F1 Suzuka: 2009 Japanese GP Race Results and Full Race Report: Vettel Dominates, Keeps Championship Alive

What Happens When the Weekend Known for Crashes Involves Only One During the Race

2:42am EST —Sebastian Vettel won the 2009 Japanese GP at Suzuka in stunning style, with a large lead over the rest of the field only diminished by a late safety car caused by Jaime Alguersuari.  Vettel forced the championship race to move to the next round in Brazil, and kept his own title hopes alive.  Jarno Trulli was second, holding off Lewis Hamilton, who finished third, with a fast second stop by his Toyota mechanics.  Championship leader Jenson Button finished eighth, just behind teammate Rubens Barrichello who finished seventh.  With those positions, BrawnGP was unable to clinch the constructor’s championship.

With red flags in all three sessions of qualifying, penalties abounding amongst drivers, and a provisional starting grid not released until Sunday morning local time, there was nearly more drama leading up to 2009 Japanese GP at Suzuka than was expected for the race.  Sebastian Vettel and Jarno Trulli made up the front row, with Trulli’s Toyota the only one on the grid, as Timo Glock was too injured (with a 5cm cut on his leg and back pain) from a qualifying shunt and the reserve driver was not approved to start the race.  Lewis Hamilton and Nick Heidfeld made up the second row, while Kimi Raikkonen began the race fifth on the grid.  Points leader Jenson Button started tenth, while teammate Rubens Barrichello started sixth. On the grid, a Ferrari team member showed SPEEDtv commentator Peter Windsor a written request for Felipe Massa to participate in a private test (a la Michael Schumacher) this season before returning to the cockpit next season.  Interestingly enough, the team member did not speak a word, merely showing the request to Windsor and the camera.

The Japanese GP started on a clear, hot, and sunny Sunday at Suzuka, with yellow flags waved for Buemi’s stall when the lights went out, and Vettel leading into the first turn, even as Hamilton attempted to take him on the outside leading into the turn.  Vettel immediately drew out a considerable gap back to Hamilton, despite not being terribly light on fuel.  On L2 (without finishing the first lap on-track), Webber was back in the pits to take off the soft tires and re-fuel, attempting a sneaky race strategy after starting in the pit lane.  After two full laps, Vettel had a near two second gap over second place Hamilton.  Trulli remained third, with Heidfeld just behind in fourth.  L3 had Webber back into the pits, with adjustments to the foam driver surround after re-building the car Saturday.

L4 had Button re-gaining his starting place on Robert Kubica and returning to tenth position.  L5 had Mark Webber in for the third time, and likely thankful that his title dreams were already dashed last weekend with the bad weekend he’d been having.  L6 had the gap between Vettel and Hamilton growing to two and a half seconds.  Barrichello remained a second behind Kimi Raikkonen (fifth and sixth), despite being faster.  Button and Adrian Sutil were even closer together in ninth and tenth (and Sutil close to Heikki Kovalainen in eighth), with Button behind and desperately needing a points finish for the championship.  By L8, Vettel was 3.3 seconds over Hamilton, with Vettel having an extra lap’s worth of fuel on-board.

The laps before the pit stops continued with Vettel leading Hamilton, with a lead growing every sector and lap.  Hamilton was on the softer (and more difficult to manage) tire.  Button, meanwhile, “didn’t have the pace of Sutil on the straight,” according to his radio conversation with the team.  On L12 Sebastien Buemi went into the pits, and straight to a garage.  Sutil, meanwhile, was harrowing Kovalainen for eighth, while both pulled away from Button, with a 1.2 second gap on the Briton on L12.  At L14, Sutil nearly made it around Kovalainen, but for the fact that neither gave the other quite enough room, and Kovalainen spun Sutil with no damage to either car.  Button made it around both as Sutil turned his car the right way around, losing position to Kubica and Fisichella as well (also the position he nearly had on Kovalainen.

L15 had Hamilton in for his first stop, two laps earlier than projected.  He switched to the harder tire, pretty much confirming the possible graining of the soft tire.  Hamilton returned to the circuit in eighth, just behind Rosberg.  Sutil also pitted and removed the soft tire, just before Trulli pitted also on L17.  Trulli rejoined in seventh, just ahead of Button and behind Hamilton.  At the front, Vettel continued his fast laps.  Button pitted on L18 as did Kubica and Fisichella.  Button rejoined in sixteenth.  Vettel pitted on L19 and had to wait a moment as the pit lane became a scrum of drivers.

After the first pit stops were sorted amongst most of the field, Vettel lead Rosberg (likely on a one-stopper), Hamilton, Trulli, and Heidfeld as the top five on L20.  Barrichello and Button were in ninth and fourteenth, respectively, both having made his first stop.  Rosberg was less than a second behind Vettel, while Hamilton was 3.8 behind the leader. Rosberg came in early on L23 and kept the hard tires, meaning a two-stop strategy, and returned to the circuit in P9, just ahead of teammate Kazuki Nakajima and behind Barrichello.  Kovalainen pitted on L25 and re-joined in thirteenth.  Meanwhile, the McLaren team was informing Hamilton (in second) that he needed a three second gap to third-place Trulli by the next stop, when he only had a 2.3 second gap. The gap actually increased on the next lap.

At the halfway point of the 53 lap race, Vettel lead Hamilton, Trulli, Heidfeld, and Raikkonen.  Championship leader Button was in twelfth and scoring no points while teammate and title challenger (the third-place championship man was running away with the race in the lead) Barrichello was in sixth.  Vettel sets new fast lap on L30, bringing the gap to Hamilton up to six seconds.  Alonso pitted on L31 for his only stop as he switched to soft tires; he rejoined in fourteenth.

Meanwhile, American SPEEDtv coverage informs viewers that Nelson Piquet, Jr. is off to North Carolina for a seat-fitting and testing in the NASCAR truck series, with a mention that he would then be closer to USF1 headquarters.  USF1 team principal (and current SPEED grid reporter) Peter Windsor mocks Piquet’s bad performance and crashing record (both deliberate and accidental), suggesting that there will be no USF1 ride for the Brazilian in 2010.

L34 brought a fast lap from fifth-place Raikkonen, with a conversation with the engineers suggesting he ought be able to catch and take third-place Nick Heidfeld for the podium in the pit stops.  Raikkonen made his second stop on L36, keeping soft tires on the car, and rejoined in P8 between Button and Kubica.  The second set of stops for a good portion of the field began.  Heidfeld stopped on L37, had an issue with the right wheel, and returned in eighth behind Raikkonen.  Hamilton came in on L38 from second, had a very fast stop, and rejoined in third, ahead of Barrichello, who still had to stop.  Trulli stopped from second on L39, switched to the soft tire, and rejoined ahead of Hamilton in P2 giving Toyota a reason to celebrate in the garage.  Leader Vettel pitted (and remained in the lead) just as Kovalainen and Fisichella dice after their own stops.  L43 brought yet another fast lap from Vettel, even as he had nearly a twelve second lead over Trulli in second, and was on a quite used engine.  Barrichello pitted on that lap, and rejoined ahead of teammate Button in seventh.

L45 brought out the safety car with eight laps to go, after Jaime Alguersuari went directly into a bit of ING signage and the tire barrier after losing the back end of the car.  He was unhurt.  Rosberg pitted and rejoined in fifth.  Under the SC, Vettel lead Trulli, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Button, Kubica, and Alonso as the top ten.  Typically, Hamilton would be able to use the KERS system at the restart, but for the second race in a row, the system was malfunctioning.  Webber took the SC opportunity to pit for the fifth time.

L49 saw the safety car back in, with a four-lap sprint to the end.  Lapped cars, however, made a bit of space between the leaders. Vettel made a good start, as did Trulli; Raikkonen took a look at Hamilton, though did not make the pass.  Button attempted to pass Barrichello nearing the end of the lap, but did not manage, even as Kubica was directly behind Button, attacking all through the final laps.  on L50, Webber posted the fastest lap of the race, in last place.

Button’s lead in the championship dropped to fourteen points over teammate Barrichello and sixteen points over Vettel in third, with one point between Barrichello and Vettel.

Final Positions for the 2009 Japanese GP (+ Points Scored):
1. Vettel (+10)
2. Trulli (+8)
3. Hamilton (+6)
4. Raikkonen (+5)
5. Rosberg (+4)
6. Heidfeld (+3)
7. Barrichello (+2)
8. Button (+1)
9. Kubica
10. Alonso
11. Kovalainen
12. Fisichella
13. Sutil
14. Liuzzi
15. Nakajima
16. Grosjean
17. Webber

Driver’s Standings (those still alive in the championship) After the Japanese GP:
1. Jenson Button 85
2. Rubens Barrichello 71 (-14)
3. Sebastian Vettel 69 (-16)

Constructor’s Standings:
1. BrawnGP 156
2. Red Bull 120.5
3. Ferrari 67
4. McLaren 65
5. Toyota 54.5
6. Williams 34.5
7. Renault 26
8. BMW-Sauber 24
9. Force India 13
10. Toro Rosso 5



  1. the formula 1 association must get strict on drivers.there are some drivers who ar not formula 1 material.they ar cheapening the status that comes with being an f1 driver.some of these guys never pass qualifying.it does not make sense for a driver to finish the whole season without scoring a single point.some drivers are better known for crashing.even under no challenge,they still shunt.some simply mess up other drivers by ramming into them.bottom line is there are drivers who do not meet the talent to be an f1 driver.the FIA must introduce a system were a driver needs to pass certain stages before being admitted into f1

  2. hello,

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