By Pat Espresso

Sebastian Vettel resurrected his championship bid with a stunning lights-to-flag victory in Suzuka after an incident packed race.

The Red Bull favourite finished ahead of smiling teammate Mark Webber to score a convincing 1-2 for the team and extend their hold on the constructors’ championship.

Fernando Alonso took third place after an uneventful race, knowing that he is in a strong position to score heavily in the final three races of the campaign.

For McLaren, the Japanese Grand Prix was a nightmare. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton came home in fourth and fifth respectively, knowing that only race victories coupled with DNFs for their rivals will clinch the title for either driver.

Webber now has a 14-point championship lead, with Alonso second, tied on points with Vettel in third. Hamilton slips to fourth, with Button in fifth. After the race, the McLaren drivers admitted they were unlikely to figure in the final fight.

For Hamilton, Suzuka was especially cruel. After a poor run of luck he had every right to hope he was due some good fortune. It was not to be.

After having to take a five-place grid drop for changing his gearbox, he managed to drive through the field from 8th place to run ahead of his teammate. With 10 laps to go and in fourth place, his new gearbox failed and he had to let Button past. To add insult to injury, he needs another new gearbox and will incur a further five-place penalty at Korea.

After a morning qualifying session because of Saturday’s rain, the start of the Suzuka GP saw fireworks from the start. Vitaly Petrov did his chances of keeping his drive next year by clipping Hulkenberg’s slow-starting Williams, sparking carnage in the midfield. His antics led stewards to give him a five-place grid penalty for the next race.

Meanwhile. Massa, trying to make up for a poor qualifying performance, lost control when he put a wheel on the grass and took out Liuzzi’s Force India. The wrecked cars saw the safety car come out and it was while the field was following that a wheel dropped off a strongly placed Robert Kubica. It did Renault’s claims to be a major constructor no good at all to have both cars out in the first few laps.

As the race got underway, the Red Bulls showed that they clearly had the pace to leave the field behind. For Vettel and Webber it was a peaceful Sunday drive and both came away from Japan satisfied by their perfect result.

The undoubted star drive of the day, though, came from local favourite Kamui Kobayashi, who delighted the crowd with a series of outrageous overtaking moves. Many took place at the hairpin, where the Japanese driver proved that he could overtake on the inside or outside, bumping cars outrageously but thrilling the spectators with his balls-out driving.

The five contenders for the title have now become three. Let’s hope that Korea can put on a similarly spectacular show as the final countdown begins.


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