Title almost in Vettel's grip after Japan win

Sebastian Vettel wins Japanese Grand Prix but Fernando Alonso makes him wait for his fourth F1 championship title.

    Title almost in Vettel's grip after Japan win
    Mark Webber congratulates his team mate on another clinical race at Suzuka [Reuters]

    Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday but was made to wait for his fourth successive Formula One title after Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished fourth.

    The 26-year-old German's feat of a fifth straight Grand Prix win left him with a lead of 90 points over Alonso with four races, and a maximum 100 points to be won, remaining. The title could be clinched in India on October 27.

    Vettel's Australian team mate Mark Webber, who had started on pole position, finished 7.1 seconds behind, after passing Frenchman Romain Grosjean on the penultimate lap.

    Grosjean had led much of the race but could not take his maiden F1 victory.

    Sauber's Mexican Esteban Gutierrez became the first rookie driver to score a point this season with seventh place for Sauber on Sunday.

    Before the race, the drivers had honoured Maria de Villota with a moment of silence. The former F1 test driver was found dead in a hotel room in Seville, Spain, on Friday.

    Her family said an autopsy showed that injuries from her racing accident a year ago were likely to have caused her death.

    Tyred out

    Grosjean, who started on the second row, grabbed the lead at the first turn and held it until the 29th lap when he went into the pits for the second time to change tyres, at which point Vettel took the lead and waited for his final pit stop on lap 37.

    With fresh hard tyres, Vettel blasted past Grosjean on lap 41 to take the lead for good.

    It was Vettel's fourth win in the past five races at Suzuka, and he became the first driver to win five Grand Prix in a row since Michael Schumacher in 2004.

    France, meanwhile, is still waiting for its first Grand Prix-winning driver since Olivier Panis at Monaco in 1996.

    Vettel got off to a rough start when he clipped Lewis Hamilton's right rear tyre before turn one, forcing the Mercedes driver to retire after the ninth lap due to a puncture and associated damage.

    "The floor was destroyed... I was a second and a half to two seconds off the pace and the car was pulling to the right. It's a good job they pulled me in," said the 2008 world champion.

    The Red Bull emerged unscathed, with the team reassuring a concerned Vettel, and the German settled into third place before going for the win.

    "Ichiban, Ichiban," Vettel shouted over the team radio at the chequered flag, giving the Japanese for "first"  after taking a race that hinged on his ability to do two stops to Webber's three.

    "Great job, thanks a lot for bringing the car back, unbelievable. You're the best team in the world. Thank you very much boys, I love you."

    Asked on the podium about the championship, with the crowd roaring in approval, he added: "Obviously we have a very good gap but we still keep pushing... it looks verygood at this stage but it's not over until its over."

    Alonso, who became Formula One's leading all-time points scorer, had no illusions about his chances.

    "Even if Vettel doesn't finish all of the races I need to win nearly all, so it's a matter of time," said the Spaniard.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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