Vettel crowned Champion, but Jenson cracks Japan
Sebastian Vettel has become the sport’s youngest ever double World Champion after finishing third in the 2011 Japanese Grand Prix.
The German needed just a single point to claim his second successive title, but finished on the podium’s third step after a race in which Red Bull opted to play for points rather than the win.
‘Phenomenal. To win the championship here is fantastic,’ said Vettel, choking up slightly in the post-race conference.
‘There are so many things you want to say in this moment, but it’s hard to remember all of them.
‘We found ourselves in a very, very strong position [this season], and it’s great to achieve the goal that we set ourselves.
‘This year we’ve always been one step ahead. I’m so thankful to everyone in the team.’
The reigning Constructors’ Champion failed to hit its stride all weekend, despite the team being a dominant force around Suzuka over the past two years.
Vettel had to fend off a fast-starting Jenson Button as the lights went out, but the RBR7’s expected advantage was nullified by a major upgrade brought to the rack by McLaren.
Jenson Button wins in Japan
Button followed Vettel for the first 20 laps of the race, his smooth driving style allowing him to preserve his tyres for an extra lap against the then Champion in waiting.
By the second stop on lap 22, his strategy had paid off, slipping out of the pits ahead of Vettel, and set to lead the race to the finish.
‘This circuit is very special to all of us. We love this place, so to get a victory here in front of an amazing Japanese crowd really does mean a lot,’ said Button, who calls Japan his ‘second home’.
‘It’s been a very tough year for Japan, so this is a very special race in front of very special crowds.’
Neither Vettel nor teammate Mark Webber seemed able to extract the regular pace expected from the RBR7, with Ferrari also able to mix in towards the top of the grid.
By the final round of pit stops, even Fernando Alonso managed to find himself ahead of Vettel – at which point Red Bull suggested that the German play for points and bring his home safely in P3, rather than risk an accident.
‘First of all, congratulations to Sebastian,’ started the second placed Alonso.
‘It was a fun race from the start. The strategy was quite important with a lot of tyre degradation.’
‘We had the pace today to fight with McLaren and Red Bull.
‘The podium means a lot to the team.’
Webber was similarly ordered not to attack Vettel in the final ten laps when the Australian looked to finally find some pace. He brought the sister Red Bull home in fourth.
Lewis Hamilton came home in fifth after tyre puncture on lap nine forced him to make his first pit stop early.
Hamilton then suffered with unusually high tyre degradation for the rest of the afternoon, spending the race hovering just outside the top five.
Michael Schumacher recovered from his disastrous race in Singapore to finish a solid sixth for Mercedes.
Schumacher ended the Japanese Grrand Prix with the title of oldest man to ever lead a race after he was left at the head of the field during the final round of pit stops.
Felipe Massa came home in seventh, despite starting from P4 o nthe grid, ahead of his teammate.
Another incident with Hamilton – now a recurring theme – resulted in him losing bits of his front wing on the way down to the triangle chicane.
The race stewards deliberated on a penalty for Hamilton for forcing Massa off the circuit, but took no action on the matter.
Sergio Perez led home Vitaly Petrov after another textbook example of tyre preservation, with the Mexican making only two stops – one fewer than each car ahead of him.
Nico Rosberg rounded out the top ten, making up 13 places throughout the race. Rosberg failed to take part in qualifying after an hydraulic problem incapacitated his car.