Jenson Button won the Japanese Grand Prix but it will be Sebastian Vettel who will be celebrating his second Drivers’ Championship as he finished third and ensured that he has an unassailable lead in the drivers’ tally. Fernando Alonso finished second in the race and managed to hold off Vettel behind him for the best part of the latter laps.
Mark Webber finished fourth ahead of Lewis Hamilton in fifth, Michael Schumacher in sixth & Felipe Massa in seventh. Sergio Perez finished eighth ahead of Vitaly Petrov in ninth and Nico Rosberg took the last point in tenth, having started from the back of the grid!
It was never in doubt coming into Suzuka that barring a DNF, Vettel would sew up the WDC and the question was that whether he would do that with a resounding win or a careful points finish. At the start it surely seemed like the former as, having made a slower start as compared to Button, Vettel gradually eased Button towards the right of the track and onto the grass whilst maintaining his lead. As Button was seemingly forced off-track, Hamilton eased into second place and starting to hustle Vettel. BTW, Vettel was not penalised for his actions!
Hamilton was soon passed by Button and he further slipped down the order as a right-rear puncture meant an early pit stop for the McLaren. The order remained the same as the first round of pit stops shook down but at the second window of stops, Button managed to leap frog Vettel into the lead and held it till the end.
Fernando Alonso meanwhile had another of his belligerent drives which saw him slot into second place ahead of Vettel after the third round of pit stops and if the race was a few laps longer, he might have caught Button at the head of the track. But with the Ferrari being hard on its tyres and Button very good at looking after them, would be a tough ask…maybe a DRS-fuelled passing move. But we’ll never know as the Chequered Flag fell at the end of the 53rd lap, giving Button the Race victory.
The race only had one retirement in Sebastian Buemi as an ill-fitted front-right came off and the Toro Rosso slid into the gravel on lap 12. There was also yet another Felipe Massa – Lewis Hamilton coming together at lap 22 and Massa lost a part of his wing, which prompted a Safety Car as debris were removed from the track. Vettel had closed down the gap on Alonso but didn’t get close enough to pull off a DRS overtake and settled for the third position.
With four races to go in the season Sebastian Vettel is crowned the 2011 World Drivers’ Champion – his second consecutive one and making him the youngest-ever Double World Champion. What are the chances of a Button/Brawn like situation where he’ll not win a race again? Pretty slim, I should say, given the Red Bull’s performance advantage. In the race for second, Jenson Button has an 8 point lead over Fernando Alonso, who in turn has an 8 point lead over Mark Webber. Expect the next races to be an all-out race for win for these guys.