• Japanese Grand Prix

Vettel and Webber dominate for Red Bull

Laurence Edmondson October 10, 2010

Sebastian Vettel took a dominant victory at an incident-packed Japanese Grand Prix, with team-mate Mark Webber settling for second to complete a perfect weekend for Red Bull.

The pair's title rivals lined up behind with Fernando Alonso third, Jenson Button fourth and Lewis Hamilton fifth, but the weekend belonged to Red Bull. Vettel's solid performance leaves him level with Alonso in the title chase and just 14 points off championship leader Webber with just three races remaining.

Although the gap between the Red Bulls never grew much wider than 3.0 seconds, Vettel looked in control throughout and read the race to perfection as it all kicked off behind him. At the start Vitaly Petrov got away brilliantly but in his enthusiasm clipped Nico Hulkenberg's Williams and speared into the barrier before the first corner. Felipe Massa then attempted a wild move on Nico Rosberg into turn one, taking to the grass on the inside to try and make his desperate lunge stick. The inevitable ensued and Massa careered sideways across turn one, mopping up Tonio Liuzzi's Force India in the process and putting them out on the spot after a big imapct.

That resulted in a safety car period that saw Vettel line up ahead of the fast-starting Robert Kubica, Webber, Alonso, Button and Hamilton. However, Kubica's brilliance in qualifying and fast start proved worthless in the end as his right rear wheel came off at slow speed behind the safety car. That handed the Red Bulls a one-two lead that they never came close to losing.

At the restart the top five in the championship occupied the top five positions but Button was off the pace on hard tyres that he had decided to gamble on during qualifying. He was holding up Hamilton as a result but the McLarens held position as the top three started to pull away.

Vitaly Petrov makes an early exit - in all, four cars were out by the end of the first corner © Press Association
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Hamilton pitted first but came out behind Kamui Kobayashi as his weekend's luck failed to improve. He made a good pass into turn one and then started chasing the Red Bulls and Alonso, once the lead three had made their stop.

Button's leftfield tyre strategy meant he could stay out longer and he took the as the others rejoined with new rubber. However, his hard tyres were 20 laps older than his rivals and Vettel soon closed onto his tail. Button bunched up the pack but when he pitted for softs the Red Bulls started to stretch their lead again.

Button resumed behind Hamilton, but the 2008 champion's luck took yet another nosedive when he lost third gear. It didn't take long for Button to pass, but the good news for McLaren is that he will get another free gearbox change for Korea after fitting a new one before qualifying at Suzuka. Hamilton nursed the car home by staying above third gear, but it cost huge amounts of time in the slow corners and he finished 26 seconds behind his team-mate.

Tonio Liuzzi's Force India hits the barrier after being hit by Felipe Massa © Press Association
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Michael Schumacher took sixth after a close battle with his team-mate Nico Rosberg that ended when Rosberg's wheel came off at high speed, slamming the Mercedes into the barriers. Rosberg was unharmed but it brought an unfortunate end to a great battle between the team-mates that brought the very best out of Schumacher for the first time this year.

Kobayashi finished a seventh after a ballsy drive through the field that saw him successfully complete four overtaking manoeuvres at the hairpin. Nick Heidfeld made a solid return to the points in the second Sauber, with Rubens Barrichello and Sebastien Buemi rounding out the top ten.

Heikki Kovalainen finished 12th, a brilliant result for Lotus as it gives it a new highest finish among the new teams in Formula One. Meanwhile, Virgin had a dismal day after Lucas di Grassi spun off at the 130R on the way to the grid and did not make the start.

Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010