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Japan analysis - victorious Vettel back in title race 11 Oct 2010

Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F10.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01 leads Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) BMW Sauber C29 battles with Jaime Alguersuari (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR5.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sebastian Vettel has come in for his fair share of criticism this season, but in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix the Red Bull driver was untouchable as he delivered the win he needed to stay in title contention. With neither McLaren making the Suzuka podium - and with just three 2010 rounds remaining - it’s looking increasingly like a three-way showdown for the drivers’ championship between Vettel, team mate and standings leader Mark Webber, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. We take a team-by-team look at how events panned out in Japan…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, P1
Mark Webber, P2

Red Bull extended their lead in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships after a superb one-two for Vettel (who really needed a victory) and Webber. The Australian is now 14 points ahead of Alonso and Vettel on 206 with Hamilton and Button fading, while the team have 426 points. The end result might have been close, but Red Bull controlled this one throughout and had a massive advantage, up to seven-tenths of a second, in the crucial first sector thanks to brilliant aerodynamic performance through the Esses.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, P3
Felipe Massa, Retired lap 1, accident

Ferrari lost Massa on the opening lap in a violent collision with Liuzzi after the Brazilian got squeezed on to the grass on the inside of Turn 1 trying to challenge the tardy Rosberg. Alonso got a chance to hound the Red Bulls as everyone stacked up behind leader Button in the middle of the race and finished a competitive third, but it was interesting that the red cars had lost pace to McLaren on a track that the Spaniard said was their worst of the four remaining races. Nevertheless, Ferrari remain in clear drivers’ title contention.

McLaren
Jenson Button, P4
Lewis Hamilton, P5

McLaren had strong pace at one stage, until Hamilton’s run in fourth place folded as he lost third gear and thereafter had to use only fourth to seventh. That dropped him to fifth, but he was relieved to finish. Button started on the hard tyre, led from laps 26 to 38 as others stopped earlier to change their options, but only got a few laps’ worth of pace-setting performance before his options lost their edge and again finished a distant fourth. McLaren stay second in the constructors’ stakes with 381, but can see the drivers’ title disappearing fast.

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, P6
Nico Rosberg, Retired lap 48, wheel loss

At one stage the Mercedes duo were running nose to tail as Rosberg recovered from a very slow start (due to a clutch problem) by pitting under the safety car, which enabled him to head Schumacher. But then the younger German’s left rear wheel flew off on the 48th lap as something at the back of the car broke, leaving Schumacher to score a reasonably competitive sixth place after a more convincing performance than of late.

BMW Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, P7
Nick Heidfeld, P8

This was a great day for BMW Sauber, with star Kobayashi ‘doing a Valencia’ by running relatively late on the hard tyre before switching to the option and making up places again with some brilliant overtaking moves in the hairpin. Among his victims was team mate Heidfeld who started on the options and had nothing left to resist his partner as he was by then struggling for grip. Ten points were a very welcome bonus after Singapore.

Williams
Rubens Barrichello, P9
Nico Hulkenberg, Retired lap 1, accident

Not a great race for Williams after their flashes of promise over the weekend. Hulkenberg got clobbered by Petrov on the grid and stopped on the opening lap; Barrichello took ninth, unable to fend off the BMW Saubers. But two points put them within two of Force India’s sixth place in the constructors’ stakes.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, P10
Jaime Alguersuari, P11

While neither driver played a particularly significant role in the race, Buemi came through to take the final point after Alguersuari had to make a late pit stop after a touch with the ebullient Kobayashi damaged the Toro Rosso’s front wing.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, P12
Jarno Trulli, P13

Lotus took a key step towards 10th place overall in the constructors’ championship, as Kovalainen ran very quickly to take 12th overall, and Trulli 13th a lap down. The Finn was delighted to be able to stay out during the safety-car intervention yet still later maintain position after switching to the prime tyre; Trulli did pit then and got stuck behind Yamamoto for 13 laps. Later he was slowed by hydraulic problems.

Virgin
Timo Glock, P14
Lucas di Grassi, Did not start, accident

Virgin’s race got off to a bad start when Di Grassi dropped his VR-01 over the kerb at 130R on the grid formation lap and shunted it heavily. Glock struggled fruitlessly to pass Yamamoto even though he was faster, and finished 14th.

HRT
Bruno Senna, P15
Sakon Yamamoto, P16

Yamamoto was an early star of the show, holding off Trulli for many laps and only conceding a place to Glock when he made his tyre stop. Hereafter fuel pressure problems slowed him but he finished, behind team mate Senna whose strategy to stop early for the prime tyre helped him to push hard to close to within two seconds of Glock by the end. Not bad for a car with almost zero development.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, Retired lap 45, engine
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Retired lap 1, accident

Force India had a horrible time and had to watch Williams close to within two points of sixth place in the constructors’ championship. Liuzzi made a fantastic start but was collected by the errant Massa in Turn 1 at the start; Sutil was on course for 10th when his engine broke on lap 45.

Renault
Robert Kubica, Retired lap 2, wheel loss
Vitaly Petrov, Retired lap 1, accident

After all the promise of Robert Kubica’s speed in qualifying and a great start which saw him split the Red Bulls, Renault had an appalling race. Petrov shunted with Hulkenberg at the start, damaging his car heavily and getting a five-place grid penalty for Korea, and Kubica’s R30 lost its right rear wheel behind the safety car on lap two. A faulty wheel gun was blamed for not tightening the nut sufficiently.

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