Back-to-Back Victories for Vettel

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel earned his third victory of the season. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel claimed his third victory of the season at the Japanese Grand Prix, dominating the race from start to finish to become the first driver to win back-to-back races in what has been a very challenging season for the two-time champ.

The German started the race from the pole, catapulting himself away from all the first turn carnage that cost championship leader Fernando Alonso any chance of widening his 29-point lead. Alonso suffered a puncture when he was hit from behind by Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, tipping the Spaniard into a spin as he turned into the first corner. Lotus's Romain Grosjean was guilty of putting Webber into a spin, and in a separate clash, Williams's Bruno Senna hit Nico Rosberg's Mercedes. Rosberg was forced to retire, but Senna, Grosjean and Webber were all able to continue after pit stops.

Alonso’s retirement throws the championship battle very much up in the air, as he now leads Vettel by a mere four points with five races to go.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend,” Vettel said. “Yesterday’s qualifying was perfect and today again, the balance of the car was amazing. We didn’t change too much at the stops; it just seemed to work fantastically well.

"It’s a shame for Alonso, it’s not something you hope for and it could happen to us at the next race. We’ve seen this year there are a lot of up and downs and things change quickly - we have to keep our heads down and take it step by step.”

Conversely, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa drove a superb race to finish in second place after starting from tenth on the grid. The Brazilian managed to maneuver his way around the first turn calamities, passing Jenson Button and Kamui Kobayashi to record his best finish of the season.

“It was a fantastic race!” Massa said. “Being back on the podium after almost two years away is just great and I feel really uplifted. They have been two tough years for me and, sometimes, a million things go through your mind, some of them bad, but finally I can be happy! It’s an important result psychologically and also in terms of my future, at least I think so! It’s even better getting back on the podium here, at a track I like so much and that I have known since the start of my career.”

To the delight of the crowd, hometown favorite Kamui Kobayashi held off tough challenge from Jenson Button to earn his first ever podium finish of his career. Button closed on Kobayashi before their final pit stops, but lost his advantage by making his pit stop earlier than the Japanese, and Kamui was able to hold him of for the last 10 laps.

“It hasn't sunk in yet, it is hard to believe,” Kobayashi said. “I achieved my first podium in Suzuka! It was a fantastic race and we have been working really hard to get to this point since we were lacking pace on Friday. But the Sauber F1 Team did a great job to recover from there.

“I had a very long last stint today and Jenson (Button) changed for fresh tires later. My rear tires where really bad in the end and I had a lot of over steer. But regardless of this I had to push to defend my podium place. Only during the final lap did I allow myself to really think I can keep him behind me, because then the best overtaking opportunity at the end of the straight was over, and then I saw all the fans and the raised hands. It meant a lot to me and I want to thank the Japanese fans."

Button had to settle for fourth place with his teammate Lewis Hamilton in fifth, while Kimi Raikkonen fended off a tough challenge from Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg to take sixth place. Hulkenberg ended up seventh, ahead of Pastor Maldonado in eighth and Red Bulls Mark Webber claiming ninth place after he had to fight his way back up from being hit from behind.

“I haven’t seen what happened at the start, but it’s been confirmed that it was Grosjean who hit me,” Webber said. “We’re trying to fight for results each weekend and it doesn’t help so, yeah, it’s frustrating as a few of the big guys suffered out there today. We went onto a one-stop strategy from then on, but I kept pushing, I didn’t give up and got something from it”

Grosjean was given a 10-second drive through penalty for the incident with Webber, and ended up finishing in 19th place.

Torro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten, as he had to hold of a surging Michael Schumacher during the last few laps. Force India’s Paul di Resta finished in 12th place, ahead of Torro Rosso’s Jean-Erin Vergne, William’s Bruno Senna and Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen who finished 15th.

The Championship now heads to the Korea International Circuit next weekend, for the Korean Grand Prix.

Related Topics:

Formula One, Sebastian Vettel

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Grand Prix of Brazil

@ Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sunday, November 24, 2013

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