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GP Week : Issue 170
Vettel arrived at Suzuka with momentum on his side and Red Bull was exceptional throughout the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. The 25-year old pipped Webber to pole, to achieve the first RBR front-row lockout of 2012 and the young German’s fourth consecutive pole at Suzuka. And everything fell into place for Vettel in the race, too; retirement for championship leader Alonso and a dominant win had a profound effect on the standings, with only four points now separating the top two. A one-stopping Webber recovered from a collision with Grosjean on lap one to score points for ninth. Nico Rosberg’s running was curtailed during second practice while a new engine was fitted following an oil pressure problem, while FP2 came to an abrupt end for Schumacher when he speared into the barriers at Spoon Curve. Qualifying was also a disaster – Rosberg languished down in 13th and his race only lasted a couple of corners when he was tapped into a spin by Senna’s Williams. From the back of the grid, Schumacher worked his way up the order, but the 43-year old German just missed out on the points after a fraught battle with Ricciardo for tenth. It looked to be a McLaren-Red Bull battle for the win once again but, while McLaren showed pace during practice, it failed to make an impression on Red Bull; Button required a new gearbox after Singapore and was subsequently handed a five-place grid penalty to line-up eighth, just ahead of team-mate Hamilton. A chaotic start meant Button was third at the end of lap one, behind Sauber’s Kobayashi. Massa dispatched both after the first stops and Button was unable to deny Kobayashi a podium finish. A slick second stop saw Hamilton snatch what would be fifth from Raikkonen. Conditions in practice were set fair for Lotus to get their innovative drag reduction device calibrated, but the team once again opted to drop it. Raikkonen missed most of FP2 due to a KERS issue and a spin at Spoon during Q3 meant he would start seventh. From fourth, Grosjean was punished with a stop-go penalty for being involved in yet another collision on the first lap – the Franco- Swiss racer clashed with Webber away from the start – although he failed to finish the race anyway. Raikkonen emerged from the turn one chaos unscathed and sixth place was good consolation. Alonso arrived in Japan relieved to be in such a strong position at the top of the standings, but a retirement in the land of the rising sun turned the title race on its head. From sixth on the grid, the Spaniard was in the danger zone off the start and was a casualty of the turn one melee, spinning out at the entry to the S Curves following contact with Raikkonen. Massa picked up the baton from his team-mate to claim a well-deserved second – his first podium in two years – after jumping both Kobayashi and Button in the first round of stops. Suzuka isn’t a track where Force India has shown well in the past and clashes with the barriers during free practice for both di Resta and Hulkenburg hampered their progress. A mighty effort from the Force India mechanics to repair Hulkenburg’s VJM05 saw him into the top-ten shootout, although the German was demoted to 15th for a gearbox change. Di Resta started 11th after losing time in traffic. Hulkenburg negotiated the first corner incidents well and had good pace throughout to keep Maldonado at bay for seventh, but a poor start and traffic prevented his team-mate from improving on 12th. Red Bull Mercedes McLaren Lotus Ferrari Force India TEAM-BY-TEAM: JAPANESE GRAND PRIX 36 GPWEEK.com // 36 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> SUZUKA