Vettel, who has now won seven of the last nine Formula One races, only needs a top five finish to clinch the 2013 drivers’ title at the Indian Grand Prix at the end of the month.
The German crossed the chequered flag over seven seconds ahead of fellow Red Bull driver Mark Webber yesterday, while Romain Grosjean continued his excellent recent form to finish third. Alonso came in fourth, while Britain’s Lewis Hamilton was forced into his first retirement of the year after being clipped early on by Vettel.
“Even if Vettel doesn’t finish all of the races, I need to win nearly all [of them], so it’s a matter of time,” Alonso said, adding that he is proud to have become the highest points scorer in F1 history.
“It’s a happy day. I know the points system changed, but when someone overtakes me in the points no one will remember the points system change.”
Alonso repeated his usual quick start yesterday, moving up two places from eighth on the grid, but all eyes were on Grosjean who propelled his Lotus past both Red Bulls and led from the first corner. Hamilton also attacked the Red Bulls yet his rear-right tyre suffered a puncture after it was clipped by Vettel’s front wing.
Yet Vettel was ahead by lap 40, taking advantage of Webber’s three-stop strategy while using fresher tyres to overtake Grosjean. “It looks very good at this stage but it’s not over until it’s over,” Vettel said of the championship.
He leads Alonso by 90 points, with four races remaining in the calendar.
A one-minute silence was held by F1’s leading figures yesterday to honour Maria De Villota, the former test driver who died last week.
RESULT, STANDINGS AND CALENDAR
Japanese Grand Prix
1. S Vettel (Red Bull) 1hr, 26m, 49s
2. M Webber (Red Bull) 1hr, 26m, 56s
3. R Grosjean (Lotus) 1hr, 26m, 59s
1. S Vettel (Red Bull) 297 points
2. F Alonso (Ferrari) 207 pts
3. K Raikkonen (Lotus) 177 pts
4. L Hamilton (Mercedes) 161 pts
1. Red Bull (Renault engine) – 445 points
2. Ferrari – 297 points
3. Mercedes – 287 points
Remaining races in 2013
Indian Grand Prix – 27 October
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – 3 November
US Grand Prix – 17 November
Brazilian Grand Prix – 24 November