Going into the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend it appeared as though it would require only a steady performance from Fernando Alonso to maintain his position at the top of the championship. Unfortunately for Alonso, there are some things in Formula 1 that are unavoidable, and this would be the second weekend of the year where he was to meet such a situation.
The first corner of the first lap can often rival the rest of the race combined when it comes to dramatic moments and this particular Sunday was to offer numerous examples of why this is the case. Three cars left the track with just seconds gone in the race, the first of which was Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.
While it appears increasingly unlikely that his car has what it takes to mount a title challenge, Kimi Raikkonen had a significant influence in determining the winner of the championship when he came into contact with Alonso’s rear, causing a puncture which resulted in Alonso losing control and spinning off and then back into the middle of the track.
Both Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber soon followed with Romain Grosjean once again the centre of attention due to his culpability in removing Webber from the track. As the cars ahead slowed going into the corner, Grosjean failed to adequately do the same and ran into the Australian’s right rear tyre, turning him sideways. The two cars were briefly conjoined with Webber having to leave the track in order to free himself. Impressively, he managed to return to the race and moved up the field to finish in a respectable 8th position, not without a few choice words for Grosjean after the race – calling the Frenchman a ‘first lap nutcase’ and ‘embarassing’.
For Alonso however, there was no such revival. His retirement was immediate and, following a clean-up of the track and the introduction of the safety car, it was Sebastian Vettel who led the race.
It was a lead that would remain unchanged and, barring a brief challenge from Felipe Massa, it was to be a comfortable victory for Vettel. In doing so, he became the first driver to win two consecutive races this year. Massa went on to finish the race in second position, his first podium since 2010, with Kamui Kobayashi in third celebrating his first podium in 70 races in front of his home fans.
With just five races remaining in the 2012 season, and with only 4 points separating Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, it remains a distinct possibility that a champion may not be crowned until the final race in Brazil. If Vettel is to take it, he would become only the third driver in Formula 1 history to win three consecutive championships.