lap 20 Vettel leads Massa by 9.5 seconds, followed by Kobayashi (12.4s) in third, Button (15.0s), Raikkonen (20.6s), Hamilton (21.6s), Hulkenberg (23.7s), Maldonado (31.6s), Webber (34.7s) and Ricciardo (36.8s) in tenth place.

On lap 21 Button is still complaining that something is wrong with his gearbox - he still runs in fourth place.

On lap 22 Senna pits to take a drive-through penalty for causing a collision with Rosberg at the start. Hamilton is complaining that his tyres have gone off.

Vettel sets fastest lap at 1m38.4s.

On lap 23 Grosjean pits and takes another set of hard tyres.

At half distance only Vettel and Massa are running in the 1m38s range - the rest of the top ten running 1m39s.

On lap 27 Webber pits from tenth and takes another set of hard tyres. Schumacher pushes his way past Paul di Resta for 11th at the first corner.

On lap 29 Vettel sets fastest lap again at 1m38.2s.

On lap 30 Button is closing on Kobayashi in third place. Raikkonen pits for more hard tyres.

On lap 32 Kobayashi pits from third. Hamilton and Hulkenberg pit as well. All stay on hard tyres. As Hamilton rejoins the track he runs side-by-side with Raikkonen into the first corner and forces his way past the Finn.

On lap 33 Di Resta pits and stays on hard tyres. Maldonado pits the next lap from fourth and changes to hard tyres.

On lap 35 Narain Karthikeyan retires his HRT in the pits. Ricciardo pits from sixth place, Senna pits as well.

On lap 36 Button pits from third place - rejoining in fourth. Vergne pits as well. Hamilton sets fastest lap at 1m37.9s.

On lap 37 Massa pits from second place, keeping his position. Schumacher pits from ninth, staying on soft tyres.

On lap 38 Vettel pits from the lead with an efficient stop for more hard tyres, and rejoins still in the lead. Senna sets fastest lap at 1m37.3s.

On lap 40 Vettel sets fastest lap at1m36.6s. Red Bull tells Vettel to look after his tyres.

At lap 40 Vettel leads Massa by 18.3 seconds, followed by Kobayashi (22.3s), Button (25.8s), Hamilton (32.3s), Raikkonen (36.6s), Hulkenberg ( 37.7s), Maldonado (39.8s), Webber (50.1s) and Ricciardo (52.3s) in tenth place.

On lap 42 Pic retires with an engine problem.

On lap 43 Senna passes Grosjean for 14th place.

On lap 46 Button continues to chase after Kobayashi in the final podium position, 1.7 seconds behind the Japanese driver. Vettel sets another fastest lap at 1m36.4s.

On lap 49 Petrov is given a drive-through penalty for ignoring the blue flags. Schumacher is pressuring Ricciardo for the final point in tenth place.

At lap 50 Vettel leads Massa by 19.3 seconds, followed by Kobayashi (24.8s), Button (26.1s), Hamilton (41.9s), Raikkonen (47.0s), Hulkenberg (487.2s), Maldonado (49.3s), Webber (53.8s), and Ricciardo (64.2s) in tenth.

On lap 52 Button closes to 1.1 seconds behind Kobayashi.

On lap 52 Vettel sets fastest lap at 1m35.7s. Schumacher passes Ricciardo for tenth place. Grosjean retires to the pits. Ricciardo retakes tenth from Schumacher.

At the flag Vettel holds on the win, Massa second, and Kobayashi holds off Button to finish in third place.