Vettel leads commanding Red Bull 1-2

Sebastian Vettel finally returned to the top spot of the podium by taking a flawless victory in the Japanese Grand Prix for a second straight year

Vettel leads commanding Red Bull 1-2

His Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber was a close second, and extended his championship lead to 14 points over third-place finisher Fernando Alonso and Vettel, now up to joint second thanks to his first win since Valencia.

McLaren's title hopes took another blow as Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, the latter hobbled by the loss of third gear, finished fourth and fifth.

Most of the incident in the race was compacted into the opening minutes - although the destruction began even before the start, when Virgin's Lucas di Grassi had a massive, and bizarre, crash at the 130R on his way to the dummy grid.

Then when the race got underway, the fast-starting Vitaly Petrov (Renault) clipped Nico Hulkenberg's Williams and slammed into the barriers on the pits straight, moments before Ferrari's Felipe Massa took to the grass going into the first corner and speared into Tonio Liuzzi's Force India.

The safety car was immediately brought out, and one of the race's most intriguing possibilities was removed during the yellow. Robert Kubica had split the Red Bulls off the line, but the second-placed Renault pulled off on lap three after shedding its right rear wheel while cruising around behind the pace car.

Red Bull therefore resumed one-two formation at the restart, with Vettel and Webber easily pulling away from Alonso (Ferrari) at around a second per lap initially.

The only time they were headed was when Button's alternative strategy allowed him to lead from laps 25 to 38, as the world champion ran long on his hard tyres before changing to softs and mounting a late charge.

His targets were Hamilton and Alonso. A battle between the two had seemed to be brewing until Hamilton reported the loss of third gear in the final stages. He tumbled away from the Ferrari and let Button pass him with ease at the hairpin on lap 44. Hamilton was able to hang on to fifth, while the gap to Alonso was too great for Button to close in the time remaining.

Michael Schumacher returned to the top six after one of his strongest races of the year. He looked set to finish behind Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who had pitted under the safety car at the start, until the younger German lost a wheel and had a big crash at the S curves with five laps to go. Rosberg had earlier escaped a near-miss with Sebastien Buemi when an attempt to pass the Toro Rosso on the outside at the 130R went awry.

Late entertainment was again provided by Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi. Running an identical strategy to Button, he dived past Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) and Adrian Sutil (Force India) at the hairpin in his first stint, but fell behind both after finally pitting.

He flew on fresh tyres, though, surging past Alguersuari again - with the Toro Rosso breaking its front wing trying to retaliate - gaining a place when Sutil's engine blew (and sent him spinning scarily at the 130R), then passing Rubens Barrichello's Williams and his Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld to delight the home crowd with a hard-earned seventh.

Heidfeld scored his first points back with Sauber in eighth, while Barrichello was only ninth having been passed by Schumacher on-track and Heidfeld in the pits even before falling victim to Kobayashi. Buemi completed the top 10.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Japanese Grand Prix Suzuka, Japan; 53 laps; 307.573km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h30:27.323 2. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 0.905 3. Alonso Ferrari + 2.721 4. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 13.522 5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 39.595 6. Schumacher Mercedes + 59.933 7. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:04:038 8. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari + 1:09.648 9. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1:10.846 10. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:12.806 11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap 12. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 1 lap 13. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps 14. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps 15. Senna HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps 16. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps 17. Rosberg Mercedes + 5 laps Fastest lap: Webber, 1:33.474 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Sutil Force India-Mercedes 45 Kubica Renault 4 Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1 Massa Ferrari 1 Petrov Renault 1 Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1 Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1 World Championship standings, round 16: Drivers: Constructors:  1. Webber 220 1. Red Bull-Renault 426 2. Alonso 206 2. McLaren-Mercedes 381 3. Vettel 206 3. Ferrari 334 4. Hamilton 192 4. Mercedes 176 5. Button 189 5. Renault 133 6. Massa 128 6. Force India-Mercedes 60 7. Rosberg 122 7. Williams-Cosworth 58 8. Kubica 114 8. Sauber-Ferrari 37 9. Schumacher 54 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 11 10. Sutil 47 11. Barrichello 41 12. Kobayashi 27 13. Petrov 19 14. Hulkenberg 17 15. Liuzzi 13 16. Buemi 8 17. De la Rosa 6 18. Heidfeld 4 19. Alguersuari 3 All timing unofficial 
Post-qualifying press conference - Japan
Previous article

Post-qualifying press conference - Japan

Next article

Vettel celebrates 'incredible' day

Vettel celebrates 'incredible' day
Load comments
Why 2022 could be Leclerc's best chance to end his Monaco F1 curse Plus

Why 2022 could be Leclerc's best chance to end his Monaco F1 curse

Charles Leclerc's ill-fortune at his home Formula 1 race is well-established. But his single lap pace and over longer runs during Friday practice will leave the Ferrari driver upbeat that he can make up for his Barcelona disappointment by finally recording a finish and perhaps even banking 25 world championship points in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix

Formula 1
May 27, 2022
The inevitable consequence of the Liberty F1 popularity boom Plus

The inevitable consequence of the Liberty F1 popularity boom

Sell out crowds at Formula 1 races are the norm rather than the exception these days, as grand prix racing is enjoying a massive boom under Liberty Media. But the Spanish Grand Prix highlighted numerous issues some circuits may face as demand for F1 soars

Formula 1
May 26, 2022
The danger for Red Bull in its Barcelona F1 team orders choice Plus

The danger for Red Bull in its Barcelona F1 team orders choice

OPINION: Red Bull walked into a team orders saga on its way to taking a Spanish Grand Prix 1-2 last weekend, where it took the lead of the 2022 Formula 1 world championships for the first time. But its decisions have added an element of risk to later races

Formula 1
May 25, 2022
Why Mercedes' Spanish GP gains aren't as grand as they seemed Plus

Why Mercedes' Spanish GP gains aren't as grand as they seemed

Mercedes' strong showing in last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix prompted team boss Toto Wolff to say it had halved its deficit to the leaders and its Formula 1 title chances were back on after a rocky start to the 2022 campaign. But a closer inspection of the team's performance suggests its gains aren't as grand as they first appeared

Formula 1
May 24, 2022
What's next for the Green Red Bull controversy? Plus

What's next for the Green Red Bull controversy?

From the 'pink Mercedes' to the 'Green Red Bull', the Silverstone-based team has received suspicious glares from up and down the Formula 1 paddock over its car design exploits. But after being cleared by the FIA over its Spanish Grand Prix updates amid a backdrop of cries of foul play, what's next in this saga?

Formula 1
May 24, 2022
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022 Plus

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022

In an unusually hectic Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc was denied a dominant performance by his Ferrari engine letting go which allowed Max Verstappen to pick up the pieces. But numerous flashpoints kept the race twisting and turning throughout, with one perfect score from an emerging contender

Formula 1
May 23, 2022
How Verstappen overcame his and Red Bull’s errors to bounce back in double-quick time Plus

How Verstappen overcame his and Red Bull’s errors to bounce back in double-quick time

Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari engine disaster offered an open goal for Max Verstappen and Red Bull to strike, but the reigning Formula 1 world champion still had to solve multiple errors and profit from a begrudged assist from team-mate Sergio Perez, which created an unexpectedly eventful Spanish Grand Prix

Formula 1
May 23, 2022
The risk-laden sector at the heart of F1's latest sponsorship arms race Plus

The risk-laden sector at the heart of F1's latest sponsorship arms race

No self-respecting Formula 1 team is complete these days without a cryptocurrency sponsor and a cupboard full of non-fungible tokens. STUART CODLING digs into the new sponsorship battleground and casts an eye on its future

Formula 1
May 22, 2022