Vettel still has shot at championship

Updated: October 4, 2009, 8:28 AM ET
Associated Press

SUZUKA, Japan -- Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won Formula One's Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday to revive his championship hopes.

Vettel finished ahead of Toyota's Jarno Trulli and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton at Suzuka.

Drivers' championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn GP was eighth, a place below teammate Rubens Barrichello. Brawn GP needs just one point in the remaining two races to clinch the constructors' championship.

Vettel
Getty ImagesRed Bull's Sebastian Vettel pulled within 16 points of Jenson Button's lead in the drivers' championship.

In the drivers' championship, Button's lead over Barrichello was cut by one point to 14, with Vettel just two points further back.

"It can still be done and it's looking much better now," Vettel said of his chances in the championship. "Shame there's only two races to go, but that's life. Anything is still possible and it can change quickly."

It was Vettel's third win of the season, and first since the British Grand Prix in June. The German started from the pole position and led from start to finish.

He had built a 12.5-second buffer over Trulli before the late emergence of the safety car following a crash by Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari.

But even after the running order was compacted, he emerged strongly when the safety car was removed, and his victory was not threatened.

Trulli started second but was overtaken into the first corner by Hamilton, with the aid of the KERS-power boost in his McLaren.

But Trulli stayed behind Hamilton and after his second pit stop, emerged in front of the McLaren, which had lost a malfunctioning KERS system shortly beforehand.

The Italian was auditioning for a new employer in 2010 after Toyota told him he was free to look for a new team.

Toyota has finished second in successive races, but still has not broken through for its first F1 win.

Button's eighth-place finish was threatened in the four-lap dash to the finish after the safety car went in, but he defended well to hold off BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.

Button has not won in eight races, but has collected points in each and still remains in a strong position to clinch the drivers' title in either Brazil or the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Still, the Briton will be mindful that Hamilton led by 17 points with two races to go in 2007 and still did not take the title.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished in fourth place, ahead of Williams' Nico Rosberg and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld in a race of little incident following a chaotic Saturday qualifying.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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