Race

15:00 The drivers leave the grid. It looks like Pic, Schumacher and Vergne are the only drivers on hard tyres at the start.

14:59 Ferrari tweets that a podium is unlikely for Alonso "Damage limitation today, unfortunately..."

14:58 The air temperature is 23C with the track temp down a bit on qualifying yesterday at 32C.

14:55 The drivers have all settled into their cockpits with less than five minutes to go.

14:53 Here is Ferrari's weather forecast: "After yesterday's night rain, today the sun is shining as in the previous days. Hot temperatures, as expected."

14:50 Unsurprisingly there is a huge amount of support for Kobayashi who is third on the grid. If he can get a good result here it might secure his future, which at the moment appears to be under threat.

14:47 The big concern for a lot of the drivers is how the soft tyres will hold up over the course of the first stint. With heavy fuel, high stresses and reasonably high temperatures the tyres will take a beating and the rears are being particularly stressed.

14:46 Asked about a double DRS on his cars, Red Bull technical director Adrian Newey said "No comment on that one".

14:45 Bit of a worry for Timo Glock as he just got out in time. Marussia says: "A wheel nut from 'another' car got sucked up into his when he drove down the pit lane. We don't know whose car, but definitely someone else's. Car seems okay but we'll check everything on the grid"

14:44 On the upside for the rest of us, we should see some fast cars coming through the field, including Michael Schumacher from 23rd on the grid after his penalty.

14:41 But even if Red Bull is a little bit down on race pace compared to its rivals, the grid doesn't look too bad from their perspective with Alonso sixth and Button and Hamilton in eighth and ninth.

14:39 In other news from Red Bull, it looked as though a piece of carbon fibre came off Webber's car but the man himself thinks he just clipped a bit of debris that was already on the track.

14:34 For those who don't want to see Red Bull dominate, there is some good news. It seems as though Red Bull has developed a Mercedes-style double DRS, which might explain its qualifying advantage. That theory is backed up by Mark Webber looking quick through the speed trap and a report from Auto Motor und Sport which claims it has seen photos of the holes in the end flaps.

14:30 Welcome to ESPNF1's live coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix. It's race day and we should be set for an interesting one, although the main question is whether Red Bull's qualifying supremacy will transfer to the race.

Lap 1

Vettel leads Kobayashi from the start as Alonso goes spinning out in turn one.

Rosberg also got taken out by the spinning Ferrari and we have a safety car to clear the wreckage.

Alonso is out of the race, as is Rosberg.

Button is up to third, Webber is the last of the runners after getting involved in that first corner accident. Senna has lost his front wing too.

Lap 2

Grosjean stops for a new front wing too. We think Grosjean clipped Webber in the first corner.

Webber comes into the pits.

We're waiting for a replay of what happened to Alonso...

Safety car is in this lap.

Lap 3

Vettel takes a huge lead at the restart as he catches Kobayashi napping. Perez attempted to pass Raikkonen into turn one but had to bail on to the run off.

A replay of the original start shows that Alonso squeezed Raikkonen and the pair touched. I would argue the Lotus had nowhere to go.

Grosjean clipped Webber coming out of turn one and pitched him into a spin.

Lap 4

Vettel leads Kobayashi by 1.9s

Lap 5

And Vettel ups his lead to 2.7s on the next lap. Button is 0.7s off the back of the Sauber, with Massa a further 0.6s off in fourth.

Hamilton is 2.1s off Raikkonen, Perez is right on the McLaren's tail.

The Grosjean/Webber incident is under investigation.

Lap 6

Kobayashi is holding his own against Button, but has dropped to 3.0s off Vettel who is now out on his own.

Perez launches a move on Hamilton and makes it stick into the hairpin. Incredible stuff as he passes the man he will replace at McLaren next year. He came from a long way back but held it all together.

Lap 7

Grosjean is given a stop/go penalty for causing an accident with Webber at the start.

A replay shows that Perez locked his inside front tyre as he passed Hamilton. He's now getting away from the McLaren but looks as though he has a nasty flat spot.

Lap 8

Schumacher has lost radio communication with his pit wall.

Meanwhile, Hulkenberg is all over the back of Hamilton, who appears to still be struggling with the setup he was struggling with in qualifying.

Webber has caught the back of the pack and Red Bull is urging him to continue to push and try to get a result out of it.

Lap 9

Kobayashi is now 4.7s off Vettel with Button 1.5s off the Sauber. Massa is 0.7s off Button with Raikkonen a further 1.6s back in fifth/

Lap 10

Vettel is easing away at the front, adding another 0.7s to his lead on that lap. But Button is dropping off Kobayashi.

Perez is faster than the three cars ahead of him and is closing on Raikkonen.

Kovalainen is currently hanging on to 11th, which would be crucial for Caterham in the constructors' championship, but he has some fast cars coming up behind him.

Lap 11

Perez has now caught the back of Raikkonen with the gap just 0.8s

Lap 12

Vettel extends his lead to 7.4s at the front of the field.

Lap 13

A turn one incident between Senna and Rosberg is now under investigation by the stewards. Presumably that was the one that took Rosberg out and lost Senna his front wing.

Roland says: "Looks like Buttons hoping for a safety car."

He certainly needs something.

Lap 14

Button now pits from third.

Raikkonen and Hulkenberg also pit. The Lotus comes out behind Vergne, which is not ideal for Raikkonen as he is now losing time.

Raikkonen is trying to find a way past but is close in all the fast sections of the track and not at the passing places.

Lap 15

Kobayashi pits from second and comes out ahead of Button.

Raikkonen eventually passes Vergne with the help of DRS. He now has his compatriot Kovalainen to pass.

Lap 16

Perez pits. Vettel stays out for another lap.

Perez comes out quite a long way off the back of Raikkonen so clearly lost some time to the Lotus over the course of those pit stops.

Lap 17

Kobayashi cannot find a way past Ricciardo, who hasn't pitted, with Button now right on his tail.

Hamilton and Maldonado pit

Kobayashi makes a good move stick into the hairpin. Good move.

Lap 18

Vettel pits now.

Button now struggling to pass Ricciardo but the Toro Rosso pits.

Massa also pitted and came out ahead of Kobayashi and Button.

Button reports a problem with his gearbox. Oh dear. McLaren comes back on the radio saying they think everything is okay.

Lap 19

Hamilton had a bit of a jolty and slow pit stop but gained a place back on Perez during those pit stops.

Lap 20

Vettel now has a 10.0s lead on Massa. Kobayashi is 2.2s off Massa and lapping at a similar pace in the first sector of this lap.

Perez spins off at the hairpin trying a move on Hamilton. He was trying to pull the same move he managed earlier in the race but lost the rear on the kink coming into the hairpin. His race is over as he beaches the car in the gravel.

Lap 21

Massa is now 9.5s off Vettel and closing on the Red Bull. We did hear a message to Vettel saying he should look after his tyres at the start of this stint, so don't read too much into it.

Kobayashi is 2.8s off Massa with Button 2.6s off the Sauber.

Senna has been given a drive-through penalty for the first lap incident with Senna.

Button is still reporting problems with his gearbox, saying it keeps going in to neutral.

Lap 22

Massa again sets the fastest lap and is now 9.3s off Vettel. Kobayashi continues to drop off the pace but still has a 2.9s buffer to Button.

Petrov, who is back in 19th, has lost KERS.

Meanwhile, Hamilton reports his front tyres have gone off after seven laps. He's now on the hard tyres so that's not good.

Lap 23

Vettel ups the pace and now has a gap of 10.1s over Massa, putting the Ferrari driver in his place.

Lap 24

Hamilton's troubles are relayed to Hulkenberg by Force India and the gap is now under a second. Hulkenberg uses his DRS on the pit straight but can't get close enough.

McLaren still thinks Button's gearbox is holding in there, but there is a suspicion a sensor has burnt out.

Lap 25

Now Hulkenberg is reporting a problem on his radio as he crosses the line 0.6s off the back of Hamilton.

The gap at the front is still 10.1s between Vettel and Massa. Kobayashi is just about holding in there, 3.4s off Massa, and is 4.3s ahead of Button.

Lap 26

Once again the gap at the front is static at 10.1s as they cross the line.

Meanwhile, Button is on "Plan C" according to his pit radio.

Hamilton is still just about holding off Hulkenberg and is only 3.7s off Raikkonen, so maybe his tyres are starting to come back to him.

Lap 27

Webber pits for the second time - the first time was on lap one. His tyres looked ruined coming out of the chicane.

Schumacher gains a place by pulling a move on di Resta at turn one. He's now up to 11th.

Lap 28

Vettel ups the pace again and now has a 10.6s lead over Massa. Kobayashi is starting to struggle with the pace too and is 6.0s off Massa. Button is told "Kobayashi is there for the taking".

Lap 29

Vettel ups the pace again. Massa is now 11.4s and chasing his first podium since Korea 2010.

Button is closing on Kobayashi and has taken 0.7s out of the Sauber.

Lap 30

Sandeep asks: "Now whats wrong with Hulkenburg car .... any update from team back at pits"

He's now 2.5s off Hamilton so clearly has lost some of his pace. We haven't heard anything over the radio but he spent a couple of laps very close to the McLaren so may have cooked his tyres.

Lap 31

Vettel continues to extend his lead with 12.7s now the gap to Massa.

Button is now 1.9s off Kobayahsi and must be thinking about a passing move soon.

Raikkonen pits from fifth. He takes on hard tyres and rejoins with some clear track.

Lap 32

Kobayashi now pits, he'll be glad to get rid of those tyres after the time he's been losing to Button.

Hamilton also pits and just gets out ahead of Raikkonen. The two went wheel-to-wheel into turn one and Hamilton gains a place. Raikkonen just gave him enough space and got out of the way to avoid an accident. Great driving.

Lap 33

Vettel is now 14.5s ahead of Massa and completely dominating this race.

Lap 34

Button is now on "Plan B" and it sounds like he will stay out for a couple more laps.

Raikkonen is told to save KERS if he can. He had a problem earlier in the weekend.

Webber is now 11th after two pit stops but has Schumacher ahead who has only made one stop. So it looks like the second Red Bull is starting to get a sniff of the points but he is out of sync after that first lap clash with Grosjean.

Lap 35

Vettel's lead is now 16.0s. Massa is 9.6s ahead of Button, who has a 15.0s lead over Kobayashi, who is lapping quicker than him.

Button will need the Sauber's tyres to drop off in the final stint if he wants a podium.

Lap 36

Button is now about to pit, which makes sense as he is losing time to Kobayashi at the moment. And Button comes out a long way behind the Sauber. Odd strategy decision, but Button missed his marks a bit as he came into his box.

His hope now will be to real in Kobayashi before the end of the race, but he also needs to keep an eye in his mirrors with Hamilton closing in the second McLaren.

Lap 37

Massa pits for hard tyres.

Lap 38

Vettel pits and gets away without any issues. Massa isn't even on the pit straight as the Red Bull rejoins the circuit.

Lap 39

The cars are quite evenly spread at the front of the field now. Button appears to be easing away from Hamilton, but we can't tell for sure because the timing screen has frozen.

Pic retires at the back of the field.

Lap 40

Our timing screen is back with us and Vettel's lead is now 17.7s. Kobayashi is third with a three second gap to Massa and a four second gap to Button.

Button is told he can push all the way to the end of the race, so we should see him try to make a move on the Sauber.

Lap 41

And Button responds by setting the fastest first sector time. We should see an interesting battle towards the end of this race for the final podium position.

Looking further down the field, Webber is in ninth and will be hoping he can keep his tyres together until the chequered flag. Meanwhile, Schumacher is having a sniff at Ricciardo for the final point on offer.

Lap 42

Hamilton appears to be settled behind Button and can't match the pace of his team-mate ahead. At the moment he will only take 10 points out of Alonso's lead in the championship.

Lap 43

Vettel's lead is 18.2s now. Button is 2.7s off Kobayashi, who might just be able to hold off the McLaren.

Lap 44

Hamilton is now 8.5s off Button and has Raikkonen 4.7s behind him. Hulkenberg is also in the mix in seventh, 1.2s off Raikkonen and lapping at a similar pace.

Lap 45

Button now has the gap down to 1.8s. This is the battle to watch as he's significantly quicker in sector one but not so quick in sectors two and three.

Lap 46

Looking back down the field again and Webber is still hanging in there. Schumacher is still 1.8s off Ricciardo for the final point.

If the race finishes as it is now, Vettel will be four points off Alonso, Raikkonen will be 37 points off and Hamilton will be 42 points off.

Lap 47

Button continues to reel in Kobayashi. 1.5s is the gap now and it's looking tense on the Sauber pit wall.

Roland says: "Massa in 2nd - that means Alonso would have had that position if he had not spun."

Button told to give it everything in these final laps.

Lap 48

Kobayashi responds to Button and extends the his lead to 1.8s. He may just have enough left in his tyres to hold off the McLaren.

Ricciardo holds Schumacher off into turn one as the Mercedes, on soft tyres, tries a move

Lap 49

Vettel told to back off a bit as he sets fastest lap after fastest lap and locks a tyre into the final chicane.

Lap 50

Schumacher tries a move again into turn one but Ricciardo is not leaving any space on the inside and the Mercedes cannot find a way past.

Vettel still leads by 19.4s. Massa has a 5.3s lead over Kobayashi and Button is 1.6s off the back of the Sauber.

Lap 51

Three laps to go as Vettel starts lap 51. His position looks safe but Button has closed the gap to 1.2s to Kobayashi.

Button takes 0.3s out of the Sauber in sector one with a the fastest first sector of the race.

Lap 52

Kobayashi just about keeps Button out of the DRS zone by saving his KERS until the final corner. Button has to get within a second of the Sauber to use his DRS on the pit straight.

Vettel told again to "be careful" as he sets another fastest lap with a 1:35.774.

Lap 53

Vettel wins with ease, Massa crosses the line for his first podium since 2010 and Kobayahsi takes third! The crowd goes crazy in the grandstands seeing the first Japanese driver on the podium since 1990 when Aguri Suzuki made it on to the podium.

Great news for all three drivers on the podium. Vettel closes to four points of Alonso in the championship, Massa gives himself a shot in the arm as he attempts to stay at Ferrari and Kobayashi gives his chances of staying in F1 next year a massive boost with the first podium of his career.

Rob Smedley to Massa: "Smashed it. Great drive. That's where you should have been yesterday, great recovery."

Button told he put in a "superb drive".

They start the final lap and Button is still off the back of Kobayashi and unable to pass into turn one despite getting the DRS advantage.

Vettel is going to take this easily, but Button is all over the back of Kobayashi in the middle of the lap.

Thank you for joining us today. After the first corner it was all a bit one-sided but it was a fantastic result nonetheless to see Massa and Kobayashi on the podium. And now the championship resets for Alonso and Vettel with five races left and just four points separating them.