Sebastian Vettel fended off an early challenge from Lewis Hamilton to win the Japanese Grand Prix and stay alive in the race for the Formula One championship.
|Vettel took his third win of the season [AFP]
The Red Bull driver started on pole on Sunday and, after a brief dogfight with the reigning champion on the first turn, drove a perfect race for his third win of the season.
Italian Jarno Trulli was second for Toyota, who had started with only one driver after Timo Glock's crash the day before. Hamilton hung on for third.
"Finally we made it, I was screaming on the radio...it's good to be back on first position also on Sunday," said Vettel, the first German from outside the Schumacher family to win three races in a single season.
"It's a shame that there's only two races to go, but that's life. We're here to fight.
"Two more races like this and its looking better. Our task now is pretty straightforward, we have to push ourself to the maximum and try to win."
Championship leader Jenson Button came eighth and grabbed a vital point to stay 14 ahead in the title race, ahead of Brawn teammate Rubens Barrichello and 22-year-old Vettel.
Brawn missed out on the constructors' championship by half a point after Barrichello fell one place to seventh when the safety car was brought out for a Jamie Alguersuari crash with eight laps to go at Suzuka.
1 S Vettel (GER) RedBull
2 J Trulli (ITA) Toyota
3 L Hamilton (GBR) McLaren
4 K Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari
5 N Rosberg (GER) Williams
6 N Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber
7 R Barrichello (BRA) Brawn
8 J Button (GBR) Brawn
9 R Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber
10 F Alonso (ESP) Renault
11 H Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren
12 G Fisichella (ITA) Ferrari
13 A Sutil (GER) Force India
14 V Liuzzi (ITA) Force India
15 K Nakajima (JPN) Williams
16 R Grosjean (FRA) Renault
17 M Webber (AUS) RedBull
"I was struggling big time so it was a difficult afternoon driving the car and the only way I made one more point on Jenson here was the fact I qualified in front of him and that's what I have to be happy with," said Barrichello.
"I've got to win (the next race in Brazil), win big time."
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth and Germany's Nico Rosberg was fifth for Williams, after a stewards' investigation into a possible infringement while behind the safety car was dismissed.
BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld was sixth.
Vettel's win leaves him 16 points adrift of Button with two races remaining, starting with the Brazilian Grand Prix in two weeks' time.
Button has 85, Barrichello 71 and Vettel 69.