F1 2012 Japanese Grand Prix result: Hamilton fifth as Vettel wins at Suzuka
PUBLISHED: 08:36 07 October 2012 | UPDATED: 19:31 07 October 2012
FORMULA 1 ace Lewis Hamilton finished fifth in the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka as a dominant Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag from pole position.
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Merceders driver from Hertfordshire gained four places over the 53-lap race.
Red Bull’s reigning F1 world champion Vettel took a pole to flag victory to close to within four points of Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso at the top of the championship standings following back-to-back wins.
Felipe Massa was second in Japan, the Ferrari man’s first podium of the season, with home favourite Kamui Kobayashi just taking third place for Sauber ahead of the McLaren of a fast-finishing Jenson Button, with Hamilton fifth.
“Congratulations to Jenson – he drove well all weekend, and, between us, we got some decent points for the team today,” said Hamilton afterwards.
Ninth on the Suzuka Circuit grid, Hamilton avoided the chaos at the start of the race, while McLaren teammate Button jumped from eighth to third before the safety car briefly came out.
World title leader Alonso and Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg both went out on the opening lap, while Kobayashi climbed into second place in his home race.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber was also caught at the start by Romain Grosjean’s Lotus and the Aussie had to return to the pits for new tyres and rejoined near the back of the field.
Hamilton said: “I was very fortunate to stay out of trouble at the start; there were lots of cars going off the track, so I just concentrated on bringing the car through undamaged.
“I pushed as hard as I could throughout the whole race. It was a bit of a struggle in the first stint – I had a lot of understeer – but after a while the car started turning again.
“From that moment on, it felt really good, and I was able to push; but it was too late to have much of an effect on the result.”
After the first round of pitstops proper, Vettel led from Ferrari’s Massa with Kobayashi third ahead of Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton.
As the race approached half distance, Stevenage-born Hamilton found himself under pressure from Mexican Sergio Perez.
However, the Sauber man, who will replace Lewis in the McLaren seat next season, lost control as he tried to overtake on the outside at turn five on lap 19 and spun into the gravel.
The McLaren pitwall told Lewis over the team radio: “Perez has spun, the car behind is now Hulkenberg. Raikkonen in front is struggling with his tyres.
“Look after your tyres, the others will come back towards us later in the stint.”
Hamilton asked: “How are my lap times?”
The reply came: “Your pace is good. You are 0.3s faster than Raikkonen in sector 1 on this lap.
“You are 0.5s faster than Raikkonen on this lap. Keep going, it’s looking really good.”
Hamilton cut the gap to the Lotus driver to under three seconds.
He was told: “You were 0.3s faster than Jenson on the last lap. Gap to Kimi 3s and you have broken the DRS to Hulkenberg. Keep going.”
Hamilton was later informed: “You gained 0.4s on Raikkonen on the last lap. You are now 1.9s behind him.”
With his tyres going, Raikkonen entered the pits, lifting Lewis into the top five 8.6s behind Jenson.
When Hamilton pitted, he was told: “Use KERS on exit, we’ll be racing on the way out!”
Hamilton exited the pits alongside Raikkonen following his second stop, but managed to just stay ahead of the Finnish driver in seventh place.
He climbed back into fifth place once other drivers had made their second stops.
“Your pace is good; you’re pulling away from Kimi,” the McLaren pitwall said over the radio.
“Jenson is the car in front. He’s coming out of the pits now. You were the fastest car on the track last lap.
“There are 16 laps to go and Jenson is the car in front.”
Hamilton wasn’t able to catch Button, who was himself hunting down Kobayashi for the final podium place in the closing laps.