For once Vettel was forced to fight hard as he won an intense battle with team-mate Mark Webber and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean. Vettel sat third for much of the race but he played his tyre strategy superbly to claim his 9th win of the season.
Mark Webber past Grosjean late in the race to steal second but he will be disappointed that his risky three stop strategy didn’t work as he spent too much time behind the Frenchman, allowing Vettel to scamper away.
Fernando Alonso’s 4th place was the best he could manage after starting 8th. Those 12 points have made him the highest point’s scorer in the sports history, overtaking Michael Schumacher. Alonso will be powerless to stop Vettel on the road in India, but he will hope to secure second again in the remaining few races.
Japan was due a good race after several seasons of boring Vettel processions in order for it to reaffirm its reputation as one of the best races on the calendar. That was helped when both Red Bulls were sluggish off the line and Grosjean, starting fourth, nipped his way around Webber and into the lead.
Lewis Hamilton’s race was over before it really started as his good start from third was undone as contact with Vettel resulted in a rear-wheel puncture. The puncture did too much damage to the car and Hamilton retired after touring around at the back for several laps.
Grosjean looked convincing at the front, looking unflustered and composed. He is a far cry from the driver of 12 months ago who was fighting for F1 career. His speed has always been unquestionable, his temperament has always been flustered. However in recent races we have seen a new Grosjean and today he drove fast and managed to keep the faster Red Bull’s at arm’s length.
However both Red Bull’s ganged up on the 26-year-old with different strategies. Webber elected to pit first, a clear indicator of his three stop plan, while Vettel decided to go longer and stop twice. Grosjean didn’t know who to copy and eventually tried to stop twice but his tyres weren’t strong enough to hold Vettel behind. The German made the move after their second stops and then created a gap large enough to preserve his lead.
Webber, on the fresher tyres, created a large lead before his final stop but still came out behind Vettel and Grosjean. He had a chance of victory, but he needed to clear the Lotus quickly. It is a testament to Grosjean’s performance that he held the Aussie up for five aps on much older tyres, which sealed Vettel’s win.
Alonso was followed home by Kimi Raikkonen in fifth, while Nico Hulkenberg impressed again by taking sixth. After ruining Alonso’s race in Korea, it looked like he may do so again before Alonso finally made the move stick half-way through. Lotus are expected to announce Hulkenberg as a driver for next year where he can really display his talents- while his team-mate Esteban Gutierrez claimed his first ever F1 points with a solid 7th ahead of Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button.
But the main race was at the front and as per usual Sebastian Vettel won again. And anything more than 5th in India means he will win an even bigger prize.