Jenson Button may have clinched Japanese GP victory, however, he could do nothing to stop Sebastian Vettel from claiming the World title
Starting first and second on the grid with Vettel ahead of the McLaren driver, the German did all he could to stop Button from taking the lead - even pushing him onto the grass. But with the Red Bull running out of tyres faster than the rest of the field Button found his way past in the pit-stops.
It was another thrilling race with a resurgent Fernando Alonso taking second place, Michael Schumacher surviving a hefty impact from Mark Webber's front wing and going on to become the oldest driver to lead an F1 GP. Plus there was the inevitable coming together of Massa and Hamilton.
It was a bright sunny autumnal day at Suzuka with an ambient tempretaure of 24C and the trac at 35C.
Six Rows of Grid : 1.Vettel, 2.Button, 3.Hamilton, 4.Massa, 5.Alonso, 6.Webber, 7.Kobayashi, 8.Schumacher, 9.Petrov, 10.Senna, 11.Sutil, 12.DiResta
Start: It was a clean get-away for the grid (unlike 2010) with Jenson Button getting a great start from P2. Vettel thought he had a good start too but still veered across to the right and pushed Jenson Button to the inside.
Button had his front tyre tucked inside Vettel's rear and the Red Bull kept on coming, pushing the McLaren onto the grass. Button slowed and dropped in behind Vettel but this allowed Lewis Hamilton to move up to P2. Behind, the Ferraris slotted in in grid order.
Big loser from the start was Kamui Kobayashi who was starting from his best ever gridslot, P7. The anti-stall kicked in for the Japanese Sauber driver and he bogged down, losing many places.
Positions after Lap 1 1.Vettel, 2.Hamilton, 3.Button, 4.Massa 5.Alonso, 6.Webber, 7.Schumacher, 8.DiResta, 9.Sutil, 10.Petrov, 11.Buemi, 12.Kobayashi
With the DRS enabled after Lap 2 it didn't look to be giving the drivers a huge advantage down the straight into Turn 1, but on Lap 6 Alonso made it past Massa in a choreographed move that switched the Ferrari order. Despite being evenly matched in qualifying Vettel started to open up a gap to Hamilton. On Lap 5 it was 2.3 seconds, by Lap 7 it was 3.9 seconds and team-mate Button was catching him rapidly.
Lewis slowed and pitted at the end of Lap 8, when it was revealed that he was suffering from a slow puncture. Vettel radioed in that he was losing the rear tyres during Lap 9 and came in for his first pitstop at the end of the lap. This triggered a whole round of pit-stops with Button, Alonso, Webber and DiResta in the lap after that. Massa was temporarily in the lead until he pitted at the end of Lap 11.
Positions after Lap 12 1.Vettel, 2.Button, 3.Alonso, 4.Hamilton, 5.Massa, 6.Webber, 7.Petrov (not stopped), 8.Schumacher
In the second stint Jenson Button began to close on Vettel and Felipe Massa got into the DRS zone of Lewis Hamilton who was falling away from third place Fernando Alonso. Button closed the gap down from 2.8 seconds on Lap 15 to 1.6 seconds on Lap 18 with a couple of fastest laps thrown in.
Vettel then dived into the pits for more soft tyres at the end of Lap 19 and Red Bull executed a fantastic double pit-stop with Sebastian leaving the pitbox just as Mark Webber arrived. Button came in a lap later and exited in front.
Just as Lewis Hamilton was due to stop for his second pit-stop Felipe Massa tried a highly optimistic pass on the outside going into the final chicane. It was never going to come off, but as Hamilton moved out right the pair made contact yet again. The incident was investigated - just as the Button/Vettel one was - but no action was taken. Hamilton had a slightly longer pit-stop as the team checked out the car for damage.
Positions after Lap 23 1.Button, 2.Vettel, 3.Alonso, 4.Webber, 5.Massa, 6.Schumacher (stopped once) 7.Hamilton, 8.Sutil, 9.DiResta, 10.Kobayashi, 11.Barrichello
The incident between Massa and Hamilton looked to have taken off some Ferrari bodywork which was in the middle of the track approaching the chicane, and on Lap 24 the Safety Car was dispatched to pick it up. There was also some at Turn 7 and the cars circulated for three tours while it was picked up by the marshals.
At the restart, leader Jenson Button backed the pack right up before setting off at pace. His next lap (28) was the fastest lap of the race as he set about establishing a race-winning gap. By Lap 30 he had opened it up to 2.2 seconds, by Lap 32 it was 2.8 seconds.
At the end of Lap 32 Vettel's tyres were gone again and now teams were switching from the soft Option to the medium Prime tyres. Vettel pitted on Lap 33, Webber on 34, Hamilton on 35, Button on 36 and Alonso on 37.
Because of the safety car backing up the pack, when Vettel emerged after his pit-stop he was back down in P11. Delayed by the Saubers and Force Indias, he found Perez in between himself and Button when Jenson rejoined the track. In fact the gap had become so big that Fernando Alonso slotted into it (for nte P2) after his pit-stop. All the while Michael Schumacher hadn't pitted and so he was able to establish the record of the oldest man ever to lead an F1 race.
On Lap 38 there was action up and down the length of the field with Hamilton cruising past Massa on the straight, Vettel keen to get back on terms with Alonso and Mark Webber passing a Force India on the inside at 130R.
Positions after Lap 38 1.Schumacher (stopped twice), 2.Button, 3.Alonso, 4.Vettel, 5. Webber, 6.Rosberg (stopped twice) 7.Hamilton, 8.Massa, 9.Petrov, 10.Kobayashi
Vettel using his DRS down the straight could get close to Alonso, but was never in a position to pass. On Lap 41 Michael Schumacher pitted for the last time and rejoined in P6, behind Hamilton and in front of Massa. Though he was on fresher tyres he couldn't put pressure on the McLaren and never got to within a second of Lewis Hamilton. Massa followed his gearbox all the way to the line just 0.9 back.
On Lap 44 Button had a 4.3 second lead over Alonso but this soon began to drop. By Lap 48 the lead was down to 2.1 seconds, by Lap 50 it was only 1.0 seconds and the Ferrari driver sensed a chance. At which point Button put his foot down and started to set personal best sector times, and then purple fastest sector times and then on Lap 52 the fastest lap of the race a 1:36.568.
The Briton took the race victory but the margin was a slim one. He parked his car at the end of the pitlane, worried about running out of fuel on the slowing down lap. Alonso claimed a P2 that was aided by the Safety Car and Vettel had to settle for P3 (his worst ever Japanese GP result). Webber came home in P4, Hamilton a glum P5 and Michael Schumacher an eventful P6. Midway through the race he had been given a hefty nerf from Mark Webber's front wing, which broke bits off the Red Bull but he had survived a puncture - unlike Felipe Massa in Singapore.
The performance of the Ferraris and McLarens at a circuit where Red Bull were thought to reign supreme had been remarkable, but the day was all about Sebastian Vettel claiming his second World Championship. It was as inevitable as Massa and Hamilton making contact.
01. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h30:53.427
02. Alonso Ferrari + 1.160
03. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 2.006
04. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 8.071
05. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 24.268
06. Schumacher Mercedes + 27.120
07. Massa Ferrari + 28.240
08. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 39.377
09. Petrov Renault + 42.607
10. Rosberg Mercedes + 44.322
11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 54.447
12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1:02.326
13. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:03.705
14. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:04.194
15. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth + 1:06.623
16. Senna Renault + 1:12.628
17. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1:14.191
18. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault + 1:27.824
19. Trulli Lotus-Renault + 1:36.140
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
22. Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
23. Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
Did Not Finish
Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 35