Vettel dominates Suzuka GP

    Sebastian Vettel cruises to his third victory of the season at the Japanese GP and significantly cuts down his points deficit to Ferrari's Alonso.

    Published On Oct 07, 2012 08:49:00 PM

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    Vettel dominates Suzuka GP

    Sebastian Vettel demolished Fernando Alonso's Formula 1 world championship lead by dominating the Japanese Grand Prix as the points leader retired in a first-lap crash.

    The reigning champion is now just four points behind with five races to go, and has momentum on his side after back to back victories.

    Felipe Massa came through from 10th on the grid to second for his first podium finish in nearly two years.

    But for the home crowd everything was insignificant compared to Kamui Kobayashi fending off Jenson Button for his maiden F1 podium in third place, as he equalled the best ever finish for a Japanese driver.

    Vettel's third Suzuka victory in four starts at the venue came easily as several likely challengers were eliminated in a chaotic first lap.

    The carnage began when Alonso's Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus banged wheels on the run to the first corner. That caused damage to the Ferrari and left it spinning into the sand trap.

    Kobayashi had thrust his Sauber between the Red Bulls off the line, and things then got much worse for Mark Webber when Romain Grosjean slid into him at the second corner.

    The Lotus driver picked up front wing damage and a 10-second stop/go penalty, while Webber was spun to the back and needed a pitstop for checks.

    As the chain reaction unfolded behind, Nico Rosberg's Mercedes was taken out in a clash with Bruno Senna's Williams.

    Once the resultant safety car had come in, Vettel was free to dominate, leading by as much as 20s on his way to a third victory of 2012.

    Kobayashi held second until the first pitstops, when both he and the chasing Button were leapfrogged by Massa. Like Button, the Ferrari driver had gained a lot of ground in the first-corner shambles, and once ahead of the McLaren and Sauber, Massa was quick enough to pull away.

    Button tried his utmost to similarly demote Kobayashi, but a slightly slow final pitstop did not help and the local hero was able to keep last year's Suzuka winner at bay.

    Lewis Hamilton had a quiet start to the race in the second McLaren before coming through to fifth. He fell victim to a superb dive-bomb pass from McLaren replacement Sergio Perez in the first stint - the Sauber having dropped behind in a failed outside-line bid to pass Raikkonen at the first corner.

    Hamilton then got back ahead of Perez at the first pitstops, and as he tried to retaliate down the outside at the hairpin, Perez ran wide and spun into retirement.

    The McLaren then jumped Raikkonen for fifth at the second stops - emerging alongside the Lotus and muscling it aside at the second turn despite Raikkonen seeming to have the momentum.

    Nico Hulkenberg's Force India chased Raikkonen home in seventh while resisting pressure from Pastor Maldonado's Williams.

    Webber recovered to ninth, pitting just once more after his lap-one stop.

    Daniel Ricciardo made it two Australians in the points as Toro Rosso's mini-resurgence continued. Ricciardo resisted pressure from Michael Schumacher to the finish, preventing Mercedes from scoring this weekend.

    The lap one mess gave Caterham a sniff of an opportunity as Heikki Kovalainen emerged in 11th. He could not stay ahead of the recovering frontrunners, though.

    PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
    
    The Japanese Grand Prix
    Suzuka, Japan;
    53 laps; 307.471km;
    Weather: Sunny.
    
    Classified:
    
    Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
     1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h28:56.242
     2.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    20.639
     3.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +    24.538
     4.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +    25.098
     5.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    46.490
     6.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +    50.424
     7.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +    51.159
     8.  Maldonado     Williams-Renault           +    52.364
     9.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    54.675
    10.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:06.919
    11.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:07.769
    12.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +  1:23.400
    13.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:28.600
    14.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +  1:28.700
    15.  Grosjean      Lotus-Renault              +     1 lap
    16.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +     1 lap
    17.  Glock         Marussia-Cosworth          +     1 lap
    18.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +     1 lap
    19.  De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth               +     1 lap
    
    Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:35.774
    
    Not classified/retirements:
    
    Driver        Team                         On lap
    Pic           Marussia-Cosworth            39
    Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth                 34
    Perez         Sauber-Ferrari               19
    Alonso        Ferrari                      1
    Rosberg       Mercedes                     1
    
    
    World Championship standings, round 15:                
    
    Drivers:                    Constructors:             
     1.  Alonso       194        1.  Red Bull-Renault          325
     2.  Vettel       190        2.  McLaren-Mercedes          283
     3.  Raikkonen    157        3.  Ferrari                   263
     4.  Hamilton     152        4.  Lotus-Renault             239
     5.  Webber       135        5.  Mercedes                  136
     6.  Button       131        6.  Sauber-Ferrari            115
     7.  Rosberg       93        7.  Force India-Mercedes       81
     8.  Grosjean      82        8.  Williams-Renault           58
     9.  Massa         69        9.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         15
    10.  Perez         65       
    11.  Kobayashi     50       
    12.  Di Resta      44       
    13.  Schumacher    43       
    14.  Hulkenberg    37       
    15.  Maldonado     33       
    16.  Senna         25       
    17.  Vergne         8       
    18.  Ricciardo      7       
           
    All timing unofficial
    

    Copyright (c) Autosport. All rights reserved.

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