The Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit has special meaning to many hardcore F1 fans and drivers alike. Suzuka was the stage in which Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost had their battles for the championship. To win where Senna decided his titles is a big freaking deal and something that is not lost on any F1 driver to this day. Beyond that several drivers at the top of the points battle had specific missions to accomplish. Following a third place performance in Singapore, Fernando Alonso needed to step his game up to keep Sebastian Vettel from chipping away at his points cushion even more. With a win in Singapore, Vettel smelled blood and he needed to really attack Japan to put even more pressure on Fernando Alonso. Lewis Hamilton needed a good performance to give people something else to talk about besides his departure from McLaren at the end of the year to go to Mercedes GP. Felipe Massa just needed to not screw up since his job at Ferrari is hanging in the balance. Finally, there was Kamui Kobayahsi who was hunting for a good performance in front of his home country.
So, how did it all play out?
Well Sebastian Vettel came into the race with a leg up after capturing pole position on Saturday. On Sunday when the lights went out, a funnel cluster into turn one claimed several victims. Most notably Fernando Alonso! Felipe Massa was able to fight through the mess and chase Vettel for the rest of the race. Meanwhile, young Kobayashi managed to run up front in third place. He did not quite have what he needed to bring the fight to Massa but for the most part he held his position. At the end of the race he faced some serious contention from Jenson Button but managed to hold him off. In the end Sebastian Vettel won the race (also had fastest lap), Felipe Massa gave himself some extra job security by finishing second, and Kamui Kobayashi became a part of history by being only the third Japanese driver to podium in F1, the second Japanese driver to podium in Japan, and also earned his first personal podium ever!
Meanwhile back at the points. Due to Vettel’s win and Fernando’s DNF, the Ferrari driver is now only 4 points ahead of the young German two-time champ with only 5 races to go. Sebastian is the first driver to get back-to-back victories this year. If this is a start of a trend it can mean serious trouble for Fernando Alonso’s championship hopes. Up next is the Korean GP and I predict that Fernando will probably give us one of his best performances ever to make sure he stays ahead in the points battle.
For a full Japanese GP post-race wrap up check out the SPEED trio’s results roundtable.
[Photo: SPEED/Clive Rose/Getty Images]