Germany’s Sebastian Vettel clinched the Formula One championship for a second successive year Sunday as Jenson Button won the Japanese Grand Prix.
The 24—year—old Red Bull driver made sure of the title by finishing third at Suzuka behind McLaren’s Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Vettel has won the title with four races still to go of the season and becomes the youngest two—time world champion in F1 history.
“It’s such a long year and a fantastic year and the good thing is it’s not over yet,” Vettel said.
“To win the championship here is fantastic. There are so many things you want to say but it’s hard to remember all of them. I’m so thankful to everyone in the team, pushing hard to build those two cars.” Vettel needed just a point going into the race, or for Button to fail to win. The Briton, who regards Japan as his second home, impressively did his part to keep the championship open, but Vettel took no chances to get the finish he needed.
Red Bull team—mate Mark Webber was fourth, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton fifth and Michael Schumacher in a Mercedes sixth.
Ferrari’s Felipa Massa, Sauber’s Sergio Perez, Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and Schumacher’s team—mate Nico Rosberg filled the remaining top 10 places.
Vettel escaped a penalty after edging Button onto the grass from the start when the McLaren driver also fell behind team—mate Hamilton. “He’s got to get a penalty for that hasn’t he?” Button told his team over the radio, but the stewards took no action after an investigation.
A slow puncture forced Hamilton to pit early and Button was able to take the race lead when he emerged in front of Vettel after a second change of tyres on the 21st lap, a lap after the German.
Button appeared able to conserve his tyres better than his rivals and set a series of fastest laps following a safety car phase to remove debris from the track around the half—way mark.
The debris had included part of Felipe Massa’s front wing after a slight collision with Hamilton which led to an investigation — but no further action — by the stewards.
Vettel emerged behind Alonso after a third round of pits stops, while Button looked comfortable in front.
Alonso briefly cut a lead of more than five seconds down to under two but Button was conserving his tyres and set a fastest lap on the penultimate lap to keep the Spaniard in check.
He took the chequered flag 1.160 seconds ahead of Alonso, with a jubilant Vettel crossing the line 2.006 seconds behind Button, who captured his third Grand Prix win of the season.
“This circuit is very special to all of us so to get a victory here in front of this Japanese crowd means a lot,” Button said.
“This gives us a lot of motivation. To see three cars in a few seconds shows how competitive F1 is right now.” Button was quick to congratulate Vettel on the title, and he was joined by the other leading drivers in the paddock.
“Congratulations to Sebastian,” said Alonso. “It was a fun race from the start, there was a lot of tyre degradation, we picked the right place to stop and we had the pace today to fight with Red bull and McLaren.” Hamilton said: “I had a bit of a shocking race to be honest — but Jenson did a fantastic job which is great for the team.
Congratulations to Sebastian too — we knew it was coming but he’s had a perfect season.” Vettel’s third place moves him to 324 points in the standings, with Button on 210, Alonso on 202, Webber on 194 and Hamilton on 178.
Formula One’s next race is the Korean Grand Prix on October 16.
1. Jenson Button, Britain, McLaren, 1 hour 30 minutes 53.427 seconds (average speed 202.972 kph) 2. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Ferrari, 1.160 seconds behind 3. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull, 2,006 4. Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull, 8.071 5. Lewis Hamilton, Britain, McLaren, 24.268 6. Michael Schumacher, Germany, 27.120 7. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Ferrari, 28.240 8. Sergio Perez, Mexico, Sauber, 39.377 9. Vitaly Petrov, Russia, Renault, 42.607 10. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes, 44.322 11. Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India, 54.447 12. Paul di Resta, Britain, Force India, 1 minute 02.326 13. Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Sauber, 1:03.705 14. Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams, 1:04.194 15. Jaime Alguersuari, Spain, Toro Rosso, 1:06,623 16. Bruno Senna, Brazil, Renault, 1:12.628 17. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Williams, 1:14.191 18. Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, Lotus, 1:27.824 19. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Lotus, 1:36.140 20. Timo Glock, Germany, Virgin, two laps behind 21. Jerome d’Ambrosio, Belgium, Virgin, two laps 22. Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Hispania, two laps 23. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Italy, Hispania, three laps Did not finish Sebastien Buemi, Switzerland, Toro Rosso, 12th lap Fastest lap: Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:36.568 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:30.466 Drivers’ standings after 15 of 19 races: 1. Sebastian Vettel 324 2. Jenson Button 210 3. Fernando Alonso 202 4. Mark Webber 194 5. Lewis Hamilton 178 6. Felipe Massa 90 7. Nico Rosberg 63 8. Michael Schumacher 60 9. Witali Petrow 36 10. Nick Heidfeld 34 11. Adrian Sutil 28 12. Kamui Kobayashi 27 13. Paul di Resta 20 14. Jaime Alguersuari 16 15. Sergio Perez 13 16. Sebastien Buemi 13 17. Rubens Barrichello 4 18. Bruno Senna 2 19. Pastor Maldonado 1
Constructors’ standings after 15 of 19 races: 1. Red Bull 518 2. McLaren Mercedes 388 3. Ferrari 292 4. Mercedes 123 5. Lotus Renault 72 6. Force India 48 7. Sauber 40 8. Toro Rosso 29 9. Williams 5
Keywords: Formula One