Japanese GP as it happened

Text highlights of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, where Sebastian Vettel wins and Fernando Alonso retires on lap 1.

7 October 2012 Last updated at 10:16

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As it happened

  1. 0950: 

    ...make sure you get some rest, though, because we need to do it all over again in five days time. Yep, it's another 0130 BST start for Korean Grand Prix first practice on Friday 12 October. I hope to see you there. Until then, it's good morning from me. Sayonara.

  2. 0948: 

    So on that note, it's time for me to take my leave. Thanks for your company and contributions through the weekend. Massive respect to those who stayed awake/woke up for those early morning practice sessions...

  3. 0944: 

    Here's Andrew Benson's race report complete with quotes, but if you want to wait to see for yourself, our shiny highlights show will be on at 1405 BST on BBC One and BBC One HD. We'll have them on the website, then, too, plus all the analysis and reaction from the Suzuka paddock.

  4. 0941: 

    Kamui Kobayashi went off the grid after the race as he savoured his first ever Japanese GP, but he's now found his way back to the post-race interview pen. "It's a fantastic race for me," he said. "I had good pace over all. The last stint was difficult to hold Jenson. I pushed really hard to try and gain a few tenths without making a mistake.

    Speaking about whether he was under pressure concerning his future - as he has yet to announce a deal for next year - Kobayashi said: "Yes of course, sometimes I feel pressure but maybe I need to enjoy more."

  5. 0936: 

    The Frenchman said: "After the ban, I'm very careful at the start. I kept my line and was trying to avoid contact with Sergio Perez. I didn't see the delta speed with Mark [Webber]. I was just trying to avoid any contact - it didn't work. It was a stupid clash. I haven't had a chance to speak with the team." So in trying to avoid a crash, he had a crash.

  6. 0932: 

    Romain Grosjean, who was involved in yet another first-lap crash, has just given a truly sensational interview...

  7. 0929: 

    On his title hopes, Lewis Hamilton said: "I'm quite a realistic person. I know my situation, but I will never give up. With a better qualifying, we could have been further up but the Red Bulls are very quick."

  8. 0925: 

    Lewis Hamilton struggled for pace at the start of the race, but found some speed and managed to rise up to fifth having started ninth. "I'm quite happy with my race," said Hamilton. "The guys did a great job with my strategy. The car behaviour was a bit strange. I had understeer in qualifying and today was the same. That's why I was falling back at the start. But after about 20 laps, I felt a thud on the rear and all of a sudden the car started turning and I was able to push. We have to analyse why that happened."

  9. 0921: 

    It was a tough day for the McLaren drivers with Jenson Button rising as high as third but fading to fourth. "I had a good start," said Button. "But I lost a place to Felipe during the stops. He was very quick so I don't think I would have been able to keep him behind anyway. The Red Bulls are a little bit quicker than we thought. For some reason, this is always a good circuit for Red Bull. They're going well and they're doing a good job."

  10. 0916: 

    I don't think I've seen a happy podium all season with Sebastian Vettel delighted to slash Fernando Alonso's championship lead to four points with victory, Felipe Massa giving himself a fighting chance of saving his seat for 2013 with second and Kamui Kobayashi scoring his first ever F1 podium in front of his home crowd. Today has been a great day for Formula 1.

  11. 0912: 

    The marshals are doing a lap of honour, walking down the pit straight waving to the fans in the grandstands which are still pretty packed and applauding despite the race having finished over 30 minutes ago.

  12. 0907: 

    Now things have all calmed down, here's a rundown of how they finished:

    1) Vettel 2) Massa 3) Kobayashi 4) Button

    4) Hamilton 6) Raikkonen 7) Hulkenberg 8) Maldonado

    9) Webber 10) Ricciardo 11) Schumacher 12) Di Resta

    13) Vergne 14) Senna 15) Kovalainen 16) Glock

    17) Petrov 18) De la Rosa

    DNF 19) Grosjean 20) Pic 21) Karthikeyan 22) Perez 23) Alonso 24) Rosberg


    Ododeeda on Twitter: "Kamui!! Suzuka is such a special track, so happy he was able to get his first podium there. Great moment."

  14. 0900: 

    Red Bull's Mark Webber has called Romain Grosjean a "first-lap nutcase" after the Lotus driver punted him off the track. The Australian also suggests the Frenchman, who has already been banned once this season for his first-lap actions, "maybe needs another holiday".

    Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, who finished third

    "Thank you very much everyone. This is my first podium, and in Japan. Fantastic, unbelievable."

    Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who finished second

    "I think it's fantastic to come here in Japan. My qualifying was not so good but we were able to get a good start. I was clever on the first corner to manage to avoid the accident and the pace was really good.

    "I was quicker than Jenson [Button] then I was able to pass him and then Kamui [Kobayashi] so for sure it was a better race than what I expected. Unfortunately Fernando [Alonso] isn't here on the podium fighting for the Championship but hopefully we can keep on pushing."

    Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who took victory

    "I saw the safety car at the beginning but I had a very good start and that was very important. I knew behind me there was a crash and I saw a Ferrari was out but wasn't sure which. Halfway through I was looking to see the others and I saw there [Ferrari] car still racing Felipe, I didn't know what happened to Fernando.

    "Thank you. The atmosphere has been unbelievable all weekend. There has been so much support, the stands have been full and that really makes our job feel very special.

    "Thanks to the team, all the guys pushed so hard. When you're dreaming at night, you dream one day about racing a car like that. The balance was so good and that's why there was a gap to behind. I'm very happy.

    "It was an important step today [in the championship] but there is still a long way to go. Look at the last couple of races and since Spa - it's been very much up and down. We don't know what will happen in the next race but let's try and take the point points. It's been a long season with crazy racing."


    Ferrari's Fernando Alonso on Twitter: "Five great races coming! If the enemy thinks in the mountains, attack by sea, if they think in the sea, attack by the mountains."

  19. 0853: 

    Victory for Sebastian Vettel has transformed the look of the drivers' standings.

    Fernando Alonso, who retired at the first corner at he start, still leads the championship, but has seen his lead butchered from 29 to four.

    1) Alonso 194 2) Vettel 190 3) Raikkonen 157 4) Hamilton 152 5) Webber 134 6) Button 131

  20. 0849: 

    Ferrari legend Jean Alesi is heading out onto the podium to interview the drivers...


    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg: "Rather than being miserable I'm soaking in the crazy atmosphere at podium Kobayashi 3rd. Happy for the Japanese peops."

  22. 0846: 

    Felipe Massa receives his trophy and in his eagerness to get closer to his team and celebrate, he kicks his champagne bottle over, spilling it all over the rostrum.


    Fernando Alonso on Twitter: "Yesterday in qualy and today in the race we had bad luck with Kimi, a yellow flag and a puncture today! Now all our efforts for Korea! Great race by Felipe Massa. Fantastic podium."


    Jenson Button's girlfriend Jessica Michibata on Twitter: "Wow that was so close!!! Well done @JensonButton for a great fight! :))"

  25. 0843: 

    Remarkable scenes at Suzuka as the crowd chant "Kamui, Kamui, Kamui". Keen not to disappoint, Kobayashi heads out and gives the crowd a wave. Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel head out to join him before the anthems ring out...

  26. 0841: 

    Jenson Button finished fourth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen. Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado, Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo complete the top 10 as Michael Schumacher can't find a way past the Toro Rosso driver.

  27. 0838: 

    There are hugs all round in parc ferme as Felipe Massa embraces Kamui Kobayashi amid a huge din as the crowd voice their delight. Sebastian Vettel heads over to get in on the act, too.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "Well done, Felipe. It's been a long time coming and he's been under a lot of scrutiny. But today, in a motor race, he delivered and that's what it's all about."

  29. 0836: 

    It's an awesome win for Sebastian Vettel who becomes the first driver to take back-to-back wins this season. The German is now joint-eighth with Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio on 24 victories.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "Kobayashi told us been he had been surrounded by fans all weekend - he's not even been able to eat food such is the demand! Fairytales do happen in Japan."

    LAP 53

    The crowds erupt as Kobayashi crosses the lines. The noise is deafening. The Japanese driver punches the air with delight. This is going to be one happy podium, that's for sure.

    LAP 53

    A brilliant drive from Kamui Kobayashi who holds of a charging Jenson Button to take his first F1 podium and first for a Japanese driver at his home circuit since Aguri Suzuki climbed aboard in 1991.

    LAP 53


    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "Button has taken half a second out of Kobayashi in first sector alone - they're looking nervous in the Sauber garage."

    LAP 53

    Felipe Massa scores his first podium since the Korean Grand Prix in 2010, 35 races ago. That's the longest streak for a Ferrari driver but second will go a long way to securing his seat for 2013.



    LAP 53

    "Be careful Sebastian," Red Bull tell Vettel. "You have a lot to lose." I don't think the German is having any of it, though, as he sets the fastest lap of the race. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean has retired his Lotus.

    LAP 52

    Sebastian Vettel is utterly dominant at the front, plodding around with a 20-second lead as he eases towards the chequered flag. Less than 10km to go here.

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "If Kobayashi doesn't make a mistake, he should be ok. There's enough of a gap not to let Button get into the DRS zone. That's when the drama will come. At the moment, I think the gap will be enough."

    LAP 51

    Jenson Button is almost in the DRS zone, closing to within 1.2 seconds of Kamui Kobayashi but there are only two laps left. Has he left it too late?


    Vettel leads Massa by 19.5 seconds. Massa up to second after the first pit stops. Alonso spins out after first-lap contact with Kimi Raikkonen. Rosberg out after contact. Romain Grosjean serves 10-second penalty. Perez out after out-braking himself behind Lewis Hamilton. Karthikeyan out. Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel 1.36.466. 1 Vettel 2 Massa 3 Kobayashi 4 Button 5 Hamilton 6 Raikkonen 7 Hulkenberg 8 Maldonado 9 Webber 10 Ricciardo.

    LAP 50

    Lewis Hamilton has backed off and looks resigned to finishing fifth, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Michael Schumacher is still all over the back of Daniel Ricciardo but having no success.

    LAP 49

    Michael Schumacher fails in another attempt to pass Daniel Ricciardo. The Toro Rosso is strong in a straight line and seems to have the measure of the seven-time world champion at the moment.


    James Allen on Twitter: "Button has nothing to lose in challenging Kobay for podium. Kobay has to get a podium for his career. Failure now could mean the end."

    LAP 48

    Sebastian Vettel locks another wheel at the final chicane. His Red Bull team tell him over the race that everyone else is pushing hard but "they are no where near".

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "It's very clear that McLaren are putting everything in to a podium result, but Button is not taking much time out of Kobayashi. If that's everything he's got, it's not going to be good enough."

    LAP 47

    Kamui Kobayashi has responded with a brilliant lap to increase the gap to Jenson Button to 1.8 seconds. Michael Schumacher tries a move on Daniel Ricciardo at the first corner but the Toro Rosso driver is wise to it.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "If McLaren were playing purely for the drivers' championship, team orders are allowed and they would give the instruction. We hope they don't but that is one of the problems for team managers. Do you let the weekend play out or make a decision that will be best for championship?"

    LAP 46

    The gap is down to 1.5 seconds now as Jenson Button inches closer to Kamui Kobayashi. The 2009 world champion is fast running out of laps to get on the podium.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "People ask why drivers go over the corners and, frankly, look like bucking broncos. It's risk vs reward. You are trying to cut the distance and, although it will mean you're head's bouncing around, it's the shortest route to take."

    LAP 45

    Michael Schumacher is taking one second a lap out of Daniel Ricciardo as he hunts down 10th position and the final point on offer. There are eight laps remaining.

    LAP 45

    BBC Radio 5 live's Jennie Gow asks McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale if they will make Button yield to Hamilton, who is behind him, under team orders: "I think it's highly unlikely. They've got the tyres to do some damage to Kobayashi. I don't think there's any sense in us doing anything another other than letting them race."

    LAP 44

    Jenson Button is taking at least three tenths of a second per lap out of Kamui Kobayashi in third, with the gap now down to 2.2 seconds. We're in for a grandstand finish here.


    Ferrari driver and championship leader Fernando Alonso on his opening-lap elimination: "Kimi [Raikkonen] touched me a little on the rear tyre, I got a puncture and was not able to continue. It's a shame; when you cannot even get past the first corner it's sad. But we need to think and concentrate for next week. We need to keep working well, not doing mistakes. You get a puncture and have to retire - there's nothing you can do. Thanks to our consistency we leader the championship. Others are making mistakes and we need to avoid this."

    LAP 43

    Bruno Senna puts a brave move around the outside of Romain Grosjean in the high-speed 130R. That's 14th for the Brazilian. Pastor Maldonado is in ninth and on course to score his first points since he took victory in the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

    LAP 42

    Sauber tell Kamui Kobayashi that Jenson Button is closing, setting better times in the first sector. The gap is down to 3.9 seconds in the battle for third. Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg is hustling Kimi Raikkonen as they fight for sixth.


    June 22 on Twitter: "Massa!! superb race so far...c'mon."

    LAP 41

    Charles Pic is out of the race. The Frenchman has driven into the pits and parked up his Marussia in the garage.

    LAP 40

    Sebastian Vettel is absolutely flying out there and sets a new fastest lap, going one second quicker than Felipe Massa in second on that last lap. Red Bull then get on the radio to tell him not to lock the front and look after the rears. That's code for slow down and behave.

    LAP 39

    Bruno Senna sets the fastest lap of the race as he closes up on the back of Romain Grosjean in the Lotus in the battle for 14th.


    Vettel leads Massa by 20 seconds. Massa up to second after the first pit stops. Alonso spins out after first-lap contact with Kimi Raikkonen. Rosberg out after contact. Romain Grosjean serves 10-second penalty. Perez out after out-braking himself behind Lewis Hamilton. Karthikeyan out. Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton 1.37.947secs. 1 Vettel 2 Massa 3 Kobayashi 4 Button 5 Hamilton 6 Raikkonen 7 Hulkenberg 8 Maldonado 9 Schumacher 10 Webber.


    Pirelli on Twitter: "Crucial stop for Button: he'll be trying to use fresher tyres to catch and pass Kobayashi at the end. Let's see if it works."

    LAP 38

    Race leader Sebastian Vettel is in the pits. Another clean stop from the Red Bull team and he rejoins well ahead of Felipe Massa. It's all about controlling the race from here and easing it home.

    LAP 37

    Michael Schumacher is in the pits. The German chooses the softer tyre, so expect him to be fighting for positions in the closing stays on those fast, less durable tyres.

    LAP 36

    Felipe Massa pits from second. It's a clean stop from the Ferrari team and he gets out in clean air.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "Even with that little hiccup at Button's pit stop - there was an issue with the right rear gun - I don't think he had enough of a lead to clear Kobayashi. Good work from the Sauber boys."

    LAP 35

    No they can't. There's an issue with the right rear and he rejoins well behind Kobayashi. Great driving from the Sauber driver.

    LAP 35

    Jenson Button heads for the pits. Can McLaren deliver another stonking stop to get him out in front of Kamui Kobayashi?


    Sauber on Twitter: "The longer VET, MAS and BUT can stay out the more difficult to catch up with those guys for #Kamui."

    LAP 34

    Narain Karthikeyan has crawled into the pits and is now being pushed into the HRT garage. Race over.


    PB on Twitter: "That third title for SV is looking distinctly probable now... Maranello needs to pull its collective finger out."

    LAP 33

    Pastor Maldonado pits from fourth place in the Williams which releases Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese driver is giving it absolutely everything out there as he tries to build a gap and prevent Jenson Button from leapfrogging him when the McLaren driver makes his final stop.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "Michael Schumacher's lap times are 1:39.0, Felipe Massa's 1:39.0 and Vettel's 1:39.6. So Mercedes are showing better form in the race than they were for much of the weekend."

    LAP 32

    Lewis Hamilton comes out of the pits and is side-by-side with Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1. They come agonisingly close to making contact, but Hamilton keeps his foot in and Raikkonen finally yields. Great driving by both.

    LAP 31

    As Jenson Button continues to close on Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber take the decision to pit the Japanese driver for a fresh set. Lewis Hamilton is in the pits and it's mighty fast...


    Sauber driver Sergio Perez on his lap-20 elimination: "I was going to overtake him [Hamilton] there. He moved a little bit late and there was no time for me to go the other side. I went round but locked my rear and spun. There was nothing I could do and I went into the gravel. Today was a very good position, I gave the team a good position and feel very sorry for them. It was my mistake and that is it."

    LAP 30

    Kimi Raikkonen, who is third in the championship and set to close on championship leader Fernando Alonso, has pitted for the second time. He'll need to do 22 laps on those new boots to get to the end of the race.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "It's a very comfortable lead for Vettel and his engine is turned down to save fuel and save laps on the engine in case it is needed later in the grand prix."

    LAP 29

    Jenson Button takes a second out of Kamui Kobayashi on the last lap to close to within 2.7 seconds of the Japanese driver in the battle for third.

    LAP 28

    Sebastian Vettel responds to Felipe Massa's pace with the fastest lap of the race. The German clocks 1:38.246 to lead by 11.4 seconds.

    LAP 27

    Jenson Button's team tell him that his pace is good and Kamui Kobayashi in third is now "there for the taking".

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "Webber is going back on to hard tyre again. A neat and tidy pity stop from him there."

    LAP 26

    Mark Webber dives into the pits from ninth having spent the last couple of laps struggling with those hard tyres. Out on track, Michael Schumacher puts a good move on Paul di Resta at the first corner to rise up to 11th. The German is on the faster soft tyre while most others are on the hards so he should be able to make some progress.


    James Allen on Twitter: "Half distance and Vettel is looking at cutting Alonso's championship lead to just 4 points with five races to go and a faster car..."

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "Massa has the longest streak for any Ferrari driver of not being on the podium. Perhaps today is the day."

    LAP 25

    Can't quite believe I'm saying this but Felipe Massa is matching Sebastian Vettel's pace at the moment and is still very much in with a shout of victory here.


    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg on his opening-lap elimination: "It's not nice to end a race like that, it's horrible. I got a good start, but [Romain] Grosjean took out a lot of us again today - he spun Mark Webber and caused a traffic jam. I had nowhere to go and the Toro Rosso behind me ruined my tyres. A penalty is right [for Grosjean] but what sort of penalty is not for me to judge."

    It turns out that it was Bruno Senna, not Romain Grosjean, who hit Rosberg amid the chaos at the start and the stewards punished the Brazilian accordingly.

    LAP 24

    Kamui Kobayashi is told he is pulling away from Jenson Button who is struggling for pace in fourth. Mark Webber, who found himself pointing the wrong way on the grass at the start, is up to ninth.


    Vettel leads Massa by 10.1 seconds. Massa up to second after the first pit stops. Alonso spins out after first-lap contact with Kimi Raikkonen. Rosberg out after contact. Romain Grosjean serves 10-second penalty. Perez out after out-braking himself behind Lewis Hamilton. Fastest lap: Felipe Massa. 1 Vettel 2 Massa 3 Kobayashi 4 Button 5 Raikkonen 6 Hamilton 7 Hulkenberg 8 Maldonado 9 Webber 10 Ricciardo.

    LAP 23

    Felipe Massa is told he needs to do at least another 15 laps on this set of tyres before making his final stop. The Brazilian driver is fighting for his career and doing everything right in second, 10 seconds behind leader Sebastian Vettel. Can he maintain this form for the rest of the race?

    LAP 22

    Bruno Senna serves a drive-through penalty for hitting Nico rosberg at the start. On track, Lewis Hamilton reports that his front tyres have "gone off". The 2008 world champion is sixth and having initially attacked Kimi Raikkonen, now finds himself 1.7 seconds back.

    LAP 21

    Sergio Perez says 'sorry' to his team over the radio as he makes his way back to the pits with his head down. The Mexican was looking fast today, but that mistake has proved costly. Meanwhile, Jenson Button complains about a problem with his gears again.


    Bishop on Twitter: "You are have been signed already by McLaren and you don't need to prove yourself to anyone anymore, Perez. You took yourself out."

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "Sergio Perez was slightly caught out by Lewis Hamilton going defensive and he's ended up on the dust and dirt. He was a little bit inexperienced in this case."

    LAP 20

    Irony at the hairpin as Sergio Perez gets out of shape as he lines up a move on Lewis Hamilton - who he is replacing at McLaren next season - but gets a wheel on the grass. That unsettles the car and fight as he might, the Mexican can't keep hold of the car and spins off into the gravel. If this was a tarmac-haven new track, he would have got away with it, but there's gravel at this traditional circuit so it's terminal. Perez out.

    LAP 20

    Brilliant stop from Ferrari which gets Felipe Massa back out on track in second, leapfrogging Kamui Kobayashi who got held up by the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo. Sebastian Vettel has pitted and is back out on track in the lead.

    LAP 19

    Oh, dear. Jenson Button reports that there's a problem with his gearbox. That would be frustrating considering he had a five-place penalty because the team put a fresh one in for this race. Fear not, though, as the team assure him that all looks OK.

    LAP 18

    Kamui Kobayashi gets past the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo for fifth, with Jenson Button close behind hoping to capitalise. Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado, meanwhile, have pitted for a fresh set of boots.

    LAP 17

    So Sebastian Vettel leads by 11.2 seconds from Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. Sergio Perez pits to promote Pastor Maldonado into fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.


    Sauber on Twitter: "Our speed is promising. nobody else than VET with better lap times currently."

    LAP 16

    Kamui Kobayashi has pitted from second, which promotes Felipe Massa into second. Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen makes short work of Heikki Kovalainen at the hairpin to rise up into ninth.

    LAP 15

    Kimi Raikkonen uses DRS to get past Jean-Eric Vergne into the first corner. Next up the road is the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen who is driving superbly in ninth place.

    LAP 14

    Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg have both pitted, too but they've rejoined in traffic. Raikkonen is stuck behind a Toro Rosso which has great straight line speed and could be tricky to pass.


    Well, Romain Grosjean's only gone and done it again. His first-lap coming together with Mark Webber is one of many early race controversies the Lotus driver has been involved in this season. Here's a video montage of Romain's roamings…

    LAP 13

    Jenson Button switches a set of soft tyres for some more durable hard tyres in super quick time and emerges out on track in clean air. Great strategy from McLaren.

    LAP 12

    Romain Grosjean is down in 22nd, 64 seconds behind the leaders and now has a very long afternoon ahead of him.

    LAP 11

    Sebastian Vettel and Kamui Kobayashi are the only two men lapping in the 1m39s at the moment as they blast away at the front. Sergio Perez has closed to within 0.4 seconds of Kimi Raikkonen who is carrying some light damage to his front wing after tapping Fernando Alonso at the start.

    LAP 10

    Nico Hulkenberg is on the attack, hustling Lewis Hamilton who seems to be struggling for pace at the moment in seventh. He's dropped to 3.3 seconds back from Sergio Perez in sixth.

    BBC Radio 5 live pit-lane reporter Jennie Gow

    "Fernando Alonso is not going to talk to any of the press until after the race. If Vettel wins, he will be just four points behind Alonso."


    Sebastian Vettel sets the fastest lap of the race to increase his lead to 5.4 seconds over Kamui Kobayashi. Jenson Button is keeping himself in touch, 1.8 seconds further back but he's under pressure from Ferrari's Felipe Massa who is having a sensational race so far.


    James Allen on Twitter: "Dream start for Vettel - key rivals out and Kobayashi there in P2 to hold field up for him. Cigars out for Seb. Perez lovely pass on Hamilton, whom he's replacing at McLaren. Amazing symmetry."


    Daily Telegraph F1 correspondent Tom Cary on Twitter: "Very uncharacteristic from Alonso at start. Great for Vettel, obviously, but also Raikkonen - right in this champ. Hamilton must capitalise too."


    Romain Grosjean parks his Lotus up in his box in the pit lane and twiddles his thumbs for 10 seconds. BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard says that the Frenchman is probably relieved to get that because he must have feared he may get another race ban.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "Great stuff from Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton is getting set for a long afternoon by the looks of it. He was not happy in qualifying and has a different race set-up, and he's paying the price. He struggled with understeer on Saturday and is clearly still struggling with balance today."


    Michael Schumacher's race engineer over team radio: "We've lost telemetry, so no information." It looks like it's going to be a tough race for the German who is up to 14th from 23rd but struggling to keep up with the Force India of Paul di Resta up the road.


    Romain Grosjean has been handed a 10-second stop-go penalty for smashing into Mark Webber not once, but twice, at the start.

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "The difficulty the drivers are facing is that the last time they were in their cars, in qualifying, they had about 10kg of fuel on board. This time they have about 150kg - it's a huge difference and it will be interesting to see how they handle it. The drivers have to respond."


    Lewis Hamilton is down to seventh ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado and Daniel Ricciardo. Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen is having a stunning race in 11th, one place away from scoring the team's maiden point.


    A remarkable overtake from Sergio Perez who slams his Sauber up the inside of Lewis Hamilton at the hairpin, locking his tyres in the process. Hamilton is sensible enough to give the Mexican space and the move pays off. That's sixth for Perez.


    Kimi Raikkonen robustly defends from Sergio Perez who attacks around the outside at Turn One. The Sauber driver is forced off track, but looks mighty quick and simply rejoins the track, tucking back in behind the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton.


    We've just seen a replay of the start and it was Kimi Raikkonen who tagged the rear of Fernando Alonso, puncturing the Ferrari's left-rear tyre and sending the Spaniard off track. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean is in the wars. AGAIN. BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard: "And he does go and do it again. He just runs into the back of Mark Webber, Romain, Romain, what are you doing? So many first-corner incidents."


    Safety car is in and we're back under way at Suzuka. Sebastian Vettel catches the field napping and flies away at the front. He leads Kamui Kobayashi, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa - super start from those three.


    Unsurprisingly, we have a safety car situation. Mark Webber has managed to get that Red Bull moving and retreats to the pit lane. Romain Grosjean is in, too, with damage to the front of the car.


    Incredible scenes. Fernando Alonso's luck has finally run out. The Spaniard is pushed wide onto the grass at the start and spins off into the gravel. We'll have to wait for a replay to see exactly what happened. Nico Rosberg is out, too, after being touched into a spin at Turn Two while Mark Webber has stopped on the grass as well.



  126. 0703: 
    GO! GO! GO!

    Sensational start for Kamui Kobayashi who blasts away from third on the grid to pass Mark Webber and slot in behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel but there's carnage at the first corner....


    Ferrari on Twitter: "We have to be very careful at the first corner..."

  128. 0700: 

    Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel gets away cleanly to lead the field around the 5.807km Suzuka track for the formation lap. Once all 24 drivers have pulled away, the mechanics hot foot it over to the pit lane to be on guard should one of their men need a service before the start.

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "Strategy should be fairly simple today - two stops is the expected plan for everyone. It's 10 seconds faster than a three-stop on projections. Expect the first stops around lap 14-ish. The main problem is tyre blistering - across the whole of the rear tyre and the inner shoulder of the fronts. It's worse on the 'soft' tyre but is happening on the 'hard', too, to a lesser extent. Pirelli are not too concerned about it, though."

  130. 0657: 

    We're minutes away, then, from the start of the iconic Japanese Grand Prix in front of a huge crowd at Suzuka. Will they witness the first Japanese driver to make the podium since Aguri Suzuki in 1991 in the form of Kamui Kobayashi? Will Sebastian Vettel take a lights-to-flag victory? Or will the McLarens show their hand and fight through the field. Buckle up because we're about to find out...

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard

    "McLaren scratching their heads a little bit at their drop off in qualifying. But it's all about what happens in the race."

  132. 0655: 

    Here's a reminder of the grid:

    1) Vettel 2) Webber 3) Kobayashi 4) Grosjean

    5) Perez 6) Alonso 7) Raikkonen 8) Button

    9) Hamilton 10) Massa 11) Di Resta 12) Maldonado

    13) Rosberg 14) Ricciardo 15) Hulkenberg 16) Senna

    17) Kovalainen 18) Glock 19) Vergne 20) De la Rosa

    21) Pic 22) Petrov 23) Schumacher 24) Karthikeyan


    Mo-Sh on Twitter: "Alonso needs to find his magical touch to stay in this championship. With his current car, he is running out of spells."

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Fernando Alonso might not be the only Ferrari making up ground in the race. Felipe Massa is driving for his career this weekend and he was strong all through practice - and did an excellent lap in first qualifying. But it all fell apart when it mattered. He blamed a rogue set of tyres, which he said lacked grip. But will that be enough to save his drive? The word is a strong race in Japan and he will be confirmed as a Ferrari driver for 2013. He has everything to gain and just as much to lose."

  135. 0652: 

    The track may be epic, but what makes this event so special is the fans. Year-in, year-out, come rain or shine, the grandstands are always full - and this year is no different.

    Early in morning, before the action even starts, the entrance gates and roads leading to the circuit have been packed by fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their idols.

    The costumes, oh the costumes, are spectacular, with a range of sensational hats complete with caricatures of the drivers a staple for any hardcore fan. All this makes for a stunning atmosphere.

  136. 0650: 

    Renowed as the track which sees champions crowns, Suzuka has a history packed full of golden moments.

    From Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna colliding at the final chicane in 1990 to the pair coming to blows the following year at the first corner.

    In 2000, Michael Schumacher beats Mika Hakkinen to secure Ferrari's first drivers' title for 21 years while in 2005, Kimi Raikkonen comes from 17th to win the race, passing Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap.

    Quite a history then. Watch some of the most memorable moments here.


    Neil Savage on Twitter: "Vettel has this in the bag, surely? 1. Vettel 2. Button 3. Webber."

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "The grid line-up does not make happy reading for Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver arrived in Japan with a 29-point championship lead over Sebastian Vettel, who won the last race in Singapore, and Vettel has so far dominated at Suzuka while Alonso has had a difficult weekend. Ferrari have been chopping and changing with three different types of rear wing and Alonso looked at sea, unusually slower than team-mate Felipe Massa for much of the weekend.

    "But once they had settled on one Alonso was back where you would expect - and he missed a chance to qualify somewhere around fourth or fifth because he had to back off when Kimi Raikkonen's spin brought out yellow flags. To add insult to injury, he was then slightly blocked by Vettel at the chicane - for which the German received a reprimand. The end result is Alonso starts sixth. He will be eager to make up places to limit the points damage, and he is always worth watching in those situations. Or any other, for that matter."

  139. 0648: 

    World champions have won 16 of the last 17 races at Suzuka. The exception was Brazilian Rubens Barrichello when he triumphed for Ferrari in 2003.

  140. 0646: 

    There are some truly sensational hats in action today among the fans, with my favourites including a giant Formula 1 rear wing lodged on top of a plastic top hat and a chap who has a Kamui Kobayashi paper mache Sauber resting on his baseball cap.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Kamui Kobayashi starts his home grand prix from his best grid position since he was second in Spa last month. That race ended badly and quickly - the Japanese was a blameless victim of the first-corner pile-up that was triggered by Romain Grosjean, and which earned the Lotus driver a one-race ban. Kobayashi admitted he was a bit worried to see that the Frenchman would be next to him on the grid this weekend, too. 'Car is definitely good,' he said. 'But I'm a little bit worried I have Grosjean next to me. Hopefully nothing happens this time. I am good friend. But, you know, make sure.' Kobayashi said he thought he could fight for victory. 'I believe I have some chance,' he said. Hopefully I have some show. This is important. I want to show my first podium in front of Japanese fans, that is important for me.'"

  142. 0645: 

    1) Red Bull 297 pts

    2) McLaren 261

    3) Ferrari 245

    4) Lotus 231

    5) Mercedes 136

    6) Sauber 101

  143. 0644: 

    1) Alonso (Ferrari) 194 pts

    2) Vettel (Red Bull) 165

    3) Raikkonen (Lotus) 149

    4) Hamilton (McLaren) 142

    5) Webber (Red Bull) 133

    6) Button (McLaren) 119


    Marussia driver Timo Glock on Twitter: "Today's race strategy is only based on Schumacher's car to keep him behind. Told him already."

  145. 0643: 

    In the seven of the last 10 at Suzuka, the man on pole has take the chequered flag. Should Sebastian Vettel become the eighth, victory will move him to joint-eighth on the all-time list alongside five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio on 24 wins.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Lewis Hamilton says he will do 'everything he can' to have a good race but he is not optimistic - he had bad understeer in qualifying. He said that without Kimi Raikkonen's late spin he would have been fourth of fifth. "I honestly don't think it's going to be good,' he said. 'I'll do what I can with it but I have lots of understeer. I suspect my front tyres will be the limitation and it's normally the rears. I'll just have to paddle around with the set-up I have and look after my tyres and see if I can make up some places.'"


    McLaren driver Jenson Button on Twitter: "Good Quali yesterday, felt like we got the max out of the car. Let's c what we can do from P8 today! Best o tsukusahimasu! (I'll do my best)."

  148. 0641: 

    A quick look at the winners so far this season:

    Australia - Jenson Button (McLaren) Malaysia - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) China - Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) Bahrain - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) Spain - Pastor Maldonado (Williams) Monaco - Mark Webber (Red Bull) Canada - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Europe - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) Britain - Mark Webber (Red Bull) Germany - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) Hungary - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Belgium - Jenson Button (McLaren) Italy - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Singapore - Sebastian Vettel (Red Button)

  149. 0639: 

    Suzuka is the only circuit on the calendar with a downhill start which means there is a greater chance for a jumped start. The 130R corner is the fastest of the season, with cars hurtling through it at 310kph in seventh gear.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Jenson Button admitted he was 'disappointed' his five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change had dropped him from third to eighth on the grid but he is still confident of a good race. 'I felt really good with the car in qualifying and I really do feel we'll have a good race,' he said. His confidence is based on Lewis Hamilton's pace on the Friday race-simulation runs and his expectations of tyre problems - the softer Pirellis have been blistering - and there have been problems with graining (where the surface rips and then the leftover bits stick to the tyre), too. Can Button hope to challenge the Red Bulls? 'I'd like to think we can,' he said."

  151. 0638: 

    Good news Timo fans. Marussia have sorted the problem and Glock is now out on track on his way to the grid.

  152. 0637: 

    A bit of Red Bull has also dislodged itself from the rear of Mark Webber's car and is now lying in the middle of the hairpin corner. The team are having a look at the car on the grid.

  153. 0635: 

    The cars are filing out of the pit lane to make their way to the grid, but Timo Glock is in a spot of bother. The German came to a stop half-way down the pit lane and is now being pushed back to his garage by his mechanics.

  154. 0633: 

    Venue: Suzuka Laps: 53 Circuit length: 5.807km Race distance: 307.471km Number of corners: 18 (8 left/10 right) Average lap speed: 215kph Full throttle per lap: 71% Safety cars in last four years: 4 Lap record: 1:31.540 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2005)

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Astonishingly, in the context of recent F1 history, Red Bull have achieved their first one-two qualifying result this season in Japan. The car was out of reach of everyone else, despite appearing to be closely matched with the McLaren in Friday practice. What was the secret? 'Details, mate, it really is,' said Mark Webber, 'just small things, and balance. On a place like this you start to open up some pretty big avenues in terms of performance. Pulling the balance together between high and low-speed corners, in the past we have struggled with that a bit, but this weekend we seem to have filled that in.' The Australian admitted that good high-speed cornering performance was 'in the DNA of the philosophy' of cars designed by Red Bull's chief technical officer Adrian Newey, since his days with Williams and McLaren."

  156. 0631: 

    Here's the grid after the various penalties have been applied:

    1) Vettel 2) Webber 3) Kobayashi 4) Grosjean

    5) Perez 6) Alonso 7) Raikkonen 8) Button*

    9) Hamilton 10) Massa 11) Di Resta 12) Maldonado

    13) Rosberg 14) Ricciardo 15) Hulkenberg* 16) Senna

    17) Kovalainen 18) Glock 19) Vergne* 20) De la Rosa

    21) Pic 22) Petrov 23) Schumacher* 24) Karthikeyan

    * Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg demoted five places following a gearbox change, Michael Schumacher pushed back 10 places for his Singapore GP shunt and Jean-Eric Vergne loses three places for impeding Bruno Senna in qualifying.

  157. 0628: 

    Bright blue skies great the drivers, teams and fans for the third successive day at Suzuka. The driver parade is done and dusted with the grid starting to fill up with mechanics as we await the opening of the pit-lane at 0630. Lights go out 30 minutes later.


    FIA Formula 1 medical driver Alan van der Merwe on Twitter: "60% chance you'll see this on track this afternoon. Hopefully Bernd will close the doors first. http://instagr.am/p/QeAfRpyEpi/

  159. 0625: 

    For those of you who like the safety car making an appearance, you could be in luck. The last four races at Suzuka have seen it called into action.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "There was a bit of controversy after qualifying on Saturday, when Sebastian Vettel was called to the stewards on the basis of an allegation that he had blocked Fernando Alonso on the Ferrari driver's final qualifying lap. Ferrari say it cost Alonso about 0.1-0.2secs, which would have moved him up one place, ahead of Sauber's Sergio Perez.

    "After deliberating for three hours, the stewards gave the German a reprimand. The stewards made that decision on the basis that Vettel did not do it deliberately and that he had good reason not to be paying attention as Kimi Raikkonen had spun his Lotus, so it was a reasonable assumption that no-one would still be trying to improve their time.

    "Problem with that is, Alonso was one of several drivers who had not recorded a time up to that point - so whatever time they set was going to be an improvement. Arguably, therefore, Vettel a) should have known that; b) should have been paying attention. You could say that makes the offence equivalent to that of Jean-Eric Vergne, who was penalised three places for blocking Bruno Senna earlier in the session."

  161. 0622: 

    Kamui Kobayashi was one such driver who was investigated, however he was deemed to have lifted sufficiently in the yellow flag section and will start third - the best starting spot for a Japanese driver in his home race. That puts the Sauber driver in a strong position to become the first Japanese driver to climb aboard the podium on home soil since Aguri Suzuki in 1991.

  162. 0619: 

    Much of the controversy in qualifying focused around the dying minutes when Kimi Raikkonen spun his Lotus, bringing out the yellow flags. Several drivers behind him were on hots laps and so the investigations began into whether they slowed down enough.

  163. 0616: 

    It's time for this week's edition of Lawro's Podium Predictions where I name my top three and then you tell me why I'm completely wrong and suggest your own trio with a reason for those choices.

    I think Sebastian Vettel thas this wrapped up, but I expect Jenson Button to climb up to second with Kamui Kobayashi completing the podium in front of his home fans. Tweet us using the #bbcf1 hashtag or text 81111 (UK only).

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "Red Bull had a significant advantage over the field in qualifying at Suzuka, and a probable explanation has emerged. They are using for the first time a 'double DRS' system. Unlike the one Mercedes have been using since the start of the year, this acts solely on the rear wing - although whether it reduces the downforce of the lower beam wing or the main plane when the DRS overtaking device is activated remains unclear. The bottom line, though, is that it means Red Bull can run more downforce to make the car faster in the corners without the consequent penalty on the straights. Then in the race the car should be fast enough over the lap to protect itself. But the problems will come if they don't qualify on pole - then Vettel and Webber would have problems overtaking."

  165. 0612: 

    While Vettel was not penalised, others weren't so lucky. Jean-Eric Vergne was demoted three places for holding up Bruno Senna in Q1. Nico Hulkenberg picked up a five-place penalty for a gearbox change - as did Jenson Button. While I'm sure you won't need reminding that Michael Schumacher was carrying a 10-place penalty for this race after smashing into the back of Vergne in Singapore.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "With pole position in Japan, Sebastian Vettel has now matched Lewis Hamilton as the man with most poles this year. The German's fifth of the season was also the 34th of his career - which means he is now third in the all-time list behind only Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65).

    "It's an astonishing achievement for a man who is only 25 and could easily have at least another 10 years in F1 ahead of him. 'It's a big number and quite strange in a way,' Vettel said. 'Speaking about Michael (Schumacher) a lot in the last couple of days, the records he put up will probably stay forever. So I think he is still a long way ahead. Who knows if we keep doing it that way we get a bit closer, although that is not the motivation for doing it.'"

  167. 0609: 

    Things threatened to get ugly when Vettel got called upon to appear before the stewards, after taking his 34th career pole, as they investigated whether he had held up Fernando Alonso in qualifying. The German, one of several to get called in, need not have worried as he escaped punishment.

  168. 0606: 

    This time last year, we were dusting off the thesaurus, desperate to find more superlatives for Sebastian Vettel. The German arrived at Suzuka on the brink of his second title after a year of utter domination. He didn't disappoint. Twelve months on and he finds himself on pole position - for the fourth successive year - and desperate to turn that into only his second win of the season to haul in championship leader Fernando Alonso.

  169. 0603: 

    Good morning and a very warm welcome to our coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix, round 15 of the Formula 1 World Championship.

    The legendary Japanese circuit has played host to the title decider on no fewer than 12 star-studded occasions, but this year's it's different.

    This year, we have five contenders for the title - Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber - and six races (including this one) remaining. This ding-dong is far from over.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Suzuka is arguably the greatest test of a racing driver in the world, but in qualifying on Saturday the ultra-enthusiastic Japanese fans did not get a chance to see all the world's top drivers exploit the full potential of their cars. Kimi Raikkonen spun his Lotus in the dying seconds and both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were impeded. The flip side is that we get to watch them - and Jenson Button, demoted to eighth by a grid penalty - fighting their way through the field in the race. But whether they can touch pole man Sebastian Vettel is another matter. He had already set his blistering best time, to take his fourth consecutive pole on a track that could have been made for cars designed by Red Bull's genius Adrian Newey. Can anyone stop Vettel and Newey making it three wins out of four in Japan?"

  171. 0600: 

    There's something very special about Suzuka, home of the Japanese Grand Prix. In a calendar increasingly tarnished with multi-million pound sterile Tilke-dromes, the old school, rusty around the edges, 5.807km figure-of-eight track is one of the toughest racing challenges in the world. It's narrow, it's epically fast, it's ruthlessly unforgiving. It's Suzuka - and that's nothing quite like it.

Formula 1 World Championship 2014

Position Driver Team Pts
1 Great Britain L Hamilton Mercedes 291
2 Germany N Rosberg Mercedes 274
3 Australia D Ricciardo Red Bull 199
4 Finland V Bottas Williams 145
5 Germany S Vettel Red Bull 143
6 Spain F Alonso Ferrari 141
7 Great Britain J Button McLaren 94
8 Germany N Hulkenberg Force India 76
9 Brazil F Massa Williams 71
10 Denmark K Magnussen McLaren 49
11 Mexico S Perez Force India 47
12 Finland K Raikkonen Ferrari 47
13 France J Vergne Toro Rosso 21
14 France R Grosjean Lotus 8
15 Russia D Kvyat Toro Rosso 8
17 Germany A Sutil Sauber 0
18 Sweden M Ericsson Caterham 0
19 Venezuela P Maldonado Lotus 0
20 Mexico E Gutierrez Sauber 0
21 Great Britain M Chilton Marussia 0
22 Japan K Kobayashi Caterham 0


After 60 of 61 laps
Position Driver Team

Race stopped at 60 laps

1 Great Britain L Hamilton Mercedes
2 Germany S Vettel Red Bull
3 Australia D Ricciardo Red Bull
4 Spain F Alonso Ferrari
5 Brazil F Massa Williams
6 France J Vergne Toro Rosso
7 Mexico S Perez Force India
8 Finland K Raikkonen Ferrari
9 Germany N Hulkenberg Force India
10 Denmark K Magnussen McLaren
11 Finland V Bottas Williams
12 Venezuela P Maldonado Lotus
13 France R Grosjean Lotus
14 Russia D Kvyat Toro Rosso
15 Sweden M Ericsson Caterham
16 France J Bianchi Marussia
17 Great Britain M Chilton Marussia
18 Great Britain J Button (ret.) McLaren
19 Germany A Sutil (ret.) Sauber
20 Mexico E Gutierrez (ret.) Sauber
21 Germany N Rosberg (ret.) Mercedes
22 Japan K Kobayashi (ret.) Caterham