For the first time in his great career Sebastian Vettel has won five straight Grand Prix races. He accomplished the feat on Sunday at the Japanese Grand Prix where he won for the fourth time in the last five seasons at Suzuka Circuitland.
Vettel's Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber seemed to have the better car and was in position to win but the team called for a three stop strategy for Webber and two stop for Vettel. That call gave the win to Vettel and Webber had to settle for second.
It was the ninth win in the 15 races this season for Vettel and the 35th of his Formula 1 career.
Mark Webber started from the pole with Vettel alongside on the front row of the grid. Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean started in the second row and it was Grosjean who got a dynamic start in his Lotus. He screamed up the inside and grabbed the lead entering Turn 1.
Heading into Turn 1 things got tight between Webber, Hamilton, and Vettel. Hamilton's right rear tire clipped the front wing of Vettel's car which cut Hamilton's tire and sent him for a wild ride into the turn. Hamilton limped back around and changed the tire at the completion of lap 1. He would retire his car on lap 9 due to rear brake issues which most likely occurred during the contact and resulting flat.
Also in Turn 1 on lap 1 Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi made contact at the back of the pack and both went flying into the sand trap. Both cars were retired from the race.
As things settled out it was Grosjean in the lead and by lap 10 of 53 he had opened a 2.2 second lead over Webber. Vettel was 4.2 seconds back in third. Webber pitted from second on lap 11 and Grosjean gave up the lead on lap 12 but was able to stay in front of Webber. Vettel made his first stop on lap 14 and came out third behind Grosjean and Webber. Nico Rosberg was fourth but on his stop made an unsafe release when he cut off Sergio Perez. He was forced to make a pass through penalty.
The action deeper in the pack was intense and on lap 22 Esteban Gutierrez made contact with Felipe Massa while trying to make a pass. Kimi Raikkonen took advantage and got past Gutierrez.
On lap 25 Webber had cut Grosjean's lead to less than a second but was called to pit road by his team. It seemed early to make his second stop but he obeyed the orders. Grosjean pitted on lap 29 from the lead and when he did he came out well behind Webber. Meanwhile Vettel stretched his run longer.
Felipe Massa speed on pit road during his second stop and was forced to do a pass through penalty.
Vettel made his second and final stop on lap 38 and came out of the pits in third place behind Webber and Grosjean. It looked as if Webber could just stay out and take the win even on old tires because he had a 14 second lead on Grosjean and 15 on Vettel on lap 40. Vettel made quick work of Grosjean and got by the Lotus driver on lap 41.
Red Bull pulled Webber into the pits for a third time on lap 42 and when he came out he was third about eight seconds behind Vettel and three behind Grosjean. He quickly ran down Grosjean but passing him was another story. Finally on lap 52 of 53 Webber made the pass into Turn 1 for second.
It was too late for Webber to do anything with Vettel and the three-time defending champion won by a 7.1 second margin over Webber. Romain Grosjean joined them on the podium in third.
Finishing fourth was Fernando Alonso for Ferrari and he kept the 2013 championship alive for another week. Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth for Lotus. Sauber had both their drivers finish in the points with Nico Hulkenberg sixth and Esteban Gutierrez seventh. Gutierrez scored six points for that finish which are his first World Championship points in his rookie season. Nico Rosberg finished eighth for Mercedes, Jenson Button was ninth for McLaren, and Felipe Massa was tenth for Ferrari.
Vettel leads the points by 90 over Alonso with four races left in the season. He is all but assured of his fourth straight title. Raikkonen is third in points, Hamilton fourth, and Webber fifth.
In the constructor standings Red Bull holds a huge lead by 148 points over Ferrari in second. Mercedes is only 10 points behind Ferrari and Lotus is another 23 behind in fourth.
Formula 1 has an off weekend next before heading to the Indian Grand Prix from October 25-27.
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