Sebastian Vettel, driving for Red Bull Racing, has joined an exclusive club of drivers to have won Formula One World Championships on Pirelli tires: Giuseppe Farina (1950), Alberto Ascari (1952, 1953) and Juan Manuel Fangio (1951, 1954,1957). The German also becomes the youngest double world champion in Formula One history and the ninth driver to win two titles in a row.
The Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, which has now crowned 11 world champions in the last 24 years, was won by McLaren driver Jenson Button, claiming his third victory of the season with Pirelli and bringing McLaren’s total of wins in Suzuka up to nine. The British team has reinforced its status as the most successful manufacturer on this track, while Button consolidates his second place in this year’s drivers’ championship.
Vettel needed only one point to be crowned champion for the second time. Having qualified on pole position he finished third to continue Red Bull Racing’s pattern of having at least one car on the podium at every race this year. Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was second.
With tire wear a crucial factor in Japan, due to the flowing nature of the track and high lateral loads, the top three drivers all stopped three times. Their first three stints were on the P Zero Yellow soft tire, followed by a much longer stint on the P Zero White medium tire to take advantage of the extra durability of the harder compound on a lighter fuel load.
Button used the second round of pit stops to claim the lead after Vettel pitted on lap 19. Vettel was the first driver to switch to the medium tires with a final stop on lap 33, running the harder compound for 20 laps to the finish. Four laps later Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso also pitted for the medium tire, jumping Vettel to claim the runner-up spot.
With five laps to go the top four were separated by less than six seconds, ensuring a spectacular finish to the grand prix as Alonso closed up to Button. The pair was separated by just 1.1 seconds at the finish, both on the medium tire.
As well as Button and Vettel, the other big winner from the Japanese Grand Prix was Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg. A hydraulic problem during qualifying meant that he was forced to start from last, but he used the medium tire followed by three stints on the soft tire to make up 14 places and finish 10th, claiming a point. The highest-placed drivers to use a two-stop strategy were Sauber’s Sergio Perez and Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who were eight and ninth respectively, having also started on the medium tires.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “First and foremost I’d like to congratulate Sebastian Vettel on becoming the first world champion on Pirelli tires on our return to Formula One. He’s been on unstoppable form all year and it comes as no surprise to see him achieve his second world title here today. We’d also like to congratulate Jenson Button for a well-deserved victory against very tough competition. The drivers should take all the credit today for putting on a fantastic race, but from our point of view we’re happy with the way that the tires stood up to an extremely demanding circuit, with two to three pit stops as we expected and degradation within the usual limits.”
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