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Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel Win in Japanese Grand Prix

James BoltonContributor IIOctober 10, 2011

Champions!
Champions!Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel was euphoric after securing the 2011 World Championship in yesterday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

It was likely that he would win the championship this weekend, for the young German only needed one point to finish the job he started in Melbourne back in March. He seemed genuinely aware of what it meant to be a back-to-back champion.

The real interest in the race was the result itself.

Going into the weekend, we all thought Vettel was likely to dominate. In 2009 and 2010, he had been sublime around Suzuka and given the quality of his driving so far this season, we expected more of the same.

The reality was somewhat different, and Jenson Button and McLaren gave Vettel a real race. We’ve seen this before in 2011.

Despite Vettel’s apparent dominance, he hasn’t managed to string together more than three race wins and sometimes the Vettel-Red Bull package has simply been beaten over a race distance.

This was one such occasion. More brilliant driving from Jenson Button secured a convincing win for the 2009 champion. Button now now has two wins—two seconds and a third from the past five races.

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Vettel’s downfall resulted from his inability to get the best from the softer Pirelli tyres. His lap times before his first two pit stops were 1m 41.700s and 1m 40.367s. This contrasts to Button, who stopped a lap later and was still able to lap in 1m 41.200 s and 1m 39.846 s.

That’s a clear half-second in each of those laps alone, and it’s these narrow margins which decided the race.

This was evident from the tiny nine one-thousandths of a second that separated the two drivers in qualifying.

This had left them one and two on the grid, and on the run to the first corner the two cars got very close. Jenson saw a gap and had his car alongside the Red Bull, but was forced to take to the grass and back off the throttle as Vettel moved onto him.

What should the stewards have done in this situation? If Jenson hadn’t lifted, would Vettel have collided with him?

The answer is assumedly yes. Racing drivers shouldn’t force each other off the circuit and that’s what Vettel did in this case.

In Italy, Alonso had two wheels on the grass at the start, but it was his own choice to go for a gap that wasn’t quite wide enough for his Ferrari. Later in the same race, Alonso left Vettel just enough room to go around the outside at Curva Grande, but Vettel put his wheels on the grass by his own accord.

The Vettel–Button incident at the start of yesterday’s race was just about in penalty territory, but no penalty was given.

It’s important to respect the stewards, and in fairness to them it’s very difficult to make such a judgement at the start of a Grand Prix because similar incidents are happening up and down the grid.

Alonso put in a strong performance to finish second for Ferrari, and Michael Schumacher drove a solid race in his Mercedes.

After a couple of fifth places in Belgium and Italy, it’s safe to say that Schumacher is driving impressively well at the moment, and is reaching his target of finishing best of the rest behind the Red Bulls, McLarens and Alonso's Ferrari.

Further back, Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi made a very poor start. In fact, his whole race was a disappointment.

The safety car came out right on the borderline of being able to complete the race on the medium tyres and he lost a lot of time at the end as his tyres dropped right off, lapping in the mid-to-high 1m 40s.

If Kobayashi’s whole race was disappointing, Paul Di Resta’s was looking good until the safety car came out.

Di Resta had been pulling away from the two stopping cars of Kobayashi, Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov, but the safety car negated his advantage and left him with medium tyres fighting cars on soft tyres at the end.

Despite suffering from flu, Sergio Perez had a strong race. He did an amazing 21 laps, which were faster than anything his teammate Kobayashi did.

The Sauber hasn’t been on the pace of late, but some upgrades and the safety car helped the Mexican take a fine eighth place and four points.

This weekend is the Korean Grand Prix, and with the Japanese result leaving Force India 24 points behind Renault and eight points ahead of Sauber, and with Button and Alonso within eight points of each other in the battle for second in the driver’s championship, we are eagerly anticipating another enthralling Grand Prix.

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