Sunday, October 10, 2010

Japan GP: Vettel Takes Commanding Win

Sebastian Vettel boosted his title hopes with a significant victory in Japan as he dominated his team-mate Mark Webber. Fernando Alonso completed the podium places, but it was more gearbox problems for the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton

There was plenty of action at the start of the race as Vitaly Petrov, Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa and Tonio Liuzzi all crashed into retirement on the opening lap, bringing out the Safety Car. And while the drivers were slowly touring the track behind the Safety Car we had retirement number six as Robert Kubica's right-rear wheel fell off his car, forcing him to park it.

CONDITIONS: Bright and sunny with no rain predicted: 26C ambient, 36C track. Lucas diGrassi failed to get his car to the grid, the Virgin going off at 130R and hitting the barriers even before the parade lap.

GRID:1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Kubica, 4.Alonso, 5.Button, 6.Rosberg, 7.Barrichello, 8.Hamilton, 9.Hulkenberg, 10.Schumacher, 11.Heidfeld, 12.Massa

START:When the red lights went out there was immediate action from the Renault of Vitaly Petrov veering across the track and into the barriers. He'd made contact with the Williams of Nico Hulkenberg seconds after the start. Both drivers out on the spot but Petrov the man at fault.

Further down the main straight Felipe Massa tried to make up quick places from P.12, and put his right wheels on the inside grass of the circuit coming into Turn 1. He slewed straight into the side of the innocent Tonio Liuzzi. Both men out. In Singapore Liuzzi hadn't lasted a lap but this time it was not his fault.

However the big excitement was at the front. Robert Kubica got a much better start from P3 on the grid and was straight in front of Mark Webber and also had the momentum to think about a challenge on Vettel - had the straight been longer.

Nico Rosberg got a dreadful start from P.6 and was immediately passed by Lewis Hamilton who jostled his way from P8 to P5 right behind his team-mate by the Esses. With four cars already at the side of the track, the Safety Car was dispatched immediately so they could be recovered.

LAP ONE ORDER:1.Vettel, 2.Kubica, 3.Webber, 4.Alonso, 5.Button, 6.Hamilton, 7.Barrichello, 8.Schumacher, 9.Heidfeld, 10.Sutil

Nico Rosberg, who'd dropped a long way back after his poor start, immediately stopped for his harder Prime tyres and rejoined at the back.

Robert Kubica was going to be a big problem for Mark Webber having got himself between the two Red Bulls, but on Lap 3 he'd suddenly dropped a long way off the back of the Safety Car and Sebastian Vettel, and TV cameras picked him up parking the Renault car. He'd lost a rear wheel off the right corner and parked it. Both Renaults out within three laps and six cars in total before we'd completed one lap at racing speed.

The Safety Car came in at the end of Lap 6 and on the restart Michael Schumacher made a classic overtaking move round the outside of Rubens Barrichello into the final chicane, snatching seventh place. At the same time Nico Rosberg tried to get round the outside of Sebastien Buemi at 130R. Buemi wasn't giving way and Rosberg was forced out wide onto the run-off at 170mph plus but miraculously managed to keep control of his car.

The race settled into a pattern with the Red Bulls swapping fastest laps at the front. By Lap 12 Vettel had a 2.0 second lead on Webber and Mark was 3.5 in front of Alonso. Jenson Button had started on the harder Prime tyre and was clearly holding up Hamilton who had the faster Option. But there was no easy way past.

Behind them, home boy Kamui Kobayashi was keen to change his surname to Kamikaze
with a less-than-100%-fair move up the inside of Alguersuari into the hairpin, grabbing P10 and using the Toro Rosso as a braking aid. Three laps later he tried the same move on Adrian Sutil into the hairpin, this time pulling off the move perfectly.

Jenson Button had been hoping that the Option tyre runners would need to stop on lap 10 or 12, but the circuit began to rubber in quickly, and with the added laps behind the Safety Car, the first Option runners to pit - Sutil and Heidfeld - only came in at the end of Lap 18. Lewis Hamilton pitted for the Prime tyres on Lap 22 and exited just behind Kobayashi who was up to P7 (but not yet stopped).

Michael Schumacher pitted from sixth place on Lap 23 but exited behind his team-mate, while Vettel and Alonso pitted on Lap 24 and Webber on Lap 25. There were no net changes for the front runners and Hamilton was swiftly past Kobayashi into Turn 1 on Lap 25. He was still several seconds behind Alonso, though.

Out in front, Jenson Button had gained no advantage from running the harder Prime tyre but soldiered on regardless. With 20+ seconds needed for a pit-stop he was not quick enough to retain fourth place, but had a big window for fifth place after his stop. Behind Button, the four who had changed their tyres closed in, the Red Bulls and the Ferrari managing their fuel and temperatures all the while.

LAP TWENTY-NINE ORDER:1.Button, 2.Vettel, 3.Webber, 4.Alonso, 5.Hamilton, 6.Kobayashi, 7.Rosberg, 8.Schumacher, 9.Heidfeld, 10.Barrichello, 11.Sutil, 12.Alguersuari

Though Hamilton closed down the gap to Alonso to a mere 2.2 seconds on lap 37 after his stop for tyres, that was as close as he would get. On Lap 39 he radioed back that he had lost third gear and because it is a sequential gearbox, the McLaren team didn't want him going any lower. So he was restricted to fourth-to-seventh gear, making the slow exit from the hairpin even slower.

Jenson Button pitted from the lead on Lap 38, as did Kobayashi from P6. Button rejoined in P5 and Kobayashi emerged behind Alguersuari again, in P11. With his new tyres, Button immediately started lapping two seconds a lap quicker than his team-mate who was just hanging on till the finish.

On Lap 45 Kamui Kobyashi proved that you don't have to use the inside line to overtake at the hairpin and overtook Alguersuari round the outside; the Toro Rosso needlessly banging wheels with the Japanese driver on the exit - and more than once. For this stupidity he picked up a puncture and had to pit, while Kobayashi's bent Sauber continued.

While all this was happening Adrian Sutil, Kobayashi's next target, spun in the middle of 130R, swapped ends and continued - the Mercedes engine of his Force India having started to emit plumes of engine oil smoke seconds beforehand. Sutil disappeared into the pits and retirement leaving Kobayashi free to home in on Rubens Barrichello.

Three laps later and Nico Rosberg's race came to a dramatic end as his Mercedes veered off the road at the Esses with a tyre bouncing high up into the air after a car failure. Race Director Charlie Whiting decided to recover the car under waved yellows.

On Lap 49 Kobayashi - on much fresher tyres than all the cars in front of him - sent one up the inside of Barrichello into the hairpin and was through to eighth place sending the Japanese crowd wild. A lap later and team-mate Nick Heidfeld had to defend his seventh place into Turn 1 from Kobayashi. By the time he'd got to the hairpin he'd decided to play the team game and let Kobayashi through- almost letting Barrichello past into the bargain.

At the front of the race Sebastian Vettel started to increase his pace without Button restricting him in front, Mark Webber also upped his pace but never looked like challenging him. Despite the Red Bulls' dominance they couldn't shake off Fernando Alonso's dogged pursuit. Jenson Button, on his fresher tyres, closed a little on Alonso but was never going to catch him, let alone pass.

They held positions to the flag with the falling-back Lewis Hamilton listening anxiously for gearbox noises in fifth. Behind him, in sixth place, Michael Schumacher posted his best result in a long while, having wiped the memory of a poor Singapore GP.

The Red Bulls flashed across the line first and second, Mark Webber gleefully claiming the Fastest Lap on the final lap to show Vettel what he could do in clear air. Alonso was not far off in third and Button ten seconds further back in fourth. However celebrating almost as much as the Austrian team were Team Lotus. They had scored another P12 with Heikki Kovalainen equalling their best result of the season and winning the battle of the new teams. Richard Branson had officially lost his 'air hostess bet."


01. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h30:27.323
02. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 0.905
03. Alonso Ferrari + 2.721
04. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 13.522
05. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 39.595
06. Schumacher Mercedes + 59.933
07. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:04:038
08. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari + 1:09.648
09. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1:10.846
10. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:12.806
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap

12. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 1 lap
13. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
14. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
15. Senna HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
16. Yamamoto + 3 laps
17. Rosberg Mercedes + 5 laps

Did Not Finish
Sutil Force India-Mercedes 45
Kubica Renault 4
Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1
Massa Ferrari 1
Petrov Renault 1
Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1
Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 0

Source: Planet-F1

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