Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel led from start to finish to win Formula One’s Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, reviving his championship hopes.
Vettel finished ahead of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton at Suzuka. Drivers’ championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn GP was eighth, a place below teammate Rubens Barrichello.
Brawn GP all but sealed the constructors’ championship. Only a one-two finish by Red Bull in both the remaining races and Brawn finishing pointless can prevent a Brawn championship in its first season.
In the drivers’ championship, Button’s lead over Barrichello was cut by one point to 14, with Vettel now just two points further back.
“It can still be done and its looking much better now,” Vettel said of his chances in the championship. “Shame there’s only two races to go, but that’s life. Anything is still possible and it can change quickly.”
It was Vettel’s third win of the season, and first since the British Grand Prix in June. The German started from pole position and was never headed, getting a strong start to keep the KERS-power boost cars behind him.
He had built a 12.5-second buffer over Trulli before the late emergence of the safety car following a spectacular crash by Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari, who crashed through a trackside advertising hoarding into a tire wall.
But even with the running order compacted, he emerged strongly when the safety car was removed, and his victory was not threatened.
Trulli started second but was predictably overtaken into the first corner by Hamilton, with the aid of the KERS-power boost in his McLaren.
However Trulli stuck doggedly behind Hamilton and after his second pitstop, emerged in front of the McLaren, which had lost a malfunctioning KERS system shortly beforehand.
The Italian was auditioning for a new employer in 2010 after Toyota told him he was free to look for a new team.
Toyota has finished second in successive races, but still has not broken through for its first ever F1 win.
Button’s eighth place came under threat in the four-lap dash to the finish after the safety car went in, but he defended well to hold off BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica.
Button has not won in eight races, but has collected points in each and still remains in a strong position to clinch the drivers’ title in either Brazil or the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Still, the Briton will be mindful that compatriot Hamilton led by 17 points with two races to go in 2007 and still did not take the title.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished in fourth place, ahead of Williams’ Nico Rosberg and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld in a race of little incident following a chaotic and accident-strewn Saturday qualifying.