Two in a Row!! Fernando Alonso notched up a second successive victory as he won an exciting Japanese Grand Prix at the Fuji speedway as Championship leaders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa fell away at the start of the race. BMW’s Robert Kubica held onto second place in front of a spirited Kimi Raikkonen who kept off a belligerent Nelson Piquet at bay. Jarno Trulli finished fifth at Toyota’s home grand prix ahead of the Toro Rossos of Sebastian Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel. Felipe Massa came in eighth to collect just the one point for his efforts. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile finished twelfth and out of the points.
The race was effectively turned on its head at the start itself as Lewis ill-advised lunge into the first corner – as he was out-gunned by both Kimi and Kovalainen at the start – proved to be his undoing and causing a melee which saw the running order change dramatically. The Ferraris were pushed down, David Coulthard spun off into the wall, Kazuki Nakajima damaging his wing in the process and after the dust settled on the first and second corners, it was BMW’s Robert Kubica who emerged as the race leader in front of Renault’s Fernando Alonso! Kovalainen moved into third place in front of Kimi as Hamilton and Massa duelled further down the order and as Hamilton took advantage of a Massa mistake, the latter came back vehemently and touched and spun off Lewis who dropped down to 18th and last. Both of them had to serve a drive-through penalty which compromised their races though not their Championship fight. In other incidents of note, Toyota’s Timo Glock had to retire with a suspension damage & Force India’s Adrian Sutil was running as high as tenth but a rear-tyre puncture saw his race undone. McLaren had an off-day as Kovalainen’s race fell apart in the sixteenth lap & he was forced to retire with a mechanical problem.
Renault gambled on a short first pit-stop for Alonso and that worked out very well as he came ahead of Kubica and eked out a big enough lead over Kubica and when their second round of pit-stops came, it was Alonso who was still ahead. From thereon it was a matter of holding onto the lead and he did just that to notch up his 21st career victory and his second consecutive one this season. Down the order, Massa had a sort of mini-revival as he overtook a couple of cars to claw his way back into eighth position and thus salvage just one point. Hamilton finished out of the points but still maintains his lead in the Championship battle, now cut to just 6 points. Kovalainen’s non-finish meant that Ferrari leap back into the lead of the Constructors’ Championship over McLaren. Renault took home the biggest haul of points having finished first and fourth and consolidate their fourth position in the Constructors’ table. After them, Toro Rosso had the best race with Bourdais finishing 6th in front of teammate Vettel in 7th.
There remain just two more races in the season and time is running out for Felipe Massa to overhaul Lewis’ advantage in the championship. The next races are at Shanghai and at the Interlagos and assuming Massa is the favourite to clinch his home Grand Prix, Lewis just has to finish close to the top in each of the races to emerge Champion. But as last year showed, a couple of non-finishes could mar proceedings heavily. Hamilton must now keep his nerve and ensure a good enough result in China next week. Robert Kubica has cemented his third place position in the standings and still has a mathematical chance of winning it. Kimi, however is ruled out and thus ends his defense of the crown. The fact that he finished a race after four DNF’s and that too on the podium augurs well for his motivation levels.