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GP Week : Issue 170
25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> SUZUKA referred to the Franco-Swiss driver as “the first-lap nutcase” in an interview with Sky Sports F1. Grosjean – who has been involved in several similar incidents this year and was banned from the Italian Grand Prix after cannoning into those ahead of him away from the start at Spa – was given a stop-go penalty for his misdemeanour before retiring in the closing stages of the grand prix. He responded by saying: “Ever since I came back in Singapore my priority has been to be very cautious at the start. It was a stupid mistake, but we have to look ahead to Korea and a chance to make amends.” Nico Rosberg was also a casualty of the first corner melee after being tapped into a spin by Williams’ Bruno Senna, who was forced to make an unscheduled pit-stop for repairs while under the Safety Car and later ser ved a drive-through penalty for his role in the incident. As is often the case, one man’s loss is another man’s gain and there were as many winners as there were losers from the first corner skirmish. Felipe Massa picked up the baton from team-mate Alonso to achieve his first podium finish in almost two years. Despite only qualifying 11th, the Brazilian benefited from a five-place grid drop for Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg to be promoted to tenth. He then picked up places through the first-lap chaos and used a fresh set of Option tyres to make up more ground after the Safety Car intervention. A long first stint and consistently quick lap-times while others were held up in traffic, he leapt up to an impeccable second place after the first round of stops, which is where he stayed until the chequered flag. Vettel, meanwhile, ran and hid out front and simply pumped in the lap times to extend his lead over the rest of the field. It was an emotional win for the double world champion who not only eclipsed the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio’s 23 race victories, but also took a sizeable chunk out of Alonso’s championship lead, reducing the Spaniard’s advantage from 29 to just four points, with 125 still up for grabs in the final five races. “It’s been a fantastic weekend,” said Vettel. “Yesterday’s qualifying was perfect and today the balance of the car was amazing. I’m very happy. The guys have been pushing very hard and even though we didn’t have major upgrades here, it still seemed to come together.” Kamui Kobayashi started in third, as McLaren’s Jenson Button was demoted five places to eighth for changing his gearbox after Singapore. In contrast to Belgium, the Sauber driver avoided the chaos at Turn 1 and emerged just behind race leader Vettel with the fast-starting Button on his rear-wing. The Japanese racer couldn’t live with Vettel after the restart but was determined to keep Button at bay – both emerged from their first tyre-changes behind the slower Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo, which allowed Massa to take track position – and, despite the Briton’s best efforts, Kobayashi achieved a long- overdue maiden podium finish, to the delight of his home fans. “It’s hard to believe I achieved my first podium at Suzuka,” said an ecstatic Kobayashi. “Starting from third obviously helped a lot and also the long run I did on Friday made me very confident for the race. “The team has built a great car this year. You can tell this from the podium finishes my team-mate (Sergio Perez) has had. It means so much to me that it finally worked out. Maybe from now on things will be easier.” Lewis Hamilton in the second McLaren followed his team-mate Button across the line in fifth having started down in ninth place. The Briton admitted to taking a wrong turn with setup on his MP4-27 before qualifying and struggled for pace thereafter, relative to his Red Bull rivals. He was up in a net sixth- place before the final round of stops, behind Raikkonen. But slick work from the McLaren crew brought him out Vettel was gone after just one lap Grosjean strikes again ....