By Joe Watson
1. Sebastian Vettel, 2. Mark Webber, 3. Romain Grosjean
9. Jenson Button, 11. Paul di Resta, 19. Max Chilton, Ret. Lewis Hamilton
Going into the 15th race of the season in Japan, Sebastian Vettel knew a victory and a slip-up by Fernando Alonso would seal his forth Drivers’ Championship. There was no such fault by the Ferrari driver, who finished forth, and now Vettel must sit patiently for 14 days for another throw of the dice in India.
As ever Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying session was productive which led him setting off from third on the grid. Roman Grosjean was fastest out of the blocks flinging himself from forth to first while the rest of the pack struggling to match his blistering pace.
Vettel instantly was put on the back foot and suffered left wing damage following a brushing from Hamilton. The Brit attempted to scoot past the Red Bull and it looked to be a successful move on the run-up to the first corner. However Hamilton’s Mercedes writhed a tyre puncture that had a knock-on affect of rear bodywork damage forcing him to retire after nine laps.
Meanwhile there was drama at the back of the grid. Jules Bianchi and Giedo Van Der Garde tussled each other into the wall, abruptly terminating their race.
Grosjean led much of the race and the Redbulls were hot on his heels but 12 laps from the end, Vettel’s pace was too much for Grosjean on the pit straight and German took second before moving into first following Webber’s third pit-stop.
Max Chilton’s decent qualifying session meant he started in 18th is a solid position considering his difficult start to life on the F1 circuit. The 22-year-old however couldn’t muster an advance up the pecking order and found himself pegged back to last place. Chilton’s clean drives enables him to boost a 100% finishing record. That’s a positive considering his inexperience amongst the world’s elite. The rookie’s future hangs in the balance with Murussia weighing up their options.
Felipe Massa dropped from fifth to tenth after being slammed with a drive-through penalty for pit-lane speeding. Jenson Button faced a similar skirmish with the Ferrari to last weekend’s in Korea. The McLaren passed Massa on the final lap to replace the Brazilian in ninth to lift his season’s tally to 60 points. This battle ousted Paul Di Resta outside the points. Di Resta scrambled a place from the grid to 11th and the Force India was the last car not to be lapped.