SEBASTIAN VETTEL CLOSED the gap on championship leader Fernando Alonso with a dominant victory in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
Red Bull’s Vettel led from start to finish in an incident-packed race at Suzuka that saw Alonso crash out in the first lap.
The two-time reigning world champion is the first driver to win consecutive races this season and is now just four points behind Alonso in the drivers’ standings with five races remaining.
Brazilian Felipe Massa finished 20 seconds behind Vettel after starting from 10th on the grid, while in front of his home crowd Kamui Kobayashi became the third Japanese driver in history to score an F1 podium finish.
McLaren duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top five to gain valuable points on Alonso.
Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado were next across the line in the space of two seconds, while Mark Webber recovered to finish ninth after nearly crashing out on the opening lap.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10, just ahead of retiring seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
Starting from pole position, Vettel held the lead at the first turn and was able to avoid the carnage that resulted in Alonso’s retirement.
The Ferrari driver was pushed wide on the first turn and spun off onto the gravel, while Nico Rosberg was also unable to continue after being touched in a spin at the second corner.
Kobayashi made an encouraging start to move up to second place, but Massa was able to overtake the Sauber driver after a great pit stop on the 20th lap.
As Vettel pressed home his advantage it quickly became a race for second with Massa finishing well to finish on the podium for the first time since the Korean Grand Prix in 2010.
Button challenged Kobayashi all the way to the end, but couldn’t get past the Sauber driver much to the delight of the home fans.