Two-stop Sebastian is victorious in Japan

Vettel wins in Japan
Vettel wins in Japan

Sebastian Vettel just needs to finish fifth or higher at the Indian Grand Prix to win his fourth Formula 1 title in a row.

The Red Bull racer made his tyres last at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, stopping one less time than team-mate Mark Webber to win his fifth race in a row, tightening his grip on the 2013 crown.

Vettel is the only driver to have won at the Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi, India, but he isn’t taking anything for granted.

“Nothing is easy - not even P5 - and nothing comes for free,” he said. “There is always a huge amount of work involved.

“And it is never our style to say, ‘Well, let’s focus on finishing fifth.’ We always attack as much as we can - it is in the DNA of the team.”

Vettel found himself in the unusual position of third by the end of the first lap at the historic Suzuka circuit on Sunday.

A superb Mark Webber lap in qualifying prevented Vettel from taking yet another pole position, but it was fast-starting Frenchman Romain Grosjean in the Lotus who got the jump on the Tilbrook team at the start, taking the lead into the first corner.

Vettel and Webber dropped back from the Lotus to keep some life in their tyres, but neither could jump him after the first round of pit-stops.

The waiting game commenced, with the front three all waiting to see who would blink first by making an early second stop.

Webber was that man, coming in for a second time, forcing his hand in a three-stop strategy.

Grosjean was next to pit as Vettel put the hammer down to close the gap. The Frenchman though would make his tyres last until the end - a move which would cost Webber any chance of victory.

Vettel, who stopped later than the pair, carried on, opening a big gap to Grosjean behind.

His second and final stop saw him emerge with a comfortable gap back to the Lotus, meaning he could make best use of his tyres and take the chequered flag with plenty to spare.

To win the title in Japan, Vettel needed Fernando Alonso to finish ninth or lower. But the Ferrari man came home in fourth, meaning the title is still alive heading to India.

“I love this track and it’s just fantastic to win here,” Vettel said afterwards. “It was a horrible start to be honest; we found ourselves sitting in third place and then tried to go longer in the first stint.

“I had great traction after I got past Romain and after that the only threat was Mark who got stuck behind Romain. We could then manage the gap until the end of the race.

“The Championship is the big target of course, but the season is very long still and the best way to wrap it up is not to think about it.”