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Vettel wins in Japan to close up on championship leader Alonso

updated 1:56 PM EDT, Sun October 7, 2012
Sebastian Vettel drove his Red Bull to a commanding victory at Suzuka to boost his title hopes.
Sebastian Vettel drove his Red Bull to a commanding victory at Suzuka to boost his title hopes.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sebastian Vettel wins Japanese Grand Prix from pole position
  • German cuts title gap on Fernando Alonso to four points
  • Alonso eliminated in first corner incident at Suzuka
  • Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi second and third

(CNN) -- Sebastian Vettel boosted his hopes of a third straight world championship title with a commanding drive from pole to win the Japanese Grand Prix Sunday.

Felipe Massa of Brazil finished a distant second in his Ferrari with Kamui Kobayashi sending the home crowd at Suzuka into a frenzy by taking third place.

Red Bull's Vettel made a clean start to avoid the first corner chaos which saw championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari spin out of the race after being clipped by Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus.

His second straight victory has seen him close to within four points of Spaniard Alonso in the standings with five rounds remaining.

Fernando Alonso recovers from car crash

Massa, under pressure for his place at Ferrari, took advantage of the crash and the ensuing safety car to move through the field with a superb drive, while Kobayashi became the first Japanese driver since 1990 to claim a podium in their home grand prix.

He was pushed all the way by Jenson Button, whose McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton finished fifth to move to within 42 points of Alonso.

Germany's Vettel had dominated practice and qualifying, with his teammate Mark Webber also starting on the front row to underline the pace of the Red Bull car.

Webber was tagged from behind by Romain Grosjean of Lotus on the first lap to end his victory hopes, but he worked his way through the field to finish ninth.

Grosjean had to serve a 10-second penalty meted out by stewards.

When you dream at night you dream about being able to drive a car like that
Sebastian Vettel

The Frenchman sat out the Italian Grand Pix after being given a one-race ban for a similar incident at the Belgian Grand Prix where Alonso and Hamilton were the principal victims.

His teammate Raikkonen finished sixth with Nico Hulkenberg of Force India in seventh.

Pastor Maldonado of Williams held off Webber for eighth with Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso in the final points scoring position.

Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, who started at the back of the grid, worked his way through to 11th in his final Japanese GP before going into retirement for the second time at the end of the season.

Vettel, who won by nearly 20 seconds, said he did not realize Alonso was out until halfway through the race.

He was full of praise for his team, who have given him a very competitive car for the closing races of the season.

"The guys have pushed so hard over the last couple of months and when you dream at night you dream about being able to drive a car like that.

"I was enjoying every lap, which I think was why we had such a big gap to the others and I am very happy," he told the post-race press conference.

It was his 24th career victory in Formula One while Massa was on the podium for the first time since the 2010 Korean Grand Prix.

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