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Japan race analysis - Alonso shows his class 13 Oct 2008

Fernando Alonso (ESP), Renault, Renault R28, Japanese Grand Prix 2008, Fuji Speedway, Sunday, 12 October 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault celebrates victory with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Sunday, 12 October 2008. © Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 celebrates on the podium 
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Fuji Speedway, Sunday, 12 October 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Sunday, 12 October 2008 Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR03 collides with Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Fuji Speedway, Sunday, 12 October 2008

Major chinks appeared in the armour of the leading title contenders at Fuji. As Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa lost their cool, it was left to a former two-time champion to show the young pretenders how it should be done. Avoiding the first-corner melee, Fernando Alonso made the most of his second-row grid slot, excellent strategy and a superbly balanced car to give Renault an unlikely second successive win, making the team firm favourites for fourth in the constructors’ championship…

Fernando Alonso, P1
Nelson Piquet, P4

The dramas at the first corner played perfectly into Alonso’s hands as he swept through to second place behind leader Kubica. By calling for a little less fuel at his first stop Alonso was able to get out ahead of the BMW Sauber driver, and thereafter dictated the pace of the race as he sped to his second victory of the season. Piquet backed him strongly this time, leading the race for a while during the pits stop, and pressuring Kubica and Raikkonen in the closing stages before a brief moment in Turn Five obliged him to ease his pace slightly. The result moved Renault 16 points clear of fourth-place rival Toyota.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, P9
Robert Kubica, P2

Kubica was able to thread his way through the first corner melee to snatch the lead and he held it until Alonso jumped him during their first refuelling stops. Thereafter he was able to maintain second place despite great pressure from Raikkonen. Graining in the final stint almost cost Kubica the place, but he resisted Raikkonen’s challenge and pulled away. Eight points for second keep him and the team in play as the outsiders for both titles. Heidfeld, meanwhile, ran a one-stop strategy, and necessarily spent his afternoon struggling with a fuel-heavy car on his way to ninth.

Kimi Raikkonen, P3
Felipe Massa, P7

Ferrari should have won this one, but Raikkonen was bundled off the road by both McLarens in the first corner after making an excellent getaway, and was only able to recover to third place. He very nearly passed Kubica for second on the 53rd lap, but once the Pole had rebuffed him he began to experience tyre graining and dropped back. Massa, meanwhile, also lost out running wide at the start, then punted Hamilton into a spin and had to serve a drive-through penalty. Later he spun trying to pass Bourdais in the first corner, before redeeming himself by squeezing his Ferrari between Webber’s Red Bull and the pit wall to snatch eighth. Bourdais’ post-race penalty for his part in Massa’s spin doubled the Brazilian’s points score.

Jarno Trulli, P5

Timo Glock, Retired lap seven, broken seat
Toyota had some bad luck early on when a trip over the Turn Six kerb broke Glock’s seat and forced him into early retirement. Trulli, however, ran strongly and led on two occasions as the pit stops proved that Toyota had not run him light in qualifying. Fifth place, however, was realistically the best for which the team could have aspired, and the Italian duly delivered that.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, P6
Sebastien Bourdais, P10

Bourdais had Vettel tucked up all weekend, so it was a bitter disappointment to the Frenchman when the stewards judged that he had caused Massa to spin when they collided in Turn One on the 50th lap. A 25-second penalty turned a great sixth place into 10th and left a sour taste in his mouth after a race that he had led during the pit stops. Vettel got delayed at the start, and spent all afternoon playing catch-up.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, P8
David Coulthard, Retired lap one, accident

Coulthard’s race was over by the second corner after his Red Bull crashed heavily as a result of suspension damage inflicted in the first corner by Kazuki Nakajima when traffic ahead of them backed up. Webber was unable to keep Massa behind in the closing stages, such was his tyre wear. The Australian was called before the stewards to explain why he appeared to move three times while being challenged down the pit straight by Massa, but no action was deemed necessary.

Nico Rosberg, P11
Kazuki Nakajima, P15

Williams had a disappointing afternoon this time, first with Nakajima pitting at the end of the opening lap for a new nose, and Rosberg said his car struggled for grip and balance throughout.

Lewis Hamilton, P12
Heikki Kovalainen, Retired lap 17, engine

Hamilton’s impetuous passing move on Raikkonen in the first corner saw him drop to sixth, and as he recovered to fourth he was spun out by Massa on the second lap. After pitting to replace flat-spotted tyres and to brim with fuel, a subsequent drive-through penalty for the Raikkonen incident dropped him out of contention and he finished a lowly 12th. Kovalainen looked very strong after recovering to third after his own first corner dramas, as he was not due to stop until around the 21st lap, but a rare engine failure claimed him after 17 laps. The team thus lost their lead in the constructors’ world championship to Ferrari. Hamilton admitted afterwards he had got it wrong on an afternoon that saw his championship lead cut to just five points and which could prove critical to his title aspirations.

Rubens Barrichello, P13
Jenson Button, P14

Both Hondas made great starts after all the problems in the first corner. Button’s choice of the softer option tyre for his opening stint did not work as his tyres soon grained, while Barrichello’s car suffered damage after being clobbered by Fisichella’s Force India in the first corner.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, Retired lap 22, gearbox
Adrian Sutil, retired lap 9, tyre failure

Sutil was steaming along in 10th place after six laps, thanks to the way the first corner incident reshuffled the pack. But after eight laps his right rear tyre burst, probably as a result of damage inflicted by debris. Fisichella also made a strong start, but dropped out early with gearbox problems.