Race - Vettel wins at Suzuka to slash Alonso's title advantage 07 Oct 2012
Sebastian Vettel moved to within four points of Fernando Alonso in the fight for the world championship, after Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix saw Red Bull dominate and Ferraris leader meet with another first-corner disaster.
As Vettel sped into a lead he never relinquished, Alonso had a brush with Lotuss Kimi Raikkonen and spun with a punctured left-rear tyre in the first corner. At the same time, Raikkonens team mate Romain Grosjean hit Red Bulls Mark Webber and Williams Bruno Senna collided with Mercedes Nico Rosberg.
The safety car was deployed for just two laps, and thereafter Vettel picked up where he left off to score a win that brought his points tally to 190 compared to Alonsos 194. He was simply untouchable.
Behind him, Saubers Kamui Kobayashi valiantly held on to second place ahead of McLarens Jenson Button and Ferraris Felipe Massa, but the Brazilian leap-frogged both rivals during the first pit stops to snatch a second place that he kept without challenge to salvage something for Ferrari. It was his first podium since Korea 2010, and the performance may well cement Ferraris decision to retain him for 2013.
It was thus left to Kobayashi and Button to stage a duel for the final podium slot, and though the McLaren driver pushed to within half a second by the flag, Saubers local hero managed his tyres and held on to become only the third Japanese driver to finish on the podium, 22 years after Aguri Suzuki had done so here.
Lewis Hamilton benefited from the early mayhem, but his McLarens set-up issues from qualifying precluded a significant challenge from him and he had to be content with fifth place, after brilliantly forcing by Raikkonen as the Finn dived ahead momentarily into the first corner when the McLaren exited the pits following its second stop. The Finn took sixth to maintain his third place in the title chase with 157 points to Hamiltons 152.
Nico Hulkenberg had a strong race for Force India and was only seven-tenths of a second adrift of the Lotus by the finish, while Pastor Maldonado kept it on the island for Williams to grab four points for eighth place. Webber recovered well from a first-lap pit stop for a new nose to take ninth, while a brutal battle between Toro Rossos Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes Michael Schumacher for the final point went in the Australians favour by eight-tenths.
Paul di Restas Force India wasnt quick enough for better than 12th place, after he lost out at the start, while Jean-Eric Vergne was fast early on for Toro Rosso but was unable to improve on 13th. Behind them, Bruno Senna survived that first-lap collision with Rosberg and a resultant drive-through penalty, and set some fastest laps as he closed in on the Frenchman. They crossed the finish line side-by-side, officially separated by 0.0s.
Heikki Kovalainen ran 11th for a while after taking advantage of the first-corner melee, but his Caterham lacked the pace to stay ahead of the likes of Vergne and Di Resta and he finished 15th, 8.5s clear of new team rival Timo Glocks Marussia. Vitaly Petrov was 17th after a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags, and Pedro de la Rosa was the final classified finisher for HRT in 18th place.
Grosjean retired late in the race while running well down after a 10-second stop/go penalty for his collision with Webber. He joined Marussias Charles Pic, HRTs Narain Karthikeyan, Alonso and Rosberg on the retirement list. The final non-finisher was Saubers Sergio Perez, who looked racey passing a tyre-troubled Hamilton for sixth early on, but then spun off at the hairpin while trying to do the same thing later in the race.
In the constructor stakes, Red Bull continue to lead on 324 points to McLarens 283, Ferraris 263 and Lotuss 239.
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