Sebastian Vettel came to Suzuka on a four-race winning streak and with a chance to clinch the 2013 Formula 1 driver’s championship, joining Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alain Prost as the only drivers to win four or more. His teammate, Mark Webber, however, won the pole. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), second in the points, started P8 and would remain in contention even with a Vettel win if he placed there or higher. Webber started second on the grid, marking the first all-Red Bull front row of the season. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault) made up Row 2.
Grosjean pushed through the Red Bulls to lead Lap 1, with Webber running P2, and Vettel third as Hamilton faded with rear tire damage, suffered trying to get past Vettel. It was the first race since Hungary that Vettel wasn’t in front at the end of the first lap. Vettel ran wide at the exit of Turn 2 in the early going and was instructed, along with the other leaders, to drop back and conserve the rear tires.
Hamilton retired during Lap 9 (of 53). Grosjean ran more than 3 sec ahead of Webber during Lap 11. Webber pitted the next lap. Grosjean pitted from the lead during Lap 13 and came out in front of Webber. Vettel came in two laps later and left behind Webber. Vettel made it past Webber during Lap 27
Grosjean came in for his second stop during Lap 30 and came out third. Vettel remained on track, trying to push his lead definitively beyond the 20-sec pit delta, but Grosjean continued to eat into the difference instead. Vettel pitted during Lap 39 and put on hard tires. After running for a lap, he was 1.3 sec behind Grosjean with Webber yet to pit.
Vettel used the newer tires to get past the Frenchman during Lap 41. Webber pitted at the end of the following lap and came out third. During Lap 45 he closed the gap to Grosjean to 2.6 sec. With Vettel suffering tire blistering, Webber closed from 6.8 to 5.9 sec behind the leader in one lap, setting the race’s fastest along the way.
Webber made the pass on Grosjean during Lap 52. In the end, Vettel took his fifth-consecutive victory, but fell short of the championship, with Alonso finishing P4. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber-Ferrari) came in seventh after starting P14 and scored his first career F1 points.
Driver standings - Top 10
297 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
207 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Ferrari
177 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
161 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) – Mercedes
148 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
126 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
90 – Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
87 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
60 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
39 – Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) – Sauber-Ferrari
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
445 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
297 – Ferrari – Massa, Alonso
287 – Mercedes – Hamilton, Rosberg
264 - Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
83 – McLaren-Mercedes – Button, Sergio Perez
62 – Force India-Mercedes – Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta
45 - Sauber-Ferrari – Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez
31 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
1 – Williams-Renault – Pastor Maldonado, Vallteri Bottas
Next event: Airtel Indian Grand Prix, New Delhi – Oct. 25-27, 2013