F1 2012

Sebastian Vettel & Red Bull victory in Japan brings world championship back to square one

German Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel closed the gap to four points to Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso in the fight for the 2012 Formula 1 world championship, after Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix witnessed Red Bull dominating the race from pole position to the finishing line, while Spanish driver Ferrari suffered another first-corner accident, reminding the spectators of this years Belgium Grand Prix.

The first corner, which immediately comes after the start finish line, witnessed 3 incidents, which almost ran in a parallel fashion. As Sebastian Vettel started from P1 leading the race, which he never handed to any other competitor, the Ferrari of Spanish Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso suffered a punctured left-rear tire after the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen sliced it in the first corner. At the same time, Kimi Raikkonen’s team mate and crash kid Romain Grosjean hit Australian's Red Bull of Mark Webber. Last but not least, the Williams of Bruno Senna collided with the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, which forced the Williams to enter the pits and get a new nose and the Mercedes to retire.

The safety car was immediately deployed and lasted for just two laps, and thereafter German Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel picked up where he left off to score his third Japan victory in the last four years, which brought his points to 190 compared to Fernando Alonso’s 194.

Behind him, Japanese Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi strongly held on to second place ahead of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes of Jenson Button and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, but the Brazilian leap-frogged both rivals during the first rounds of pit stops to snatch a second place that he kept without suffering any serious threat to salvage something for Ferrari after the accident of Fernando Alonso. As a matter of fact, it was his first podium since Korea 2010, and the performance may have reinforced Ferrari’s decision to retain him for 2013, after his poor performance in this season and the previous one.

It was thus left to Kamui Kobayashi and Jenson Button to stage a challenging duel for the final podium slot, and though the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver pushed to minimize the gap to half a second by the flag, Sauber’s local hero managed to save his tires and held on to become only the third Japanese driver ever to finish on the podium, 22 years after Aguri Suzuki had achieved the same fate here.

The second Vodafone McLaren Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton benefited from the early chaos, but his car’s set-up issues from qualifying forced him to be content with fifth place. The Finish Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen took sixth to maintain his third place in the title chase with 157 points to Lewis Hamilton’s 152.

Nico Hulkenberg drove a strong race for Force India and was only seven-tenths of a second behind the Lotus by the finish line, while Pastor Maldonado on his Williams managed to grab four points for eighth place. Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber recovered well from a first-lap pit stop to pick-up a new nose to take ninth, while an epic battle between the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo and the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher for the final point went in the Australian’s favor by eight-tenths of a second.

Paul di Resta’s Force India finished in 12th place, after he lost out at the start, while Jean-Eric Vergne was fast in the early stages of the race in the second Toro Rosso but was unable to achieve better than 13th. Behind them, Bruno Senna survived that first-lap collision with Nice Rosberg and the resulting drive-through penalty, and set some fastest laps as he closed in on the Frenchman. It must be pointed out here, that both crossed the finish line side-by-side, officially separated by 0.0s.

Heikki Kovalainen ran 11th for a while after taking advantage of the first-corner mayhem, but his Caterham lacked the speed to stay ahead of the likes of Vergne and Di Resta and he finished 15th, 8.5s ahead of Timo Glock’s Marussia. Vitaly Petrov was 17th after a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags, and Pedro de la Rosa was the final classified finisher for HRT in 18th place.

Romain Grosjean retired late in the race after a well-deserved 10-second stop/go penalty for his collision with Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber. He joined Marussia driver Charles Pic, HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg on the long retirement list. The final non-finisher was Sauber driver Sergio Perez, who tried to impress the audience by passing a tire-troubled Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton for sixth early on, but then spun off at the hairpin while trying to do the same thing later in the race.

In the constructor stakes, Red Bull continues to lead on 324 points to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' 283, Scuderia Ferrari’s 263 and Lotus’s 239.

Suzuka - Cairo - Abu Dhabi

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