Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel slashed world championship leader Fernando Alonso’s advantage in the race for the title when he won the Japanese Grand Prix.
The dominant victory, Vettel’s third in four years at Suzuka, came after Alonso’s Ferrari was tapped into a spin at the first corner of the race by Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus.
With Alonso failing to score, Vettel heads to Korea this weekend just four points behind the Spaniard with just five races remaining.
But while Alonso was left to contemplate what might have been, his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa bagged his first podium finish for almost two years.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi rounded off the top three, becoming just the third Japanese driver to finish on the podium in F1. Vettel though was delighted with his performance, though he talked down thoughts of a third straight title.
“Obviously it was an important step today but there’s still a long way to go,” Vettel, the first man to score back-to-back victories this year, said.
“If you look at the last couple of races, after Spa it was very much up and down.
“I don’t know what happened today, but at Spa Fernando was unlucky. You don’t hope those things will happen to yourself but you know over the next few races it could happen. It is long season and crazy racing so far.
“I’m very careful. I think we had a long journey so far. It has been a tough year and there are still many races to go. Today I don’t want to talk about the championship.”
Vettel, who scored his third win of the season, said the weekend had been like a dream for him.
“I don’t think it could be better,” he continued. “You come across these kinds of races very rarely.
“I had a very good race car, behaving very well, and it’s very difficult to describe why because we didn’t have major upgrades for this race. It’s just that the car suited the track.
“It was a fantastic race and when you have a dream about how a race should be, that is exactly what you wish for. All in all it was fantastic.”
Alonso, meanwhile, admits the final five races have essentially become a mini-world championship.
“I think one time I will retire, maybe next time Vettel will retire, you never know, that’s motorsport,” the Ferrari ace said. “It’s five races to go, it will be like a mini championship, because we start with the same points and we need to score one more point than him in five races. So we will try to do it.”
Alonso was also critical of Raikkonen, whose front wing cut the Spaniard’s left-rear tyre as the Lotus edged up the outside of the Ferrari into the braking zone.
“I had no space on the right, I had Button I think on my left, I had Kimi… and I don’t understand why Kimi didn’t lift off or anything because there was not any room,” Alonso said of the first corner fracas.
“I don’t know what Kimi’s idea was for the first corner, but that is the way it is and this time it was bad luck for us.”
All photos copyright of Getty Images.