Vettel wins in Japan, closes on third straight title
The 2-time reigning champion is now just four points behind Fernando Alonso, who's championship lead took a massive hit after he was crashed out on lap 1 by Kimi Raikkonen who cut his rear tire.
With five races to go Vettel has momentum on his side after back to back victories.
The defending world champion led the race from start to finish, securing his third race win at Suzuka in four years, his 24th career victory in F1 and the 32nd for the Red Bull-Renault partnership.
Felipe Massa was second for Ferrari, his first podium finish in nearly two years.
Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi held off Jenson Button for his maiden F1 podium in third place, which sent the Japanese fans wild as he equaled the best ever finish for a Japanese driver.
Once the green waved again after the full course caution, Vettel dominated, leading by as much as 20s on his way to a third victory of 2012.
"I'm very sad for Fernando," Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali told British broadcaster Sky.
Alonso's championship lead is therefore slashed from 29 points to just 4 with five races to go.
"5 great races coming!" Alonso announced on Twitter after his retirement.
"If the enemy thinks in the mountains, attack by sea, if they think in the sea, attack by the mountains."
Vettel dominated at Suzuka, amid reports in Germany's Auto Motor und Sport his Red Bull has been boosted this weekend by the addition of a new 'double DRS'-style rear wing.
"It means Red Bull can run more downforce to make the car faster in the corners without the consequent penalty on the straights," explained BBC technical expert Gary Anderson.
How the race unfolded
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday in Suzuka as the 24 cars lined up on the grid. At the start trouble began. Fernando Alonso’s race only lasted to turn 1 as he lost control of his F2012, after being nudged from behind by Raikkonen and had to retire. The Safety Car came out as Rosberg parked his Mercedes and Webber pitted with damage, having been hit by Grosjean, but continued. After a great start, Felipe Massa meanwhile had moved up all the way to fourth behind the lead trio of Vettel, Kobayashi and Button.
Raikkonen was fifth, then came Perez, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Ricciardo, Kovalainen, Vergne, Di Resta, with Schumacher up from 23 to 16. By lap 5, Vettel in the Red Bull had a 3 second lead over Kobayashi’s Sauber, with Button a further second back in the McLaren, while Massa was 0.6 off the Englishman’s tail and had Raikkonen’s Lotus a second behind. Over the next few laps, Massa kept the gap to Button pretty much constant, while the Finnish Lotus man had drifted to 2.4 seconds off the Ferrari. Button, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg, followed by his teammate, Di Resta, started the run of pit stops at the end of Lap 13.
Kobayashi came in from second on lap 14 and teammate Perez did the same next time round. It was Hamilton and Maldonado’s turn to change tires on lap 16. Massa was up to second on lap 17 when he and leader Vettel both came down pit lane, as did Schumacher and Ricciardo.
The next significant retirement came when Perez spun and retired the Sauber from seventh place, stuck in the gravel at Turn 11, after he tried to go round the outside of Hamilton. Lap 19 saw Massa, now on the hard tire, put in a fastest race lap, still second as he tried to reduce the massive 9.8 second gap to race leader Vettel, while Kobayashi was now third, 2.6 behind the Brazilian. Completing the top six were Button, Raikkonen and Hamilton.
Vettel responded with a fastest lap of his own on lap 22, which saw the gap to Massa just go over ten seconds. By lap 30 the gap between the two men at the front had grown to 12.7 and on this lap, Raikkonen from sixth, was the first of the front runners to make his second pit stop. Kobayashi, Hamilton and Hulkenberg came in together on lap 31. Hamilton almost collided with Raikkonen as the Englishman was coming out of pit lane, taking his McLaren up to seventh behind the Toro Rosso of Ricciardo, that had yet to make a second stop. Maldonado pitted the Williams from fourth on lap 33, followed by the Australian Toro Rosso man next time round. Button pitted from third on lap 35, which meant that only Vettel and Felipe had yet to make their final tire change, the gap between them now 17.1. The Brazilian was the first to come in on lap 36 fitting the Hard tire for the remaining 17 laps. The race leader made his final stop next time round and still led Massa by just under eighteen seconds, while the Ferrari man had 3.3s in hand over Kobayashi. The local hero had the two McLarens of Button and Hamilton behind him, with Raikkonen completing the top six for Lotus.
At this point in the race, any changes of position were most likely to come right at the end depending on how everyone’s tires were holding up, with all the lead group on the Hard Pirelli. While the fans in the stands were hoping to see a Japanese driver on the podium here for only the second time since Aguri Suzuki also came third back in 1990, fourth placed Button had other ideas and was catching Kobayashi with ten laps to go, while there was nothing Massa could do at this point except settle for second and make sure he brought his F2012 home safely. In the end, the order remained unchanged and the Scuderia Ferrari crew rushed the length of the pit lane to cheer Massa on the podium, after a drive that was not only brilliant for him, but also denied points for some of his teammate’s rivals in the title race.
And now we are down to just five more races, with the next coming up very soon, next Sunday in fact in Korea.
Sebastian Vettel (1st): "It's been a fantastic weekend. Yesterday's qualifying was perfect and today again, the balance of the car was amazing. We didn't change too much at the stops; it just seemed to work fantastically well. I'm very happy, the guys have been pushing very hard and even though we didn't have major upgrades here, it still seemed to come together and the balance was there - and that's what made the difference today. It's a shame for Alonso, it's not something you hope for and it could happen to us at the next race. We've seen this year there are a lot of up and downs and things change quickly - we have to keep our heads down and take it step by step."
Mark Webber (9th): "I haven't seen what happened at the start, but it's been confirmed that it was Grosjean who hit me. We're trying to fight for results each weekend and it doesn't help so, yeah, it's frustrating as a few of the big guys suffered out there today. We went onto a one stop strategy from then on, but I kept pushing, I didn't give up and got something from it. To finish eight seconds off fifth, after the fact I was in reverse at one point - and also the safety car came in before I caught the back of the field - was something. I'll come back in Korea."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A great result for Sebastian; to win in such a dominant fashion really closes up the Championship. It was a textbook drive for Sebastian today, he really was in a class of his own. The frustration for the team is the incident with Mark and Grosjean in Turn 2, where Grosjean completely misjudged the corner and hit Mark taking him out of the race. Mark then had to come into the pits for a safety check, change tires and the nose and then, before he had a chance to join the back of the pack, the race re-started, so he was 20 seconds behind. His recovery from that far back thereafter was excellent and he drove very well. It's a shame we couldn't have got even more from today, but it's always fantastic to win in Suzuka."
Cyril Dumont, Renault: "An awesome result - it was the perfect result for Sebastian with pole position, fastest lap and the race win. Unfortunately for Mark it was more difficult, we had the pace to be first and second, but everything was over after Turn 2 for Mark. He made a very good fight back after that. It's great to be in both Championships for the final races."
Jenson Button (4th): "Fourth definitely isn't a bad result - particularly considering I started from eighth. I ran as high as third during the first stint, but in hindsight it was probably an error to make our first pitstop so early. Both Kamui [Kobayashi] and I were compromised behind a Toro Rosso, and that cost both of us a bit of time to Felipe [Massa]. He'd started on a brand-new set of tires, and that makes a big difference: you can go longer and keep the speed up, so he was able to jump both of us after the first stops. Towards the end, I was able to push and start catching Kamui. But he controlled his final set of tires very well - I could get close to him, but the only way I was going to get into the DRS zone was by braking extra-late into the chicane, and, every time I tried, I locked up and ran wide. Still, this result isn't too bad - we got some more points - we just didn't have the pace to go for the win today."
Lewis Hamilton (5th): "Congratulations to Jenson - he drove well all weekend, and, between us, we got some decent points for the team today. I was very fortunate to stay out of trouble at the start; there were lots of cars going off the track, so I just concentrated on bringing the car through undamaged. I pushed as hard as I could throughout the whole race. It was a bit of a struggle in the first stint - I had a lot of understeer - but after a while the car started turning again. From that moment on, it felt really good, and I was able to push; but it was too late to have much of an effect on the result. This just wasn't the weekend for me. With better qualifying, we can get better results - and that'll be our aim in South Korea next week. I'm already looking forward to it."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "When you consider that Red Bull's drivers lined up for this afternoon's race from P1 and P2, and our two drivers started it from P8 and P9, the fact that they extended their constructors' championship lead over us by just five points has to be seen as a decent bit of damage limitation on our part. Both Jenson and Lewis drove good and combative races, scoring 22 world championship points between them; but, obviously, given our impressive points-scoring record over the past few grands prix, we'd hoped to achieve rather better than fourth and fifth when we arrived in Suzuka earlier this week. We didn't optimize our performance in qualifying yesterday, and today we struggled with our tires at various times during the race. Moreover, Jenson was unlucky to get stuck behind Daniel [Ricciardo], and lost quite a bit of time after his first pitstop as a result. Lewis's second stop was excellent - a superb strategy call backed by super-slick work by our pit crew - and as a result Lewis emerged from the pitlane more or less alongside Kimi [Raikkonen], edged ahead of him through Turn One, then skillfully held him at bay and collected 10 valuable points for fifth place as a result. From Japan we fly to South Korea, where we'll be looking to score strongly. The tussle for this season's world championships - both drivers' and constructors' - will be extremely hard-fought. But all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will dig very deep over the final five grands prix in a big effort to ensure that we're right there, in the mix, competing for ultimate honors, when the dust finally settles on what's shaping up to be an extremely exciting battle. Bring it on!"
Felipe Massa (2nd): "It was a fantastic race! Being back on the podium after almost two years away is just great and I feel really uplifted. They have been two tough years for me and, sometimes, a million things go through your mind, some of them bad, but finally I can be happy! It's an important result psychologically and also in terms of my future, at least I think so! It's even better getting back on the podium here, at a track I like so much and that I have known since the start of my career. Sometimes, in the hardest moments the best things come: the first people I want to thank right now are my family, my wife and my son. This race motivates me even more for the rest of the season. I feel very sorry for Fernando, because I'm convinced that today we could have both been on the podium. After what happened yesterday in Q2, I was definitely not starting from a good position. I got a good start and managed to get through the chaos at the first corner unscathed and then I immediately felt I had a good pace and that I could keep close to Button and Kobayashi. I got past them at the pit stop thanks to a great strategy and immediately I realized that, even on the Hard, my pace was competitive. The team did a great job and provided me with a competitive car: the only difficult moment of the weekend, for which we still don't have a reason, was the damned second run in Q2... Now we must focus immediately on the race in Korea, because with five races left to go, anything is still possible."
Fernando Alonso (DNF, Spin): "Today, we were very unlucky: to finish a race like this, at the very first corner is really a shame. Contact from Raikkonen caused a puncture to the left rear tire and my race ended there. Unfortunately, when you start in the middle of the pack, these things can happen, because apart from the performance of the car -and ours is usually better on Sunday - circumstance can count for a lot. That could be seen from Felipe's race, who started tenth, but produced a perfect race, fighting with the fastest cars. Clearly, this result has practically wiped out the advantage I had before, but if I'd been told at the start of the season that we would have been in this situation five races from the end, I'd have happily signed for it! Clearly, we must work a lot on the development of the car: I'm not worried, but we must react to the step forward that the other competitors have made. Now we start a sort of mini-championship, run over five Grands Prix. The aim will be to score at least one point more than all the others. What happened to us today could happen to the others next time: the wheel turns and that is what races are all about."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "Personally, I don't believe in luck, but given what's happened these last couple of days, I'm considering changing my mind...The gods that didn't shine on us yesterday definitely took a shot at us again today! What happened to Fernando at the start is an example of the many variables that you cannot control in this sport and we have to accept it, but clearly all of us are very disappointed at the moment. That sense of regret actually increases when you consider what a splendid race Felipe had, producing a truly impeccable performance. It was nice to see him back on the podium after a long, a too long time! This second place is a very important result for him and for the team and it comes at one of the most difficult and delicate moments of the season. Decisions regarding his future? One step at a time, as now we are enjoying this lovely podium together. Today, we could definitely have picked up a rather different points total, but we have to accept the reality: tonight someone is laughing, but as the saying goes, he who laughs last laughs longest! Five races is a lot and anything can still happen. We have to react calmly to this cruel blow for Fernando and work with maximum concentration on development of the car, as indeed we have done all these past few months. If we are in this position of fighting for the title in the final races, it's because our work has been of a good standard, otherwise we would be a lot further back. Fernando's comments on our development? I can very well understand his frustration at the moment and you can be sure that we are doing our utmost to give him a car that matches his talent."
Pat Fry: "A bitter sweet Sunday afternoon for us here in Suzuka. Felipe drove a fantastic race right from the start. He was quicker than Button in the first stint and was able to manage the tires so as to delay his first stop which gave him the opportunity to get by at the pit stop. He managed it and also succeeded in passing Kobayashi, thus opening the door to a race based on two stops. The same thing happened with the Hard tires, as he managed them very well, which set him up to get back on the podium after a break of almost two years. Quite different emotions when it comes to Fernando of course and it couldn't be otherwise, when one's race is over at the first corner after the start... Usually, our car is better in the race than in qualifying, but I have to say that, on top of that, we were definitely unlucky with the yellow flags which cost Fernando around a second and a half. Clearly we were not as strong as the Red Bulls, but we were definitely a match for the McLarens that in Singapore had seemed out of our reach. We must not react in an emotional fashion, but rather we need to stay calm and concentrate on the job of developing the car. That's the best way to react, right from the very next race in Korea. We brought some reasonably significant updates to the last few races and there's more to come for the next ones. It's true that sometimes, Singapore for example, not all of them worked in the right way, but it's equally true that that is something that has happened to others in this season of highs and lows. Now we start again practically from scratch and everything will hang on the development of the car race by race. We must try to be better than the others and we know we have every possibility of doing just that."
Michael Schumacher (11th): "I have mixed feelings after the race here in Japan, because it's obviously unfortunate to come so close to scoring points and not manage it, after a race which went better than we expected. In the final laps, I had a nice and interesting battle with Ricciardo, but in the end I couldn't get past him because the Toro Rosso was so quick on the straights. That's why we have to say we couldn't have got much more out of it today. Now let's see how things go in Korea."
Nico Rosberg (DNF, Accident): "I had a good start to the race but unfortunately it ended fairly quickly today. In the first corner Grosjean spun into Webber and that also led to my accident. I began to brake but Senna crashed into me from behind which destroyed my rear tire and meant that I had to retire. It's a shame as I felt very comfortable with my car on the installation lap, and I was confident that we could score some decent points. I'll now hope for a better weekend in Korea."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "From where he started today, Michael drove a strong race, and it's a shame that he didn't get some points for his efforts. However starting from 23rd on the grid made that just too much of a challenge, despite a very good strategy and encouraging pace from the car in the lower temperatures. The accident which caused Nico's retirement was a great shame as the car was in good shape and he could have scored decent points if he hadn't been taken out. There were some encouraging signs in the race and we will take heart from that as we continue to work on improving the car."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A good performance and a good drive from Michael during the race, which saw us posting good lap times for the first time this weekend - and Michael setting the sixth fastest lap time around three-quarters of the way through the race. After starting P23 following his ten-place grid penalty, Michael came home in P11, chasing the car ahead during the last seven laps. He caught him quickly, setting better lap times in the final stint, but in the end he unfortunately could not overtake to score the last available point. Nico was eliminated during the first corner crash through no fault of his own, so no points today for him or our team. We are now looking forward to the race next weekend in Korea."
Kimi Raikkonen (6th): "Sixth wasn't the result we were hoping for but unfortunately we didn't have the speed to do better today. The start was very tight ; I was alongside Fernando [Alonso] straight away and he kept moving further across until there was nowhere left go. We lost some time there and our second pit stop wasn't the best, so overall it was quite a difficult race. The good thing is we still managed to score points to stay in touch in the championship."
Romain Grosjean (19th, Retired): "Ever since I came back in Singapore my priority has been to be very cautious at the start, and I was watching Sergio [Perez] on my left to make sure there was no contact with him. There was quite a big speed difference between me and Mark [Webber] as I came into the first corner which caught me by surprise and we collided. It was a stupid mistake. Mark [Webber] came to see me after the race and was obviously not happy, but I apologized and we have to move on. We'll sit down and look at things again before the next race to see what we can do to improve these situations. In the last few laps of the race the tires were at the end of their life and we were out of the points, so it made sense to retire. Not a good day, but we have to look ahead to Korea and a chance to make amends."
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: "Obviously, it hasn't gone as well as we expected. We could see in Singapore, when Romain was back on track, that the other drivers were putting some pressure on him at the start. Here it was a little bit easier, but he made a small mistake misjudging his pace compared with Mark, which was a bit higher. I think he has made some progress, but it's unfortunate that this has happened again in these circumstances. With Kimi, the car's pace was not as good as we were expecting. Starting seventh we had higher hopes, but if you don't have the pace completely it doesn't work well. We couldn't put everything together in order to make his race more successful and gain more places."
James Allison, Technical Director: "The best thing that can be said about this event is that we scored some more points, but it's certainly not been the weekend we hoped for on Friday, nor the one we expected after Saturday. We're disappointed that Kimi had to race whilst looking in his mirrors rather than attacking those ahead and we need to face the fact that we need more performance from the E20 if we are to move up in the Constructors' Championship rather than resting on our very secure fourth position. It would have been much better for us to have scored points with both cars but sadly a first lap incident for Romain put paid to that."
Riccardo Penteado, Engine Support Leader: "The combination of corners and wide open throttle time at Suzuka makes the circuit a challenge for the engines so we introduced new units on both cars to maximize power and torque available. We had a trouble-free event on this front and will re-use the same engines in Korea. Kimi has not had the best of weekends so getting eight more points today is very positive and keeps him third in the championship. We look forward to Korea in just a week's time."
Nico Hulkenberg (7th): "If you had told me before the race that we would finish seventh, I would have taken it straight away - so I'm very happy with today's result. I made a great start, moving ahead of several cars and was able to keep out of the trouble in turn one. By the end of lap one I was already in eighth and as it turned out we had good pace. The car felt strong throughout the race: there was a nice balance and I was able to chase Lewis and Kimi hard and put pressure on them. They edged away towards the end and for the closing laps I just had to make sure I kept ahead of Maldonado. So another seventh place - a well-deserved result for the team after a tough weekend for the mechanics and six important points for the championship."
Paul di Resta (12th): "Quite a testing race for me. Things started to go wrong on the parade lap when I had a clutch issue, so it was not a big surprise when I made a poor getaway off the line. Going into turn one I was almost at the back of the field so I was able to stay out of trouble and avoid the accidents ahead of me. But when you lose so much ground at the start it's difficult to recover. I was always in traffic and without running in clean air I couldn't really show the potential of the car. We were not too far away with the set-up, but I never really found the sweet spot during the race. Hopefully I can go to Korea and get back in the points."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "An excellent drive by Nico and very encouraging to see such strong race pace on a track that has never really played to our strengths. We made the right calls on the strategy and for much of the race Nico was up there pushing hard to get ahead of Lewis. Paul's race was seriously compromised by a poor getaway, which we will investigate, and that meant we missed out on getting both cars in the points. In terms of the championship we've edged further ahead of Williams and Sauber remain just about in sight. I'd also like to pay special credit to both sides of the garage for their incredible effort this weekend. We kept them very busy and they did an amazing job under difficult conditions. Overall it's been a remarkable team effort."
Kamui Kobayashi (3rd): "It hasn't sunk in yet, it is hard to believe - I achieved my first podium in Suzuka! It was a fantastic race and we have been working really hard to get to this point since we were lacking pace on Friday. But the Sauber F1 Team did a great job to recover from there. Starting from third obviously helped a lot and also the long run I did on Friday made me very confident for the race. The team has built a great car this year. You can tell this from the podium finishes my team-mate has had. At times I was close to that as well but I never had the luck. It means so much to me that it finally worked out. Maybe from now on things will be easier. I had a very long last stint today and Jenson (Button) changed for fresh tires later. My rear tires where really bad in the end and I had a lot of oversteer. But regardless of this I had to push to defend my podium place. Only during the final lap did I allow myself to really think I can keep him behind me, because then the best overtaking opportunity at the end of the straight was over, and then I saw all the fans and the raised hands. It meant a lot to me and I want to thank the Japanese fans."
Sergio Perez (DNF, Spin): "I feel very sorry for the team. It worked well when I got passed Lewis Hamilton for the first time on lap six, but then it didn't when I tried it again. Lewis went quite late to the inside and I had only room on the outside. But it certainly was my mistake. The race didn't start too well for me either when Romain Grosjean caused a mess and I lost positions."
Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO: "I can't express how happy I am! A podium finish for Kamui in his home country is simply incredible. He did an outstanding race today, particularly in the final part when he was under huge pressure from Jenson Button. He didn't make the smallest mistake and defended his third position in great style. Sergio was also in a position to score a great result, but unfortunately his attack on Lewis Hamilton didn't work out. Great compliments to the team which made progress during the whole weekend and finally delivered a great and very emotional result."
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering: "What an exciting race, particularly the final laps! However, I think we were in control of things. We did the second pit stop earlier than initially planned, because Kamui's tires had gone off. We had to make this compromise not to lose too much time in the middle stint and, at the same time, not to have a very long final stint. This was not easy for Kamui to handle, but he did a great job keeping Jenson Button at a distance while at the same time managing the tires. Just the last two laps were more thrilling than we had hoped for, but in the end it all worked out fine. Kamui's race was absolutely brilliant. At the first pit stop we lost a position to Felipe Massa, but otherwise we would have lost one to Jenson. Sergio was on the same pace as Kamui, but in the end he could not benefit from that."
Daniel Ricciardo (10th): "It was an eventful race. Immediately at the start, I got bogged down a little bit, but then going up through the gears I found more drive, but I'd lost a position to Hulkenberg. Then, with the incident that later brought out the Safety Car, I managed to make up some places. I saw Alonso spin off in front of me and it was a close call, as quite a few of us were close to getting caught up in the accident. I managed to get around it and got past Grosjean going into Turn 3. From then on, I had a pretty good race, staying with Maldonado at first, but could not pass him. The last two stints were good, at first having a battle with Webber who was on a different strategy. Then right at the end, I was holding off Michael and I was really pleased to have won that battle. It's always tougher when you are the slower car in a duel, but with good advice from the pit wall on how to use the KERS to defend in the DRS zone, I managed it. Our work rate as a team has improved and I'm very pleased with the way I drove under pressure. It's not every day you have a seven times world champion on your tail and given he only has a few more races, it was nice to have a battle with him to put in my scrapbook!"
Jean-Eric Vergne (13th): "I made a good start, but in general, it could have been a better race for me, as I lost a lot of time behind Kovalainen in the first stint, as he was on the Option and had better traction out of the corners than I did. Also, at the second corner, I came across Rosberg going backwards in front of me and I had to brake, which meant everyone went past me. After that, I just pushed as hard as I could, showing what the car could do, running a strong pace. Losing three places on the grid with a penalty did not help, but yet again we showed we can be strong on Sunday, as we were faster than the Force Indias and Senna. Now I only have to wait a few days to try again in Korea, where I first drove on Friday morning for Toro Rosso last year. In general, this has been an enjoyable weekend and I'm already looking forward to racing here again next year."
Franz Tost, Team Principal: "We have now scored points in three of the last four races, which is very encouraging and is down to the efforts of everyone here at the track and back at the factory. Once again, we saw that our race pace allowed us to challenge for the points positions even from far back on the grid, therefore if we can improve our performance on Saturday afternoon, we can aspire to do better. Daniel went from 14th on the grid to tenth at the flag and had some good fights, including a great final battle to hold off Schumacher in the closing stages, while Jean-Eric also did well on his first visit to this very demanding circuit, to go from nineteenth on the grid to thirteenth, running some quick laps towards the end."
Pastor Maldonado (8th): "It was a good race for me. The car had great pace and was very consistent, but it proved difficult to overtake, especially towards the end. We felt we were quicker than the cars in front, but the nature of the track makes it difficult to close the gap. We're back in the points so I'm happy with that as it gives us great confidence going into the next race."
Bruno Senna (14th): "We had a good start managing to overtake two cars but unfortunately I ran into an incident with Rosberg on the second corner after taking the inside line. The race was slightly compromised from then on but we still had good pace. The car felt very competitive which allowed us to overtake quite a few cars and the tires were responding well. We now go to Korea and will try to score some points there."
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: "Both drivers drove well today with strong pace throughout the race. Bruno's race was compromised with an early stop to replace a damaged front wing assembly and then with his subsequent drive-through penalty for contact with Rosberg. Pastor managed his tires well throughout the race and brought the car home in a well-deserved 8th. We now immediately direct our attention to next weekend's Korean GP."
John Booth, Team Principal:
Heikki Kovalainen (15th): "I had a fantastic start, avoided all the problems in turn one and passed Glock as soon as the safety car came out. I was running really well in 11th until the first set of stops and in that first stint the car felt great. I was keeping the pack behind me and tire wear on the softs was good. We went onto the hard tires for the second stint and, again, wear rates were excellent. We were even thinking about doing a one stop race but towards the end of the stint they started to go off so we came in with ten laps left and from there it was all about making sure we got to the flag without any problems."
Vitaly Petrov (17th): "At the start I had to avoid the problems in front but got through that ok and pretty quickly settled into a good rhythm. My first stop was fine but after that we lost KERS and that obviously cost me time. I also had a problem with the radio and couldn't hear the blue flag calls and that ended up with the drive-through penalty. From where I started on the grid and with the KERS issue I think I probably got as much as I could out of the car today. It's been a bit of tough weekend but it's good to see the team working so hard to keep pushing us forwards and next week in Korea we have another chance to keep fighting."
Pedro de la Rosa (18th): "Today's race was quite good and we could say we've taken a step forward, although we still have plenty to do. The first stint was good but we had a problem in the first pitstop which made me lose quite a lot of time. My times with the hard tires towards the end were very good and we were right in there. The car was handling well and we got close to Pic and Petrov, which for us, at a track like this, is fantastic."
Narain Karthikeyan (DNF, Retired): "I had a good start and passed Pic on the first lap. The car was working well, it had good pace, and after the first pitstop I was ahead of Pedro and completing a good race. However, we suffered a problem with the car later and, coming in for a second tire change, the team decided that, as a precautionary measure, it was best to stop. Now it's time to think about Korea and work to take another step forward."
Luis Perez-Sala, Team Principal: "As it tends to be the case in races like this, I'm happy on one hand because we were competitive; we finished one lap off the winner which indicates that our pace was good. But on the other hand it was a shame that Narain had to retire. He made a good start and was running well but the car suffered a small issue with the bottom part and, for safety reasons, we had to stop him. Now we will see how big the problem is. But overall, it was a positive weekend because we progressed, conserved our tires better and improved our times. We hope for this progress to continue."
Timo Glock (16th): "I'm very happy to say it was a good race for us today. The start was quite a shock when I saw all the cars flying across the track. Heikki came through it quite well but I was right behind him and I was able to overtake him in the Esses. I was up to P11 but I knew that would be short-lived because we were struggling a bit with traction out of the last corner and obviously they have KERS and we don't. Heikki got past and I continued to lose quite a lot of time in that corner afterwards - three or four tenths each lap into turn 1 and the Esses - which allowed the other guys - who also have KERS - to pass me. In general though we had good pace and were quite consistent. The behavior of the tire to the car was very good and we were able to stay out quite long. The first pitstop was very strong - the fourth quickest team of the race - so a great job by the crew as they work so hard on that every day. I had good pace on the prime tire and was going well, but at last pit stop I was a little long in the box having misjudged the grip, so my mistake and sorry for that. I was then able to close the gap to Heikki so our strategy was spot-on. We were as close as four seconds at one stage but the blue flags opened the gap again. Still, eight seconds away at the end was pretty good! We have to be happy I think. We fought well, the car was a lot of fun to drive and it's great to have a consistent car again. We continue to have better pace in the race, so we will keep working hard on our overall performance and enjoying this very positive final phase of the season."
Charles Pic (DNF, Engine): "Obviously it is disappointing for me to have to retire as we were coming back strong at that point in the race. It is also the first retirement for a while. The start was difficult as we had to avoid the trouble at the first corner, then on the first stint I was struggling for grip with the Hard tire. This improved when I switched to the Soft tire for the second stint. My race was going well and I was behind Timo and ahead of Vitaly and Pedro. Unfortunately I misjudged the pit box on my second stop, going quite long, and lost a lot of time. Shortly afterwards I had to stop due to a problem with the engine. Overall it has been a good weekend and I have enjoyed my first experience of this amazing technical circuit. I look forward to another new circuit for me next weekend and a better result."
John Booth, Team Principal: "We had a bit of a scare on the way to the grid, with Timo rightly stopping the car in the pit lane when he felt what he thought must be a problem with his left front wheel. Once we had the car safely back in the garage it was clear that he had actually struck a wheel nut lost from another team's car when he drove down the pit lane. This could have been catastrophic for us as it could have caused a lot of damage, but when we got to the grid we gave the car a thorough inspection and were very lucky to get away with it. Timo delivered an excellent performance in the race. As has seemingly been the case for several races, we lost time in the opening stint where not having the benefit of KERS makes it difficult to maintain track position. The remaining two stints were perfect and we managed to eat into Kovalainen to be within four seconds which, by the time we had taken a final blue flag for Hamilton three laps from the end, had opened up to eight seconds, although we can still regard this as an improvement. Charles seemed to struggle for grip on the opening stint with the Hard prime tire and we opted to stop him early and get him onto the Soft option, which allowed him to recover some time. Unfortunately, at his final pit stop, Charles got caught out by the lack of grip in the pit lane and overshot the box, which required the crew to manhandle the car back into position and he lost a lot of time. Up to this point we had been managing relatively high air consumption on the engine, which then became terminal and Charles had to retire. Overall, we have achieved our objectives of staying in touch with the competition in front. We of course need to keep going that extra mile to try get ahead of them in the race, as this will leave us in a more comfortable position in respect of the Constructors' Championship."
Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:35.774
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