Vettel's victory was his fourth in five years at Suzuka
Sebastian Vettel took a giant leap towards a fourth successive world title after claiming a fourth win at Suzuka in five years.
The German came into the race knowing that if he won and title rival Fernando Alonso finished lower than eighth he would be champion. But it was never really a realistic scenario as Alonso drove an assured race to finish fourth to make Vettel wait until India.
It had looked for a while as if Romain Grosjean may take a maiden race win after the Lotus driver made a superb start to jump into the lead on the first lap from fourth on the grid.
But an early second stop meant he had to drive a long stint on his final set of hard compound tyres to the end of the race and Vettel, on the softer compound, ghosted past with 12 laps remaining.
Mark Webber finished second on his three-stop strategy after passing Grosjean on the penultimate lap and Nico Hulkenberg backed up his impressive Korean showing with sixth place behind the man he may replace at Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen.
There was more disappointment for Lewis Hamilton, however, as he was forced to retire as a result of damage sustained after contact with Vettel on the opening lap.
Should Vettel finish fifth or better in India he will be champion with Alonso needing to outscore him by 15 points to take the championship to Abu Dhabi.
The fat lady is warming up.