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GP Week : Issue 170
26 GPWEEK.com // 26 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> SUZUKA alongside the Finn; both drivers gave each other room and the Briton, with the inside line for the first turn, squeezed Raikkonen’s black and gold Lotus wide to snatch fifth. Hulkenburg pulled off a masterful recovery from 15th on the grid to end up seventh. A collision with the barriers at Degner Two in FP3 left the young German’s mechanics with it all to do before qualifying, but swift work from Force India meant he was able to break into the top-ten shootout. The 25-year old navigated the wreckages and carbon-fibre at Turn 1 with relative ease and was already eighth when the Safety Car was deployed. He showed good pace during the first stint while behind Raikkonen and Hamilton, but lost ground as the race wore on and finished just ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the Williams. Perhaps the greatest recovery was produced by Webber. Having qualified second, the Aussie found himself at the very back of the field after being tagged by Grosjean’s wayward Lotus at Turn 2. But an inspired decision by the RBR pit-wall to switch him to a one-stop strategy paid dividends, as he was able to scythe his way back through the field to score a couple of points for ninth. The top ten was rounded-out by another Red Bull-liveried car – the Toro Rosso of Ricciardo. The youngster was embroiled in battles throughout the race, firstly going wheel-to-wheel with Webber and then holding off seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher in the dying stages of the grand prix for the final points-paying position. Outside of the top-10, Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen drove remarkably well. The Finn found himself as high as 11th during the first stint – keeping Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso behind him – but eventually fell to 15th place when he was forced to take on a second set of fresh tyres with ten laps to go. Sauber’s Sergio Perez was among the retirements. The rapid Mexican was embroiled in an intense battle with Hamilton – the man he will replace at McLaren in 2013 – until lap 19 when he span and beached his Sauber in the gravel trap at the Hairpin. But, with five races remaining and the top four in the drivers’ standings covered by just 52 points, the battle for this year’s world championship is at a critical juncture. And as teams now head to Yeongam for next weekend’s Korean Grand Prix, Alonso’s demise in Japan will certainly have focused the mind for all those in the title hunt. A single mistake will be very costly. "A shame" ... but the championship race is wide open again DON’T FORGET! CLICK HERE To SUBSCRIBE to WEEK F1 >> MotoGP >> WRC .com NOW! and win a superb Casio Edifice