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Japan analysis - battle on to be ‘best of the rest’ 14 Oct 2013

Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing (2nd) sprays champagne on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 celebrates third place with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21 leads Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari on the grid with Rob Smedley (GBR) Ferrari Race Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04 suffered a puncture on lap 1. He went on to retire with a damaged floor.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28 and Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06 battle.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35 leads Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 The damaged car of Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT03 is returned to the pits on a transporter. Pic crashed out at turn 1 on lap 1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02 crashed at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013

After a fifth successive victory on Sunday at Suzuka, Sebastian Vettel is just a fifth place away from securing the 2013 drivers’ title. His Red Bull team are also set to wrap up the constructors’ championship at the next round in India. Behind them, however, Japan illustrated just how intense the fight for second place is, with Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus locked in combat, the likes of Romain Grosjean and Felipe Massa keen to prove their worth for 2014, and a rejuvenated Sauber unexpectedly stealing points from them all. We take a team-by-team look at the form from round 15…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, P1
Mark Webber, P2

For a long time it looked like Webber was finally going to win a race in 2013, even though both he and Vettel made relatively slow starts from the front row. It certainly hurt the Australian that Grosjean got into the lead, as he and Vettel tried to look after their tyres by letting the gaps between them go out to two seconds. He was then able to pass the Lotus during the second stops, but Red Bull had been calling him in early and switched him to a three-stop strategy compared to Vettel’s two. Webber was less than convinced by that, and openly questioned it afterwards, but by then it was too late and Vettel had pounced on Grosjean and opened a 7s lead by the time Webber also passed the Frenchman with a lap to go. It was Vettel’s fifth consecutive victory and his ninth of the season. However, he will have to wait until at least India to secure the drivers’ title.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, P3
Kimi Raikkonen, P5

Grosjean made jaws drop with a banzai start from fourth that took him into the lead. He held it to the first pits stops and again once Vettel had pitted, but lost out to Webber in the second round as he found the E21 less crisp on the hard tyre. Nevertheless, a fine drive kept him in play and he only lost second to a recovering Webber in the closing stages because of the traffic. Vettel, in particular, was vocal in his respect for the rehabilitated Frenchman’s drive. Raikkonen is still struggling with the revised Pirellis but did his usual professional job to move from 10th on the grid to fifth, helping Lotus to get back into the fight for second place in the constructors’ championship.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, P4
Felipe Massa, P10

Alonso drove one of his typically forceful races in a car that lacked the pace of the Red Bulls and the Lotus. He followed Massa for 20 laps, benefited when Rosberg met misfortune, and passed Hulkenberg with the DRS on the 46th lap. Fourth place keeps his title hopes on life support, but even he admits that they are effectively over. Massa had a troubled race, after holding fifth initially. He was really undone by a drive-through penalty for pit-lane speeding, and later when his tyres went off, and fell from seventh to 10th by the end. Ferrari did, however, stretch their lead over Mercedes from one to 10 points in the fight for second in the constructors’ championship.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, P6
Esteban Gutierrez, P7

For a long time it seemed that Hulkenberg might keep his fourth place ahead of the Ferraris, which Sauber won him during the first pit stops. In the end he couldn’t hold off Alonso or Raikkonen, but as he took sixth and Gutierrez capped a great performance by scoring his first points for seventh place despite huge pressure from Rosberg, Peter Sauber had much to celebrate back in Switzerland on his 70th birthday.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, P8
Lewis Hamilton, Retired lap 8, puncture damage

Mercedes’ race began to fall apart early on when Hamilton got pinched at the start between Webber and Vettel and suffered a punctured right-rear tyre as the world champion’s front wing touched it. After limping back to the pits he was circulating a second off the pace because of aerodynamic damage, and was called in to retire after seven laps. Rosberg ran fourth ahead of the Ferraris early on, survived a brief off in Turn 1, but then lost time when he was unsafely released into Perez’s McLaren and had to serve a drive-through penalty. Later he and Perez touched as he fought back up to an eventual eighth place finish, unable to beat Gutierrez by three-tenths of a second.

McLaren
Jenson Button, P9
Sergio Perez, P15

Button rued a very late set-up change that he asked for which ruined his McLaren’s balance by promoting massive understeer. More front wing helped for his final stint when he was able to use a set of mediums to pull back up to ninth place. Perez had a drama when he was nearly collected when Mercedes unsafely released Rosberg into his path as he was coming into the pits, then had a fight with the German later on which resulted in him having to make a third stop because of a punctured rear tyre after they had collided in the chicane on the 42nd lap. He’d overtaken Button at one stage, but had to settle for 15th.

Force India
Paul di Resta, P11
Adrian Sutil, P14

Di Resta ran an aggressive middle stint to try to make up for early delays, but lost out on one or two points at the end as his VJM06 had run out of tyres by the time Button and Massa came attacking. Sutil made an excellent start to go from 22nd to 16th, but suffered too much oversteer during the race to feature near the points.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne, P12
Daniel Ricciardo, P13

Ricciardo did a very long first stint and was on course to fight for points until he was given a drive-through penalty for gaining an advantage over Sutil as he left the track at 130R. That left him too far back, while Vergne said his STR8 felt great but that his pit stops were too slow.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, P16
Valtteri Bottas, P17

Bottas was running 13th in the closing stages as he and Maldonado were in the thick of the battle for 12th, but an off-course moment dropped him back to 17th behind his team mate.

Caterham
Charles Pic, P18
Giedo van der Garde, Retired lap 1, accident

Caterham lost Van der Garde at the start after he collided with Bianchi even before they reached Turn 1. Pic then had to serve within the first five laps a drive-through penalty for leaving the pits the previous day five seconds after the red light had gone on when the first qualifying session was resumed following Vergne’s fire. He did this on the first lap, and thereafter had to chase hard to catch and pass Chilton.

Marussia
Max Chilton, P19
Jules Bianchi, Retired lap 1, accident

Bianchi collided with Van der Garde as they left the grid, ending both of their races, and ultimately Chilton lacked the pace to keep Pic at bay.

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