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GP Week : Issue 137
Team-By-Team: Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka Jenson Button survived Vettel’s startline lunge to take a victory that was seen as highly unlikely going into the weekend, although he left having dominated the entire three-day event. He topped every practice session, missed out on pole by just 0.009 of a second, took the race win and set fastest lap, albeit after being pushed to the very limit by Alonso. Team-mate Hamilton endured another tough weekend, first by missing out on fighting for pole, then an early-race puncture and finally with poor pace on the medium tyre in his final stint. He held off Schumacher in the closing laps. All the money was on Red Bull to dominate the weekend just like they had done the past two seasons, but poor tyre wear coupled with slow pitstops cost Vettel the chance of a Suzuka hat-trick. He lost almost three seconds to race- winner Button in the pitlane alone and lost out to Alonso after pitting early for his final stop, but still came third to secure his second world championship. Team-mate Webber finished just 8 seconds off the pace in fourth after battling through from sixth and surviving contact with Michael Schumacher. Vitaly Petrov returned Renault to the points after their dismal weekend in Singapore after a well-executed two-stop strategy from 10th on the grid. He overtook close rivals di Resta, Kobayashi and Sutil in the final quarter to climb to 9th, but ran out of laps in his pursuit of Perez. Team-mate Senna failed to make it into the top ten after losing four places off the line and struggling with tyre wear from then on. Despite getting the help of the safety car he finished the race half a minute behind Petrov, albeit in only his fourth race for the team. Michael Schumacher did an admirable job to finish sixth in the Mercedes, albeit with help from the safety car. He was a pitstop behind the top six drivers in the first half of the race, but running until the final 12 laps to make his final stop allowed him to keep Massa at bay and stay close with Hamilton to take the flag three seconds behind the McLaren. A qualifying hydraulics failure limited Rosberg to 23rd on the grid and he was only able to recover to 10th on a three-stop strategy, helped by overtaking three rivals in the final ten laps. Williams endured their 12th point-less weekend of the year after again failing to challenge the top ten all weekend. The team split their drivers on strategy, with Barrichello taking the three-stop route and Maldonado scheduled to stop just twice. That was changed when the safety car was deployed and Pastor switched to a three-stop. His pace improved in the closing stages and he was able to overtaking two cars, but it was too little too late. Barrichello took the flag in 17th after struggling for pace on the medium tyre in his final stint. Fernando Alonso admitted after the race that fighting for the win was never in his mind, but he came within touching distance of the top step of the podium in the closing stages after dropping the gap to Button to 1 second with three laps to go. He just ran out of laps, but did well to finish ahead of Vettel nonetheless. Massa had another frustrating Grand Prix after driving half the race with a damaged car following contact with Hamilton yet again. He couldn’t get by Schumacher in the closing laps and took the flag in seventh. 34