Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the Japanese Grand Prix yesterday but will have to wait to seal a fourth-straight Formula One title as nearest rival Fernando Alonso finished fourth.
Vettel surged into the lead on the 41st lap and led a Red Bull one-two ahead of teammate Mark Webber by 7.1 seconds. Webber, who started from pole position, passed Lotus' Romain Grosjean on the penultimate lap. Grosjean led much of the race but could not take his maiden F1 victory and finished third.
Vettel managed the rare feat of a fifth-straight race win and leads the championship by 90 points from Alonso with four races remaining. The last driver to win five races in a row was Michael Schumacher in 2004.
Grosjean, who started on the second row, grabbed the lead at the first turn and held it until the 29th lap when he went into the pits for the second time to change tires. Vettel took the lead and waited for his final pit stop on lap 37.
With fresh hard tires, Vettel blasted past Grosjean on lap 41 to take the lead for good.
It was Vettel's fourth win in the past five races at Suzuka. He got off to a rough start when he clipped Lewis Hamilton's right rear tire before Turn 1, forcing the Mercedes driver to retire after the ninth lap due to a puncture and associated damage.
Grosjean was bidding to become the first French driver to win a Grand Prix since Olivier Panis at Monaco in 1996.
Lewis Hamilton was withdrawn from the race after puncturing a tyre in a collision with runaway championship leader Vettel.
Hamilton's Mercedes seemed to only brush tyres with the Red Bull of Vettel as he tried to force his way through on the first lap but it soon became clear the damage to his car was significant.
The Britain plunged to the back of the field and was called in for an early pit-stop before eventually having to call it a day on lap nine.
"I had the best start I have had all year - such a good feeling, so really disappointed but that's life."
1. Sebastian Vettel (GER/RBR) 1hr 26min 49.301sec
2. Mark Webber (AUS/RBR) +7.129
3. Romain Grosjean (FRA/LOT) 9.910
4. Fernando Alonso (ESP/FER) 45.605
5. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/LOT) 47.325
6. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/SAU) 51.615
7. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX/SAU) 1min 11.630