It was literally a cruise for Sebastian Vettel at Suzuka as he drove home to a 24th career win. Fernando Alonso, though, suffered a shock first lap exit and the difference between the two now, is just 4 points. With the title race heating up, this could be the turning point of the season. (All AFP Photos and text)
Mercedes-AMG driver Nico Rosberg of Germany (L) signs an autograph at the paddock just before the start of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton leads the pack of drivers on the red carpet as they walk past a line of classic cars during the drivers' parade prior to the final of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit.
Local favourite, Kamui Kobayashi, waves to the massive crowd support from his classic car before the race began.
Alonso, of Ferrari, was eliminated from Sunday's contest when he was hit by rival Finn Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus at the first corner and suffered a puncture. The fuming Spaniard refused to speak to media afterwards.
Jenson Button finished fourth for McLaren ahead of his Mercedes-bound team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Raikkonen sixth behind the two Britons.
Re-runs of the action showed that Raikkonen rammed into Alonso and punctured his left rear tyre, in a bitterly frustrating incident for the Spaniard.
Nico Hulkenberg of Force India came home seventh ahead of Pastor Maldonado of Williams and Australians Mark Webber of Red Bull, who was involved in the first corner accidents after starting second, and Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso.
"Woo-hoo! Yes baby, Yes baby... unbelievable!" screamed Vettel over his team radio on his slowing-down lap, after taking a big step forward in his pursuit of a third consecutive world title.
He came home comfortably clear of Alonso's Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa with local hero Kamui Kobayashi third for Sauber, a result that made him only the third Japanese driver to score a podium finish in Formula One.
The 25-year-old German, who won in Singapore only two weeks ago, became the first man this year to score back-to-back wins as he slashed Fernando Alonso's championship lead to just four points with five races left.
|3||Daniel RicciardoRed Bull||Australian||212|
|5||Max VerstappenToro Rosso||Dutch||165|
|8||Sergio PerezForce India||Mexican||80|
|9||Nico HulkenbergForce India||German||54|
|2||Red Bull||Daniel Ricciardo|
|4||Force India||Sergio Perez|
|7||Toro Rosso||Max Verstappen|