• Japanese Grand Prix

Driver-by-driver run down

Chris Medland and Laurence Edmondson
October 9, 2011
Sebastian Vettel secured back-to-back championships with third place © Getty Images

Jenson Button - 1st Having looked so strong all weekend, Button delivered with a measured race. Unhappy with Vettel's manoeuvre off the line, he reeled the Red Bull in at the end of each stint as his renowned ability to look after his tyres came to the fore. He was calm when leading, and showed raw pace to pull a gap after the safety car period, keeping just enough in hand when he needed it most to snuff out the challenge of Alonso.

Fernando Alonso - 2nd Alonso was a kind of silent assassin in this race. Having qualified fifth he found himself third by the end of the first stint, but still wasn't drawing serious attention as Button and Vettel traded lap times. He never fell away though, constantly having the quicker car on ageing tyres, to the extent that he stayed out three laps longer after Vettel's final stop. After holding of Vettel for a number of laps he was still alert to every possibility and almost snatched victory late on.

Sebastian Vettel - 3rd For the first time we saw his conservative side, but not until very late in the race. As aggressive as ever off the line, he struggled to look after his soft tyres and was always the first to pit. Unhappy to lose out to Alonso after the final stop he pushed hard for a few laps, before finally heeding the advice of his team and cruising home for his second world title with what was remarkably his second worst result of the season.

Mark Webber - 4th Didn't enjoy the greatest start but it was much improved on his recent efforts and allowed him to hold station behind the Ferraris. Couldn't find a way past either Massa or Alonso on track though, as he still seems to lack that extra edge from 2010. Took advantage of Hamilton and Massa squabbling to jump the pair in the pits, but was lucky to not suffer more damage in a clash with Schumacher. Showed the sort of pace that could have challenged for victory late on before he was called off by the team.

Lewis Hamilton - 5th Started well and looked like taking the fight to Vettel when a slow puncture halted his progress and ruined his afternoon. He was then out of sync with pit stops and had to make his second set of tyres last for a longer stint as Button's strategy took precedent. That dropped him out of the running before he collided with Massa - slightly clumsy but barely worthy of criticism, even if his excuse doesn't stand up - and only an important move on Rosberg allowed him to secure fifth.

Michael Schumacher - 6th Another strong race for Schumacher, which has become a more frequent occurrence as the season has gone on. A long second stint and even longer third on new soft tyres was key, actually putting him in the lead at one point as he appears to have mastered the Pirelli rubber. Showed immediate pace on the medium tyre too to hold of Massa at the end.

Felipe Massa - 7th Having meekly surrendered to Alonso early on, at one point it actually looked like he would have a really strong race. Struggled to pass Hamilton, although was unfortunate to sustain damage after slight contact between the pair, and then lacked the racing edge when he needed to pass Rosberg after his final stop. His inability to do so allowed Schumacher to pit and rejoin ahead, and once again he couldn't pass a Mercedes. Seems to lack fight against anyone but Hamilton.

Sergio Perez - 8th A really strong race made all the more impressive by the fact that he's suffering from flu. Starting in 17th Perez did have plenty of fresh tyres available, but once again showed his skill in making a set of medium tyres last 20 laps on heavy fuel to put himself in position to take advantage. He wasn't even helped by the safety car, but held the fastest lap at one point as he displayed raw pace on soft tyres, even closing on Massa for a few laps late in the day.

Vitaly Petrov -9th His start was crucial because he was on medium tyres and couldn't afford to lose many positions. Having held station his race was set up, although Renault went for the unusual strategy of a two-stopper with two stints on mediums. Once on the soft tyres he put good moves on Kobayashi, Sutil and di Resta to climb up in to the points.

Nico Rosberg - 10th Surprisingly only called this result "decent" having started 23rd, but his target was eighth and was achievable. The safety car played in to his hands allowing him a free pit stop, but he found himself racing with the likes of Webber, Hamilton and Massa when out of position and it left him just behind Petrov.

Adrian Sutil - 11th Was hurt by the safety car which was deployed the lap after he made his pit stop, putting him at the mercy of those on alternate strategies. Suffered with tyre wear so was unable to defend from Petrov and Rosberg on soft tyres at the end of the race.

Paul di Resta - 12th After making what was - in his own words - an "awesome" start, di Resta was also disadvantaged by the safety car. Having looked set for points all afternoon, the gap he had built up on new soft tyres was eradicated, and just like Sutil he was unable to put up much of a fight on the medium compound during the final stint.

Suzuka produced plenty of close racing throughout the field © Sutton Images

Kamui Kobayashi - 13th After such a promising qualifying session, hopes were high for the home hero but things started to go wrong right from the start. His Sauber went into anti-stall mode as he let go of the clutch and his stuttering getaway saw him drop from seventh to 12th. He attempted to make a valiant fight back, but was forced to make his second stop earlier than he would have liked when the safety car came out on lap 24. From that point onwards he had to make a set of medium tyres last 29 laps and by the end of the race there wasn't much of them left.

Pastor Maldonado - 14th The Williams has looked off the pace all weekend so 14th is pretty much the best he could have hoped for. He opted to start on the mediums and struggled for most of the first stint despite a decent battle with his team-mate. Just ten laps from the end he was back in 17th, but a strong burst of pace on soft tyres moved him up the field and he passed Alguersuari on the last lap.

Jaime Alguersuari - 15th His strategy had the potential to elevate him through the field, something which he has specialised in this season, but his inability to overtake cost him. He complained of a lack of top-end speed, which suggests the Toro Rosso was geared a bit short in seventh, and that ultimately restricted his overtaking potential.

Bruno Senna - 16th He lost out to Petrov at the start in a battle for the apex of turn one and from that point onwards was fighting a losing battle. He started on mediums, so found it hard to recover positions against the drivers on softs, and then pitted relatively early for a driver on the prime compound (lap 15). That left him fighting traffic, which is never easy at Suzuka, and while his Renault was better than at Singapore, it wasn't good enough.

Rubens Barrichello - 17th He was running as high as tenth ahead of his second pit stop, but the timing coincided with the safety car and he actually lost out. What's more he lost the advantage of his brand new set of softs behind the safety car and then went backwards in his final stint on the mediums. Not a great weekend for a driver with a shaky future.

Heikki Kovalainen -18th Finishing on the lead lap is a first for Lotus and something of a milestone - although they were helped by the timing of the safety car. Kovalainen made one of the best starts on the grid and was up to 14th by the end of lap one. From that point onwards he was always going to go backwards, but did a good job nonetheless.

Jarno Trulli - 19th He finished 8.3s off his team-mate, but considering he was using his dreaded pre-Hungary power steering system, it wasn't too bad a result. In contrast to Kovalainen, he got a bit of a sluggish getaway and then reported a suspected gearbox problem. However, the car came good and he had a decent run to the finish following the safety car.

Timo Glock - 20th He had a small foray onto the grass at the start of the race and his struggles continued when he lost 4-5 seconds at his first pit stop with a sticking wheel nut. After the safety car, however, he was back on the pace and managed to beat his team-mate d'Ambrosio to the line by 1.2s.

Jerome d'Ambrosio - 21st A reasonable performance, but considering his team-mate passed him despite all his trials and tribulations, it wasn't top drawer. The biggest confidence boost from this weekend will have been outqualifying Glock on Saturday.

Daniel Ricciardo - 22nd He's certainly made progress since his debut race at Silverstone and finishing 2.4s off the Virgins could even be considered a mini victory for an HRT druver. The safety car timing didn't help him against Glock, but he had a very solid race with no major errors and put the beleaguered Liuzzi in the shade.

Tonio Liuzzi - 23rd If proof was needed that you can't set up a Formula One car in 12 laps, Liuzzi's Japanese Grand Prix was it. After handing his car over to Narain Karthikeyan in FP1, Liuzzi suffered technical problems in FP2 and FP3 and went into qualifying and the race effectively blind. His start wasn't too bad, but it soon became clear that he couldn't match the pace of his team-mate in front as his tyres started to degrade at a shocking rate under his compromised setup. He had a quick off at one stage and in the end finished three laps down on the leaders.

Sebastien Buemi - DNF He made a lightning start and was up to ninth before his wheel came loose after his first pit stop and he was forced to retire. It could have been a great race for him and a chance to score some much-needed points, but sadly it ended in the gravel trap.