SECOND CONSECUTIVE PODIUM LOCK OUT IN JAPAN
Sebastian Vettel (Infiniti Red Bull Racing) won a gripping Japanese Grand Prix to edge ever closer to his fourth drivers’ title today. Team-mate Mark Webber came in second, ahead of Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean, securing a podium lock-out for Renault for the second consecutive race. With Kimi Raikkonen bringing the second Lotus past the flag in fifth, four of the top five positions were Renault-powered. It is the first time in 17 years that Renault has secured two consecutive perfect podiums.
The thriller of a race started at the very first corner when Grosjean, who had started third, powered past Vettel and Webber. He pulled out a three second lead over Webber, with Vettel just behind, with the trio staying in formation until the first round of pit stops. Webber was the first to stop, with Grosjean just one lap later. Vettel duly made his stop a lap later, reinstating the Grosjean-Webber-Vettel status quo. The trio would remain in formation until the mid-point of the race when Webber made his second stop. It was at that point that the race changed with Webber on a three-stop strategy, and Vettel and Grosjean on a two-stop strategy. With newer tyres, Vettel was able to get past Grosjean on lap 41. Webber and the Frenchman had an intense battle until the final laps, but the Aussie was finally able to make a move stick two laps from the end.
Behind the leading pack a tight scrap developed with Hulkenberg, Alonso, Massa, the two McLarens, Saubers and Raikkonen all fighting for track position. The pack swapped positions through stops and on-track moves, with Hulkenberg proving a tough man to get past. Eventually Alonso and Raikkonen both got through in bold passes and built up a cushion over the Sauber to finish in fourth and fifth position.
The two Williams started well, with Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado both making good starts off the line and running in the midfield. Struggling with tyre wear at the end of the race, Maldonado finished in 16th and Bottas in 17th. Caterham F1 Team finished with Charles Pic in 18th, ahead of the Marussia of Max Chilton. However, Giedo van der Garde retired from the race on lap 1 after being involved in a first corner incident.
With four races remaining, Infiniti Red Bull Racing leads the Constructors’ Championship by 445 points to Ferrari’s 297. Mercedes has 287 to Lotus’ 264. In the drivers’ title race, Vettel is 90 points ahead of Alonso, however there is everything to play for behind, with Raikkonen third with 177, Hamilton fourth with 161 and Webber fifth with 148.
*1996 Canadian and French GPs
Rémi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 Head of Track Operations
It has been an exceptional two races for Renault Sport F1, with a new record in pole positions set by an engine manufacturer yesterday and then another 1-2-3 result today for the second race in succession. Suzuka is always a test for engines and rewards the strongest engine-chassis packages, so for us to score such a result here today is incredible. Everyone at Viry can be very proud to be part of this result – and to have this effort recognised by our partners Red Bull Racing on the podium.
We can also be pleased to contribute to some serious points for both Championships. We’ll make it our aim in the coming races to maximize the points across all our partners and to finish the season – and the end of the V8 era – on a high. We will certainly aim to finish with a 1-2 in the Constructors’ Championship with Red Bull and Lotus, if we can. We broke one record this weekend but it would be good to set the bar even higher now!