Formula One

 
         === Vettel trims Alonso's points lead with Japanese GP win ===
 
 Suzuka,  Japan (Sports  Network) -  Sebastian Vettel  from Red  Bull moved  to
 within  four points  of leader  Fernando Alonso  by winning  Sunday's Japanese
 Grand Prix.
 
 While  Vettel started on the pole and put on a dominating performance, leading
 from  start to  finish, Alonso from Ferrari crashed on the opening lap. Alonso
 suffered  a punctured left-rear tire and spun around in the first corner after
 Lotus'  Kimi  Raikkonen made contact  with him.  At the same time, Raikkonen's
 teammate,  Romain  Grosjean, was involved in  an incident with Red Bull's Mark
 Webber, Bruno Senna from Williams and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.
 
 The  first lap accident  led to the deployment of the safety car for two laps.
 Vettel easily pulled away from the field after the restart and then cruised to
 a  20.6 second  margin of  victory.
 
 "Since yesterday in qualifying, nothing I think could be better," Vettel said.
 "You  come across  these kinds of races or weekends very rarely. Unbelievable.
 We had a very good start."
 
 Vettel,  the two-time defending F1 world champion, scored his third win of the
 season and the 24th of his career. He won the most recent grand prix two weeks
 ago in Singapore. Vettel came to Japan 29 points behind Alonso.
 
 "In terms of the championship, this race was a big step, and it helped us, but
 we see how quickly things can change," Vettel noted.
 
 Alonso's  Ferrari  teammate, Felipe Massa,  finished second and made his first
 appearance on the podium since the Oct. 2010 Korean Grand Prix.
 
 "It's  nice," Massa said.  "It's like a relief. It was great race and was able
 to  push hard from the beginning to the end and show that we are here to fight
 for victory and for pole and not just to fight for a few points."
 
 Japan's  Kamui  Kobayashi placed third in  front of his home crowd. The Sauber
 driver  held off  McLaren's  Jenson Button  at  the finish  to  earn a  podium
 position  for the  first in  his F1  career. Kobayashi  also became  the first
 Japanese driver on the podium for this race since Aguri Suzuki did it in 1990.
 
 "Finally,  we  finish in the  points and on  the podium, and that's fantastic,
 especially in front of my home grand prix. That's amazing," Kobayashi said.
 
 While  Button  finished fourth,  his teammate, Lewis  Hamilton, took the fifth
 spot.  Raikkonen came  in sixth, followed by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and
 Pastor  Maldonado from  Williams.  Webber and  Toro  Rosso's Daniel  Ricciardo
 completed the top-10.
 
 Alonso's  misfortune in  the  Japanese GP  also  allowed Raikkonen,  Hamilton,
 Webber  and Button to gain ground in the championship points battle. Raikkonen
 is  now  37 points  behind Alonso, while  Hamilton trails by  42. Webber is 60
 markers  behind and Button 63.
 
 "It's  a  shame when you  can't even get past  the first corner," Alonso said.
 "When  you get  a (tire) puncture and  have to retire, there's nothing you can
 do. We need to keep working well and not doing mistakes."
 
 Five grand prix remain on this year's calendar, with Korean GP scheduled for
 next weekend.
 
 10/07 07:34:50 ET

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