Red Bull’s Vettel wins 2010 Japanese F1 GP
As expected, nobody could hold a candle to the Red Bulls in Suzuka on Sunday afternoon as Sebastian Vettel led home team mate Mark Webber by nine-tenths of a second in a gripping race in which the five title contenders finished in the top five places. Vettel’s third triumph of the season, and Fernando Alonso’s third place for Ferrari, 1.8s behind Webber, moves the German into joint second place with the Spaniard, each on 206 points, as Webber moved out to 220 to extend his lead to 14.
Jenson Button’s bold decision to qualify on the harder Bridgestone tyre paid off with fourth place, after the Briton had run longer before pitting than his main rivals and led from Lap 26 until his stop on Lap 38. But fortune favoured him as he was able to catch and pass McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton when the latter’s MP4-25 lost third gear around the 40-lap mark. Hamilton finished fifth and lies fourth overall with 192 points, Button fifth with 189.
In the constructors’ stakes Red Bull moved even further ahead, with 426 points to McLaren’s 381 and Ferrari’s 334.
The race began with a bang – several of them, actually. Vitaly Petrov didn’t quite clear slow-starting Nico Hulkenberg as they raced off the line, and the Renault was pitched into the wall to the left as he cut across the Williams. Then in the first corner Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made a wild run down the inside of Hulkenberg, before spearing across the road to crash into and take off very fast-starting Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi on the outside of Turn One. Hulkenberg was also involved, so at a stroke four cars joined non-starter Lucas di Grassi, who had a huge shunt in 130R in his Virgin during his out lap on the way to the grid.
Then, while the safety car controlled the race for the first six laps, Robert Kubica’s brilliant start to run second, ahead of Webber, came to naught when he dropped out at the hairpin on the second lap when his Renault threw its right-rear wheel.
Apart from Button’s intervention due to McLaren’s different strategy, Vettel had complete control of the race, keeping Webber’s challenge under control as the Australian in turn kept Alonso at bay. The two McLarens ran close behind them, and until Hamilton’s transmission problem the five title contenders were all closing up for what seemed like a dramatic finish. As Hamilton slowed, however, he let Button by at the Hairpin.
Michael Schumacher inherited sixth place from Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, who stopped early because of an accident damage-induced pit stop and then lost the left-rear wheel on the 48th lap. The two of them had been battling, nose to tail, for many laps.
One of the heroes of the race was BMW Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, who did his usual energetic overtaking, mainly in the Hairpin, pit-stopped late, then caught and passed team mate Nick Heidfeld to take seventh ahead of the German despite sustaining damage wheel-rubbing his way past Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari. Heidfeld finished eighth, making it a fruitful day for BMW Sauber, having just fended off Rubens Barrichello’s Williams.
Tenth seemed destined for Adrian Sutil until his Force India blew its Mercedes engine on Lap 44; he half spun in 130R on his way back to the pits. Thus Sebastien Buemi came through for the final point after Toro Rosso team mate Alguersuari had to make a late pit stop. The Spaniard finished 11th, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen who led Jarno Trulli home for a Lotus one-two in the newbie stakes.
Virgin’s Timo Glock came through to third eventually, and 14th overall. But for a long time Sakon Yamamoto was another hero with a gutsy drive where he stayed ahead of Trulli for a long while and Glock even longer until his tyre stop on Lap 32. Bruno Senna ultimately beat him, having made an early tyre stop, but Yamamoto brought his HRT home an honourable 16th behind him.