Button wins in Japan as Vettel takes crown

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7 squeezes Jenson Button

Sebastian Vettel squeezes Jenson Button at the start of the Japanese GP

Oct.9 (Reuters) Red Bull‘s Sebastian Vettel became Formula One’s youngest double world champion on Sunday after finishing third in a Japanese Grand Prix won by McLaren rival Jenson Button.

Race winner Jenson Button did what he had to do in Japan

Race winner Jenson Button did what he had to do in Japan

The boyish 24-year-old German, who had started from pole position for the 12th time this season, had needed only a point at Suzuka to clinch his second successive crown with four races to spare.

Ferrari‘s Fernando Alonso, the previous youngest double world champion when he won for Renault aged 25 in 2006, was a close second on a beautiful sunlit afternoon at the Honda-owned circuit.

“Thank you so much, every single one,” said Vettel, his voice trembling with emotion as he choked back the tears behind his visor, over the team radio after being told he was the 2011 world champion.

“We took nothing for granted and we did it.”

Vettel, only the ninth driver to take back-to-back championships, had vowed to retain the title in style and his aggression and determination was evident from the start as he cut across Button and forced the Briton onto the grass.

“He’s got to get a penalty for that,” Button shouted over the radio but stewards, who included Australia’s 1980 champion Alan Jones, decided to take no further action after reviewing the incident.

Vettel pulled away initially at a second a lap but 2009 champion Button reined him in and took the lead at his second pitstop when he emerged just ahead of the German in a race dictated by tyre wear.

A safety car incident triggered by another coming together between McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, as well as a contact between Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Mercedes‘ Michael Schumacher, bunched up the field for three laps while marshals retrieved debris.

Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/26 celebrates past the team at the end of the race.

Race winner Jenson Button crosses the finish line at Suzuka

Button kept his lead and took the chequered flag for what he considers a second home race, thanks to his Japanese girlfriend and long-standing passion for the country, just 1.1 seconds over Alonso.

The Spaniard had threatened to take the win but Button had just enough in his tyres to keep him at bay. Vettel was only 0.8 further back.

The win cut Vettel’s overall lead over the Briton to 114 points, an insurmountable advantage with a total of 100 left to be won.

Hamilton, who has had numerous calls to the authorities this season, finished fifth after stewards took no further action for the incident with Massa that ripped off the Ferrari’s front wing end-plate.

Australian Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull. Schumacher, who briefly led the race during the pitstops, was sixth and Massa seventh.

Sunday, 9 October – Race Result

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time Grid Pts
1 4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 53 Winner 2 25
2 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 53 +1.1 secs 5 18
3 1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 53 +2.0 secs 1 15
4 2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 53 +8.0 secs 6 12
5 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 53 +24.2 secs 3 10
6 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 53 +27.1 secs 8 8
7 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 53 +28.2 secs 4 6
8 17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 53 +39.3 secs 17 4
9 10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 53 +42.6 secs 10 2
10 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 53 +44.3 secs 23 1
11 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 53 +54.4 secs 11
12 15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 53 +62.3 secs 12
13 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 53 +63.7 secs 7
14 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 53 +64.1 secs 14
15 19 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 53 +66.6 secs 16
16 9 Bruno Senna Renault 53 +72.6 secs 9
17 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 53 +74.1 secs 13
18 20 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 53 +87.8 secs 18
19 21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 53 +96.1 secs 19
20 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 51 +2 Laps 21
21 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 51 +2 Laps 20
22 22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 51 +2 Laps 22
23 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 50 +3 Laps 24
Ret 18 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 11 +42 Laps 15

Note – Kobayashi promoted to seventh from 10th on the grid. Although, like Schumacher, Senna and Petrov, he failed to set a Q3 time he did start a lap and is therefore positioned ahead of the other three on the grid.