IT HAS LOOKED inevitable for some time but Sebastian Vettel finally clinched his second consecutive Formula 1 title – by finishing third at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The German has been the man to beat all season and, starting from pole, looked likely to head another pole-to-finish line event in Suzuka.
Former world champion Jenson Button had other ideas though, sticking with Vettel off the grid. The pair almost clashed – the Briton being forced out onto the grass – and while race stewards subsequently investigated the reigning champion’s behaviour, they decided there was no charge to answer.
Button, fighting for his first win in dry racing conditions for McLaren, was able to close on Vettel towards the end of the first stint and a superb in-lap ahead of his second stop saw him edge ahead of his Red Bull counterpart.
Vettel lost second to Fernando Alonso after being caught up in Safety Car traffic – caused by yet another incident between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa – and though he seemed to have the speed to match the Spaniard, his team advised caution. He eventually crossed the finish line in third place, enough to make the day another one to remember.
Hamilton had another busy day; he clashed with Massa through the 130R corner – the Ferrari man losing parts of his car’s bodywork. The incident was investigated by stewards and went unpunished, though the tangle allowed Mark Webber to jump the pair and finish in fourth.
Hamilton, having lost out to Massa during the pit stops right after their latest collision, has the pleasure of getting by the Brazilian on lap 37 and was fifth with Michael Schumacher sixth for Mercedes and Massa seventh.
Good strategies saw Sergio Perez (Sauber), Vitaly Petrov (Renault) and Nico Rosberg, who started from the back of the grid in the second Mercedes, claim the final points for eighth, ninth and tenth.