Vettel wins - but glee for Japan
DISASTER ABOUT TO STRIKE: Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel (left) enters the first turn to lead the pack after the start of the 2012 Japanese F1 GP at Suzuka. Moments later, mayhem broke out. Image: AFP
SUZUKA, Japan – A rampant Sebastian Vettel came home to the flag here today to take the 2012 Japanese F1 GP but the guys behind brought the news.
Felipe Massa finally got on to the podium after two years since his dreadful eye injury and Kamui Kobayashi took third to fly the flag of the rising sun over the Japanese track.
The 53-lap race on the figure-eight track started with Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) on pole, followed by Mark Webber (Red Bull) and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) with Fernando Alonso (Ferrari ,and leading the Drivers’ championship) down in sixth and McLaren’s Hamilton and Button in ninth and eighth respectively.
The victory was Vettel's third from pole in Suzuka in the past four years and he also set the fastest lap.
Alonso's pre-race Drivers' championship lead over reigning champion Vettel, chalking up his second win in a row and third of the season, was cut to four points from 29 with the Spaniard in danger of falling behind in South Korea next weekend.
'THESE THINGS HAPPEN'
Vettel said later, after holding aloft the winner's trophy and making the familiar raised forefinger gesture as No.1: "It was an important step today but there's still a long way to go."
Of Alonso's exit into the gravel after contact with former Ferrari champion Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus he said: "These things happen and obviously you don't hope for those things to happen to yourself.
"We have so many races, it could happen. We don't know what happens in the next race, it's good to take the points today."
10 SECOND PENALTY
The safety car came out after a collision at the first corner involving Webber, Alonso and Romain Grosjean (Lotus) – he T-boned Webber and was later issued with a drive-through and 10-second pit-stop penalty. They all pitted for tyres and minor repairs – except for Alonso, whose car was lifted off the track and out of the race, and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg who started 13th.
Contact was made between Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso, the latter collecting a puncture from Raikkonen’s disintegrating front right wing that put him into the gravel. It all put Vettel into the lead, followed by Kobayashi, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa (covered by six seconds), Raikkonen and Hamilton.
Alonso said later: “I think Kimi touched me a little on the rear and the tyre had a puncture – I couldn’t continue. It was the way it was – we concentrate on next week.”
Despite the retirement, he remains on top of the Drivers’ log.
PEREZ FLYING - THEN OUT
Meanwhile Michael Schumacher, who started right at the back of the grid, was up to 14th and on lap six young Sergio Perez drove past Hamilton – who will move to Ferrari in 2013 and hand over his car to the young Mexican – and into sixth position, the latter pulling out of the way to avoid contact. Hamilton was now being threatened by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Perez, by lap 15, was running fifth and becoming the driver to watch as the first tyre pit-stops started and race position were thrown out of kilter and making generally two stop race strategies apparent. By lap 18 Massa had pulled through to second with Vettel still in the lead, the pair followed by Kobayashi and Button – and Perez went off on the hairpin, beached on the gravel and was out of the race while battling Hamilton.
Perez said later: “I was going to take him but when I went to the outside the rear tyre had gone. Who knows, I was in a good position and feel sorry for the team, it was my mistake.”
Nevertheless, his performance until then must have reassured the McLaren team, for whom Hamilton was now up into sixth though seeming to struggle with the front end of his car with Vettel nine seconds clear of the pack.
SCHUMACHER UP TO 10th
At the halfway mark, lap 26, the top 10 order was Vettel, Massa (looking at a podium place for the first time in two years), Kobayashi, Button, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado, Webber and Daniel Ricciardo.
About-to-re-retire Schumacher was up to 10th (falling back to 11th as the pit stops gradually corrected the order) from 23rd.
On lap 36 Button zoomed in for his second stop and was slow, with Kobayashi going past on the straight and in front of the McLaren. The front order now was Vettel, Massa, Kobayashi, Button, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Maldonado Schumacher and Webber.
Vettel was still totally dominant and 35sec ahead of Massa – but would the alternator problem that hat hit the team in recent races recur in one of the remaining 16 laps?
By lap 49 Vettel was looking at pole, fastest lap and the win with Massa, Kobayashi and Button still behind and the Japanese crowd ecstatic at their home driver’s hopes for a podium place.
As the flag came out it was still Vettel, better than 20 second ahead of Massa, with Kobayashi who had driven a superb race to take the third podium for a Japanese driver in F1 history – and for the crowd to go wild over his success.
Behind them were Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
Result from the 2012 Formula 1 Japanese GP at Suzuka
1 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1hr28min56.242
2 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari +00min20.639
3 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber +00min24.538
4 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren +00min25.098
5 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren +00min46.490
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus +00min50.424
7 Nico Hlkenberg (Germany) Force India +00min51.159
8 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams +00min52.364
9 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull +00min54.675
10 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso +01min06.919
11 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes +01min07.769
12 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India +01min23.460
13 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso +01min28.645
14 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams +01min28.709
15 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham +1 lap
16 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia +1 lap
17 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham +1 lap
18 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT +1 lap
19r. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus +2 laps
Charles Pic (France) Marussia 16 laps
Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 21 laps
Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 35 laps
Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 53 laps
Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 53 laps
Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel,1min35.774, lap 52
Drivers’ and Constructors’ standings after the 2012 Japanese F1 GP
1 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 194
2 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 190
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 157
4 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 152
5 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 134
6 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 131
7 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes GP 93
8 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 82
9 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 69
10 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 66
11 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 50
12 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 44
13 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes GP 43
14 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 37
15 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 33
16 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 25
17 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 8
18 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 7
19 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 0
20 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 0
21 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 0
22 Jerome d'Ambrosio (Belgium) Lotus 0
23 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 0
24 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 0
25 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 0
1 Red Bull - Renault 324
2 McLaren - Mercedes 283
3 Ferrari 263
4 Lotus - Renault 239
5 Mercedes 136
6 Sauber - Ferrari 116
7 Force India - Mercedes 81
8 Williams - Renault 58
9 Toro Rosso - Ferrari 15
10 Marussia - Cosworth 0
11 Caterham - Renault 0
12 HRT - Cosworth 0