Massa closes the gap to five points after Hamilton fails to score

FUJI: Renault’s Fernando Alonso stormed to his second win in a row at a wild Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, while McLaren’s championship leader Lewis Hamilton failed to score.

Hamilton finished 12th after starting on pole, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa battling to eighth — later promoted to seventh — to close the gap on the Briton to five points with two races left.

The title rivals both received drive-through penalties, Hamilton for cutting across Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and causing mayhem behind him in a mad dash to the first corner.

Massa, who survived several scrapes during the race, was similarly penalised after the Brazilian collided with Hamilton on lap two, spinning the McLaren and leaving the Briton in 18th.

“I made a mistake at the first corner and I paid for it,” Hamilton said. “Then Felipe hit me off. I left room on the apex of turn 11 but he hit me pretty hard.”

No serious damage

Hamilton, who won in Japan last year before allowing Raikkonen to make up a 17-point deficit over the final two races to take the crown, said his championship hopes had not suffered serious damage.

“I don’t think it makes any difference,” said the 23-year-old. “I lost one point today which is, I guess, damage limitation. We’ll move on to next week.

“We’ll still be as competitive and we are going to make sure we win the last two races.”

BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica finished second to give the Pole an outside chance of winning the title, while Raikkonen’s third place ended his title defence.

Massa picked up what could be a crucial extra point after the stewards penalised Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais for a tangle with the Brazilian as his Toro Rosso emerged from the pits on lap 51.

“He just hit me coming out of the box (pits),” said Massa. “It was completely wrong. It could have been better in terms of points but we can’t leave here saying it was a disaster.”

Hamilton has 84 points with Massa on 79. Kubica has 72 with races in China and Brazil remaining.

“This is completely unexpected,” said Alonso, a surprise winner in Singapore two weeks ago for a team which began the season struggling to score points.

“I can’t believe it. Anything is possible now in the last two races,” added the double world champion after capturing his 21st victory from fourth on the grid.

Raikkonen, who started alongside Hamilton on the front row, earned Ferrari six points, lifting the team back above McLaren in the constructors’ race. Ferrari has 142 to McLaren’s 135.

Renault’s Brazilian rookie Nelson Piquet finished fourth with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli taking fifth at the Japanese team’s home circuit.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel, a winner in Italy last month, was promoted to sixth while Australian Mark Webber moved up to eighth for Red Bull.

Japan’s only Formula One driver Kazuki Nakajima was 15th and the final finisher in his home debut for Williams.

The results:

1. Fernando Alonso (Renault) 1h 30m 21.892s, 2. Robert Kubica (BMW) +5.2 seconds; 3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +6.4s; 4. Nelson Piquet Jr (Renault) +20.5s; 5. Jarno Trulli (Toyota) +23.7s; 6. Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) +39.2s; 7. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) +46.1s; 8. Mark Webber (Red Bull) +50.8s; 9. Nick Heidfeld (BMW) +54.1s; 10. Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) +59s; 11. Nico Rosberg (Williams) +62s; 12. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) +78.9s; 13. Rubens Barrichello (Honda) +1 lap, 14. Jenson Button (Honda) +1 lap; 15. Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) +1 lap; Not classified: Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India) 21 laps (gearbox); Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) 16 laps (engine); Adrian Sutil (Force India) 8 laps (puncture); Timo Glock (Toyota) 6 laps (accident damage) and David Coulthard (Red Bull) 0 laps (accident).

Drivers’ standings: 1. Hamilton 84; 2. Massa 79; 3. Kubica 72; 4. Raikkonen 63; 5. Heidfeld 56; 6. Kovalainen 51; 7. Alonso 48; 8. Trulli and Vettel 30; 10. Webber 21; 11. Glock 20; 12. Piquet Jr 18; 13. Rosberg 17; 14. Barrichello 11; 15. Nakajima 9; 16. Coulthard 8; 17. Bourdais 4 and 18. Button 3.

Constructors’ standings: 1. Ferrari 142; 2. McLaren 135; 3. BMW 128; 4. Renault 66; 5. Toyota 50; 6. Toro Rosso 34; 7. Red Bull 29; 8. Williams 26 and 9. Honda 14. — Agencies

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