Webber and Vettel celebrate a good day for themselves and their team on the podium at the Suzuka circuit [AFP]

Mark Webber's title challengers fell behind as the Australian finished second at the Japanese Grand Prix behind Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Webber stretched his Formula One championship lead to 14 points while German Vettel got his first win since June despite eight pole-position starts, finishing 0.9 seconds ahead of his teammate.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, winner of the two previous races, finished a close third.

McLaren's world champion Jenson Button, one of five title contenders, failed in his gamble of starting on harder tyres than the others and was fourth with teammate Lewis Hamilton fifth.

Webber now has 220 points to 206 for Alonso and Vettel, with the Spanish double world champion having won four races to the German's three.

Australian Webber lost second place to Renault's Robert Kubica at the start but gaining it back when the Pole came to a halt on lap three with the rear right wheel missing from his car.

"I'm really, really happy and it's about time," said Vettel of his first win since Valencia in the summer and his second win in two years at Suzuka.

Japanese GP result

1 S Vettel (GER) RedBull
2 M Webber (AUS) RedBull
3 F Alonso (ESP) Ferrari
4 J Button (GBR) McLaren
5 L Hamilton (GBR) McLaren
6 M Schumacher (GER) Mercedes
7 K Kobayashi (JPN) BMW Sauber
8 N Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber
9 R Barrichello (BRA) Williams
10 S Buemi (SUI) Toro Rosso
11 J Alguersuari (ESP) Toro Rosso
12 H Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus
13 J Trulli (ITA) Lotus
14 T Glock (GER) Virgin
15 B Senna (BRA) HRT
16 S Yamamoto (JPN) HRT

Webber was also pleased.

"A very good day for me," he said. "It was probably difficult for me to win the race unless I got the start."

Hopes fading

Former champion Hamilton, who started with a five-place grid penalty on a weekend where nothing went right for him, dropped to fourth overall on 192 points with his hopes fading.

Button fell further behind in fifth overall, with 189 points and just three races to try and make up a 31-points deficit if the Briton is to become the first driver since 1957 to win back-to-back titles with different teams.

It was the championship leaders' third one-two finish in 16 races. Red Bull now have 426 points to McLaren's 381 in the constructors' standings.

In an eventful race run in bright sunshine after heavy rain had made the track undriveable on Saturday and forced qualifying to be postponed to Sunday morning, the safety car was deployed for five laps after mayhem at the start.

Renault's Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov piled into the wall while Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa tangled with Force India's Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Source: Agencies