Lewis Hamilton also left with the biggest championship lead he has enjoyed this season after a dominant drive to victory.
Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, who started from pole, had no answer to Hamilton's pace in the tricky conditions and could only sit back and watch as his title deficit grew to 10 points with four rounds remaining.
The wet weather inevitably mixed up the order - the Red Bulls shone, the Williams struggled, and Jenson Button put in one of his classic, measured performances for McLaren. We take a team-by-team look back at a difficult 2014 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix...
Lewis Hamilton, P1
Nico Rosberg, P2
It was Rosberg who held the advantage after qualifying, but Hamilton was able to turn the tables in the race itself once both men had switched from full wet tyres to intermediates. Both men were on similar set-ups, but where Rosberg didn't like the oversteer his F1 W05 Hybrid displayed Hamilton said he was comfortable with it. After running wide in Turn 1 on the 27th lap because he had forgotten to deactivate his DRS, Hamilton pulled off a spectacular pass around the outside at the same spot two laps later, and thereafter easily controlled the race until it was stopped following Jules Bianchi's accident. It was Hamilton's 30th Grand Prix victory and his first at Suzuka. Rosberg conceded simply that on the day the better man won.
Sebastian Vettel, P3
Daniel Ricciardo, P4
Red Bull had the fastest car in the middle stages of the race thanks to their decision to compromise their qualifying set-up in expectation of rain on Sunday. Vettel was in the hunt from the word go, and Ricciardo followed him through after passing both Williamses round the outside in the Esses. The pair subsequently caught and passed Button's McLaren, but Vettel was later lucky to get away with an off-track moment in the Esses, and then to be put back up to third on countback after he had dropped behind Ricciardo with a late stop for fresh intermediates just before the race was red flagged. Vettel's result moves him to fourth in the title fight, ahead of Alonso.
Jenson Button, P5
Kevin Magnussen, P14
McLaren's gamble to pit Button as soon as the opening safety car pulled in paid off handsomely. By being the first to switch from full wets to intermediates he got the jump on most of his rivals to move from seventh to third behind the Mercedes. He didn't quite have the pace to stay there but was fighting hard with Ricciardo over fourth in the closing stages, and only lost the place on the 43rd lap, just before the race was called. Without the need to have his steering wheel changed in a pit stop he might have been able to keep the position, especially as in anticipation of further rain he'd switched to full wets and was poised to benefit from that when the race was stopped prematurely. Magnussen was delayed early on by an electronics problem, which also obliged him to have his steering wheel changed during his next stop.
Valtteri Bottas, P6
Felipe Massa, P7
Williams' challenge was blunted early on when it became clear that the FW36s didn't have the pace in the wet to maintain their qualifying speed. When Ricciardo went round the outside of both drivers in the Esses, the writing was on the wall, but intelligent strategy maximised what was available and sixth and seventh places helped them to move further ahead of Ferrari in the race for third overall in the constructors' championship.
Nico Hulkenberg, P8
Sergio Perez, P10
Force India maximised their chances, and had fortune on their side. Late in the race they brought Hulkenberg in for fresh rubber only for his VJM07 to roll to a halt on the pit exit with an electronic problem. But on countback the German kept his eighth place, so their double score kept them just ahead of McLaren in the increasingly intense fight for fifth in the constructors' table.
Jean-Eric Vergne, P9
Daniil Kvyat, P11
One of those straining at the leash behind the safety car as the conditions got better early in the race, Vergne was excellent as he charged from the back of the grid to ninth by the flag, and thoroughly deserved the plaudits that resulted. Kvyat, meanwhile, was experiencing the first wet race of his fledgling F1 career, and did well to stay out of trouble. But he lost out on strategy, costing him the chance of the final point.
Kimi Raikkonen, P12
Fernando Alonso, Retired lap 3
Ferrari had a horrible race, with Alonso dropping out as it restarted on the third lap - his car rolling to a silent halt in the Esses with an electronic failure. Raikkonen never had the pace or the balance, and a delay in one of his pit stops ensured that the Italian team went home with zero points - the first time they have failed to score in 82 Grands Prix.
Esteban Gutierrez, P13
Adrian Sutil, P21
Gutierrez kept the hammer down all through the race and made amends for his recent gaffes with a solid drive to 13th in a difficult car, while Sutil was very shaken after witnessing Bianchi's accident, having gone off at Turn 7 one lap before the Frenchman.
Romain Grosjean, P15
Pastor Maldonado, P16
Both drivers struggled for grip, and encountered debilitating tyre wear which led to numerous pit stops and prevented them from challenging for the points.
Marcus Ericsson, P17
Kamui Kobayashi, P19
Ericsson drove a blinding race for Caterham to take the chequered flag as the team's lead finisher, despite spinning on the opening lap when the field was still running behind the safety car. Kobayashi battled hard on home soil but had to follow Chilton's Marussia home in 19th place.
Max Chilton, P18
Jules Bianchi, P20
Marussia's bittersweet race began with the elation of Bianchi running as high as fourth before he stopped to switch from full wets to intermediates on the 13th lap, and ended with the brutality of his accident in Turn 7 on the race's 43rd lap. The team have asked for patience and understanding with regards to updates on his condition.