Vettel closing in on title after Japan win

Sebastian Vettel is on the verge of taking this season’s world championship following his fifth consecutive victory, as different race strategies produced a thrilling contest to a three-way battle for Japanese Grand Prix honours at Suzuka.

Polesitter Mark Webber passed Romain Grosjean in the final stages of the race to secure a Red Bull Racing one-two, but was seven seconds adrift of denying Vettel and securing what would have been a first victory of his farewell Formula 1 campaign.

As for Fernando Alonso, he recovered well from eighth to keep the championship alive. Vettel will have to wait until India to be crowned a four-time champion.

It was Grosjean’s Lotus that captured the lead at the start, jumping from fourth on the grid as both Red Bulls got away poorly.

The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton also got the jump on the Red Bulls, but as he squeezed in between the RB9s he and Vettel made light contact, which punctured Hamilton’s rear right and causing floor damage which would ultimately lead to his retirement after just nine laps.

In the background, Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi collided at Turn 1. Both retiring in the gravel trap.

For the first half of the Japanese Grand Prix Grosjean was able to maintain his advantage over Webber and Vettel, with the trio easing away from a chasing pack led by Nico Rosberg and the Scuderia of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.

The group lost massive time through the first round of pit-stops when Daniel Ricciardo, who started on the hard compound and ran a deep first stint, managed to jump into fourth and hold a string of quicker cars at bay for several laps.

It was Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg – who jumped the Ferraris through the first round of stops – who eventually managed to break Ricciardo’s resistance, but by then the top trio were 27 seconds down the road and out of touch.

That allowed Vettel, Grosjean and Webber to adopt different strategies, with the latter opting for a three-stop route in contrast to the two-stops of Vettel and Grosjean.

Webber therefore held track position heading into the final ten laps, while Vettel was able to go far deeper than Grosjean in his middle stint, and therefore had much fresher set of tyres on which to close a two-second gap to the Lotus driver.

The crucial pass came on lap 41 when Vettel attacked at Casio chicane and then dived down Grosjean’s inside at Turn 1 for second thanks to DRS.

With Webber pitting one lap later, Vettel duly hit the front and was able to cruise home to extend his winning form.

That he did so owed much to Grosjean however, whose spirited defence kept Webber – now on the option tyre for a final ten lap charge – at bay until the final laps, when Webber picked him off at Turn 1 to grab second.

Behind, Alonso executed a great pass around the outside of Hulkenberg heading into Turn 1 to clinch fourth and keep the title race technically open.

Kimi Raikkonen also picked off Hulkenberg’s Sauber to seal fifth position ahead of the German.

Esteban Gutierrez held on to deny Rosberg in a fight for seventh, while Jenson Button and Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten at Suzuka.

Massa also had to fight back from a drive-through for speeding in the pitlane, although his cause was also aided when Sergio Perez and Rosberg collided while fighting for tenth, sending the former to the pits with damage.

Paul di Resta beat Jean-Eric Vergne to P11, while a third drive-through – this time for Ricciardo after he went off-track passing di Resta at 130R – meant the Australian was restricted to P13 ahead of Adrian Sutil, Perez and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel’s fourth win in Japan brings him to 297 points in the standings to Alonso’s 207, which means he can clinch the title at the next round in India by finishing fifth or higher, regardless of what the Spaniard does. Raikkonen pulled further away from Hamilton in third place with 177 to 161, while Webber is moving back into contention with them on 148.

The result gave Red Bull another 43 points, bringing their total to 445. Ferrari’s run pulled them further ahead of Mercedes, the gap going out to 10 points with 297 to 287, while Lotus are back in the fight for second place with 264. Much further back McLaren have 83 to Force India’s 62.

Japanese Grand Prix race results after 53 laps

1.  Sebatian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault        1h37.410s
2.  Mark Webber        Red Bull-Renault            +7.129s
3.  Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Renault               +9.910s
4.  Fernando Alonso    Ferrari                    +45.605s
5.  Kimi Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +47.325s
6.  Nico Hulkenberg    Sauber-Ferrari             +51.615s
7.  Esteban Gutierrez  Sauber-Ferrari           +1m11.630s
8.  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes                 +1m12.023s
9.  Jenson Button      McLaren-Mercedes         +1m20.821s
10.  Felipe Massa       Ferrari                  +1m29.263s
11.  Paul di Resta      Force India-Mercedes     +1m38.572s
12.  Jean-Eric Vergne   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
13.  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
14.  Adrian Sutil       Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
15.  Sergio Perez       McLaren-Mercedes           +1 lap
16.  Pastor Maldonado   Williams-Renault           +1 lap
17.  Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Renault           +1 lap
18.  Charlies Pic       Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
19.  Max Chilton        Marussia-Cosworth          +1 lap

Fastest lap: Mark Webber, 1m34.587s

Not classified/retirements:

Lewis Hamilton       Mercedes                 9 laps
Giedo van der Garde  Caterham-Renault         0 laps
Jules Bianchi        Marussia-Cosworth        0 laps

World Championship standings, round 15:

1.  Vettel        297
2.  Alonso        207
3.  Raikkonen     177
4.  Hamilton      151
5.  Webber        148
6.  Rosberg       126
7.  Massa          90
8.  Grosjean       87
9.  Button         60
10.  Hulkenberg     49
11.  Di Resta       36
12.  Sutil          26
13.  Perez          23
14.  Ricciardo      18
15.  Vergne         13
16.  Gutierrez       6
17.  Maldonado       1

1.  Red Bull-Renault          445
2.  Ferrari                   297
3.  Mercedes                  277
4.  Lotus-Renault             264
5.  McLaren-Mercedes           83
6.  Force India-Mercedes       62
7.  Sauber-Ferrari             55
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         31
9.  Williams-Renault            1

Next race: Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit. October 25-27.

9 thoughts to “Vettel closing in on title after Japan win”

  1. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has voiced his positive opinion on Romain Grosjean, who he had to chase and pass in order to win the Japanese Grand Prix. has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel said Romain Grosjean’s ‘fantastic’ Japanese Grand Prix drive was a testament to how much the Lotus driver has improved after his 2012 Formula 1 troubles.

    Grosjean was the only man able to carry the fight to the Red Bulls at Suzuka, and remained in contention for victory until the final quarter of the race, when Vettel was able to pick him off at Turn 1.

    Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber later demoted Grosjean to third.

    The German said that, aside from his excellent race, Grosjean deserves respect for how he has turned his F1 career around and developed into a match for his world champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

    “I thought it was a great day for Romain; he drove a fantastic race,” Vettel said.

    “I think Romain did a great job all weekend.

    “We know Kimi is a strong driver. Last year Romain did some mistakes but the most important thing is that we learn from these mistakes,.

    “[Romain] learned a lot of things and gradually he is improving so big respect for that.”

    Vettel said he was surprised he was able to go deeper into his second stint than Grosjean’s Lotus, which gave him the foundation to fight back from a poor start.

    “It was a horrible start but then a fantastic comeback,” he said.

    “They [Lotus] looked strong [but] struggled a bit more on the prime. The race favoured us over the distance, which seemed unusual compared to the Lotus.

    “I managed the gaps at beginning of stints and pushed at the end. We didn’t lose the patience early on and made the stints as long as possible to help us.”

  2. Despite starting on pole position, Mark Webber finished the Japanese Grand Prix in second following a three-stop strategy. The Australian was surprised by this route as his team-mate went with two pitstops. has the news story.

    Mark Webber admits he questioned Red Bull’s decision to place him on a three-stop strategy in the Japanese Grand Prix, saying he was confident he could have matched Sebastian Vettel’s winning two-stop plan.

    While he failed to convert his first pole of his farewell Formula 1 campaign into an early lead as Romain Grosjean jumped ahead, Webber was able to beat Vettel away from the line and headed his team-mate for the first half of the race.

    Red Bull opted to split their strategies however, which Webber admits was a surprise as he felt capable of reaching the same two-stop targets that Vettel was able to execute.

    “I was a little bit surprised [by] the switch to three [stops],” Webber said after finishing second to his team-mate.

    “I asked was it the right thing to do?

    “Seb went a bit longer, but the target for two stops was achievable. I felt we could get to the laps we were looking to get to.

    “In the end Seb did a good race, [his] strategy worked out perfectly. Three [stops was] not absolutely ridiculous but it is high risk and you have to clear people.

    “We were piggy in the middle and got back to position but Seb jumped both of us.

    “I didn’t think the battle was going to be with Seb, [but] it was pretty much done when we didn’t do enough damage on the three stop against Seb’s pace on two.”

    Though Webber was still ostensibly in the victory hunt following his final stop, he said passing Grosjean was always likely to be a significant hindrance.

    “At the end of the race DRS is not as effective as you are on the limiter,” he explained.

    “When you arrive on someone you want to get the job done pretty quickly.

    “I hoped to get it done a bit earlier, knowing his tyres were going to be quite tight towards the end of the race, [but] I was quite low on wing when I arrived on him.”

  3. What a difference a year makes for Lotus driver Romain Grosjean. After crashing into Mark Webber on the first lap back in 2012 with the Australian saying Romain was a ‘first-lap nutcase’, this time the Frenchman produced a fantastic result to finish third. The Lotus driver also led from the front as the Red Bulls chased after him. has the story.

    Romain Grosjean admits he allowed himself to think that a breakthrough Formula 1 victory was on the cards in the Japanese Grand Prix.

    The Frenchman made a quick getaway from third on the grid and demoted both Red Bulls to take control of the race, a position he maintained until the 41st of the 53-lap race.

    Grosjean made good progress in his opening stints on the medium tyres, but he felt a switch to the harder compound on lap 30 suffocated any chance of victory.

    “I thought today was going to be the day that my first victory was coming,” he said.

    “We were quick on the medium tyres, but unfortunately the car was less good on the hards.”

    Sebastian Vettel reeled in Grosjean during the closing phase of the race and took the lead on lap 41, with team-mate Mark Webber closing in on the Lotus driver soon after.

    “It was nice with Mark at the end,” remarked Grosjean, “but I couldn’t pull away from him on the hard tyres as they began degrading.

    “In our strategy meeting, though, we never thought we could beat the Red Bulls today and we are where expected to be.

    “It was nice until the end, but we caught some slow cars and they blocked me quite a lot.”

  4. Fernando Alonso dismissed any suggestion that he could still deny Sebastian Vettel the 2013 Formula 1 title despite prolonging the championship fight with his Japanese Grand Prix result.

    The Spaniard kept the title race technically open by finishing fourth as Vettel stormed to a fifth straight victory at Suzuka.

    Alonso admits both Red Bulls and Romain Grosjean’s Lotus were beyond his reach however, meaning that a Vettel coronation is effectively inevitable.

    “I don’t think [the title fight is still on],” Alonso said.

    “Even if Sebastian retired from all four [remaining] races, I would have to win all of them.

    “We keep doing the best possible, but it’s a matter of time [until Vettel wins the title].

    “We weren’t as quick as the Red Bulls or Grosjean so fourth was the maximum.

    “We recovered some of the pace we didn’t have earlier in the weekend, but the top three were too strong for us even without traffic.”

    How Vettel can win the title: Vettel currently leads Alonso by 90 points and will become champion if he places fifth or better in India.

    Alonso’s gap to Vettel after India must be 74 points or less for the championship to continue to Abu Dhabi.


  5. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was not impressed by Sergio Perez which caused a puncture. The German said the move was ‘dangerous’. has the details.

    Nico Rosberg said he was pleased Sergio Perez got a puncture in their Japanese Grand Prix battle, describing the Mexican’s driving as “dangerous”.

    Mercedes driver Rosberg came up behind Perez’s McLaren in a battle for eighth late on.

    As Rosberg completed a pass, contact between them left Perez with a puncture, dropping him to 15th while the German came home eighth.

    Rosberg was adamant Perez brought the incident upon himself with unfair defensive driving.

    “Perez was not right with what he did. Definitely dangerous,” said Rosberg.

    “The rules are clear: if you brake and you close the door then you have to move out again. I was there and he didn’t leave space.

    “So it was good he punctured his tyre, which got him out of the way.”

    Perez preferred not to apportion blame for the clash.

    “It was a tough afternoon,” he said. “Everything that could go wrong did. The pitlane, puncture, Nico…”

    Rosberg was fighting back having earlier picked up a drive-through penalty for another incident with Perez, in that case for an unsafe release into the McLaren’s path at the first pitstops.

    The German had no qualms about that punishment.

    “It was well deserved and I knew it was coming, too,” Rosberg said.

    “It was a dangerous release and it was a pity that it happened.”

  6. As for Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes star said Sebastian Vettel couldn’t have avoided hitting me which resulted in the 2008 world champion to retire from the Japanese Grand Prix in the early stages. has the news story.

    Sebastian Vettel believes there was nothing he could do to avoid giving Lewis Hamilton a puncture in their first-lap clash in the Japanese Grand Prix.

    The Red Bull and Mercedes touched on the run from the startline at Suzuka.

    Vettel escaped with minor wing damage and went on to win, while Hamilton’s left rear tyre went down at the first corner and caused sufficient damage to force his retirement.

    “I had a very poor start, right between Romain [Grosjean] and Lewis, and clipped the front wing a bit,” said Vettel.

    “Lewis had a puncture after that. I couldn’t go anywhere.”

    Hamilton said the contact was so light that at first he had no idea it had happened.

    “I went for the gap, I felt like I had a clear gap, and then I was going into Turn 1 and the rear tyre was down,” he said. “I can’t believe my luck.

    “I had probably the best start I’ve had all year. It was such a good feeling on the out-laps, the car felt really good. Really disappointing.

    “It’s such a long week, and when you don’t even see the first lap, it’s so gutting.”

    Although Hamilton made it back to the pits and rejoined, he said his Mercedes was so badly damaged that continuing would have been futile.

    “The floor was destroyed,” he said. “I was two seconds down per lap. The car was pulling to the right.”

  7. McLaren’s Jenson Button has said late set-up changes played an effect on the outcome of his race at Suzuka. has the details.

    Jenson Button admits that a set-up change he requested just prior to the start of the Japanese Grand Prix severely compromised his race.

    Button decided to take off front downforce from his McLaren after his reconnaissance lap heading to the grid at Suzuka.

    He admits the decision was a mistake as it left his car sorely lacking in front-end grip for the first two stints of his race.

    “On the lap to the grid I felt a lot of front-end [grip] in the car, and I decided to take some out, which was a big mistake,” Button said.

    “I made it very difficult for myself – my first two stints were awful.

    “It hurt me a lot in the first couple of stints and eventually we put a massive amount of front wing on.”

    Once the problem was rectified, Button said that he enjoyed the battles for position he was engaged in during the latter half of the race despite ultimately only picking up two points for ninth position.

    “The last two stints were a lot more fun,” he said.

    “The balance for the third stint was good and the stint on options at the end was a lot of fun; we were picking off two-stoppers left, right and centre.

    “I did a couple of good moves into the chicane on Paul di Resta and Felipe Massa, so it was an enjoyable race in the end.”

  8. Fernando Alonso insisted he had no problem with Felipe Massa appearing to ignore team orders in the Japanese Grand Prix.

    Massa was given the radio message “multi-function strategy A, now please” by race engineer Rob Smedley in the early stages of the Suzuka race.

    That was viewed as a clear order for Massa to give up his then-fifth position to Alonso as they moved to battle their way through the field.

    Massa did not move over though, and eventually Alonso had to fight his way through with an overtaking move down the start/finish straight on lap 20.

    Although Massa suggested after the race that he was not happy with the order, Alonso said that he was not upset by the actions of his Brazilian team-mate.

    “No. Not really,” said Alonso, when asked if he was unhappy. “We cannot make a big thing about this.

    “We are racing and whatever we do today, we finished more or less in the same positions because we could not achieve anything more.

    “I don’t know exactly what happened, but zero problems.”

    Massa has made it clear since it was announced he was being dropped by Ferrari that he is focused on his own ambitions as he bids to secure a race seat for 2014.

    Alonso reckoned that there can be no complaints about everyone in Ferrari pushing for their own success, however.

    “We are trying to do our best – Felipe, me and the team – to score as many points as possible,” he said.

    “Sometimes it is easy, and sometimes it is more difficult, especially when the performance is not super.

    “It is never easy when we start, or are fighting, for 7th or 8th places. It will be nice to come back to the old days at Ferrari, where we were fighting for first and second, and then decide in the races who wins.

    “Or do like Red Bull does – one car does two stops, one car does three stops, and they finish first and second. This is a much easier life.”

    Massa declined to elaborate on the specifics of the team order, but did suggest the situation was not totally comfortable.

    “You are never happy with instructions,” he said.

    When asked if the matter would be discussed with the team, he said: “We always discuss, for sure.

    “But I was happy today. It was unfortunate for the race the drive through and what has happened in the race. It was not over any instruction, he [Alonso] overtook me on the track.”


  9. Red Bull Racing has admitted that a three-stop strategy for Mark Webber was the only option. The Australian had earlier expressed his surprised for the team to take this route even though his team-mate Sebastian Vettel went with two stops. has the news story.

    Red Bull insists that it had no choice but to put Mark Webber on to a three-stop strategy in the Japanese Grand Prix after his first stint was too short.

    After finishing second to team-mate Sebastian Vettel, Webber expressed surprise that he had been put on to a theoretically slower three-stop.

    His comments prompted suggestions that Red Bull had deliberately hampered the Australian, who had qualified on pole and was running ahead of Vettel on the track in the early stages.

    However, Red Bull boss Christian Horner made it clear after the race that Webber’s fate was sealed by having to stop after just 11 laps.

    “The key aspect was the first stint,” explained Horner.

    “We went in to the race thinking it was going to be marginal for a two-stop, but probably in clear air we could do that.

    “The first stint dictated everything for us though.

    “Mark put [Romain] Grosjean under quite a lot of pressure and went through the tyre phases pretty quickly to the point that he had run out of tyres by the lap he pitted on.

    “That was too short for us in our own minds to make a two-stop really work, because you would have effectively run out of tyres in that last stint.

    “So, as the race opened up for Mark, and [Daniel] Ricciardo held the rest of the field back, some clear track space opened up.

    “While Grosjean pitted to cover Mark, Sebastian was able to get in clear air to run at a very quick pace having conserved his tyres. That happened again during the second stint and, as the gap opened up, for Mark effectively it was a free stop.

    “We felt that was the best way to attack and pass Grosjean with Mark and do the opposite with Sebastian.”

    Horner said that discussions had taken place before the race to make it clear to both Webber and Vettel that they were free to battle with each other.

    And he reckons that if Grosjean had delayed Vettel after his second stop, then Webber would actually have been on the better strategy.

    “We discussed it before the race that the drivers were free to race each other today, and at one point in the race it looked like Mark – if Grosjean had held Seb up – would be on the better tyre at that point and have the better chance of winning,” Horner said.

    “But Seb made the move early and quickly, and building a bit of a lead was critical for his race.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *