SUZUKA: Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel stormed to a fourth victory in five years at the Japanese Grand Prix yesterday, but will have to wait to celebrate a fourth successive Formula One world title.
Vettel reeled in his departing teammate Mark Webber in the closing stages as well as Lotus driver Romain Grosjean, who wound up third for Lotus after a flying start at Suzuka.
But Fernando Alonso’s fourth place means Vettel’s celebrations stay on ice at least until India in two weeks, despite the German’s career-best run of five straight race wins.
Webber began the race on pole for the first time this year but Grosjean’s scorching start from fourth saw the Frenchman sneak into turn one ahead of the Australian.
Both men had their chances but ultimately Vettel proved too strong and, after roaring past Grosjean on the home straight on lap 41, went in front when Webber pitted for the third time and was never seriously threatened thereafter.
“Ichiban (first)!” whooped Vettel over the radio as he took the chequered flag for the ninth time this season. “You’re the best team in the world. I love you guys. Yes! Ichiban!”
Webber’s three-stop strategy cost him and, although he finally passed a determined Grosjean with two laps of the 53 left, it was too late to catch his teammate and claim a first victory of the year in his last season in F1.
Grosjean finished on the podium for the fourth time this season. Vettel now holds a 90-point lead over Ferrari’s Alonso with 100 available from the last four races.
“I want to enjoy this win,” said Vettel, celebrating with his trademark finger-point. “Regarding the championship, it’s not over until it’s over.”
Vettel win streak unimaginable: Horner
Red Bull chief Christian Horner admitted Sebastian Vettel’s run of five successive wins was beyond his imagination.
“Sebastian has won every race since the summer break which is an incredible achievement,” gushed Horner. “Still four races to go. Our target is to try to carry this momentum into the last four races.
“I don’t think any of us could have imagined that he would have had the run of success that he’s had. The way he’s driving at the moment is quite supreme.”
Points record gives Alonso something to celebrate
Alonso took more comfort in knocking Schumacher off his perch as Formula One’s all-time top points scorer yesterday than in keeping the championship mathematically open for two more weeks.
The result – fourth place finish – lifted Alonso’s career points tally to 1,571, five more than seven times world champion Michael Schumacher managed to accumulate.