Suzuka, Japan – Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull moved to within four points of leader Fernando Alonso by winning Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
While Vettel started on the pole and put on a dominating performance, leading from start to finish, Alonso from Ferrari crashed on the opening lap. Alonso suffered a punctured left-rear tire and spun around in the first corner after Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen made contact with him. At the same time, Raikkonen's teammate, Romain Grosjean, was involved in an incident with Red Bull's Mark Webber, Bruno Senna from Williams and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.
The first lap accident led to the deployment of the safety car for two laps. Vettel easily pulled away from the field after the restart and then cruised to a 20.6 second margin of victory.
"Since yesterday in qualifying, nothing I think could be better," Vettel said. "You come across these kinds of races or weekends very rarely. Unbelievable. We had a very good start."
Vettel, the two-time defending F1 world champion, scored his third win of the season and the 24th of his career. He won the most recent grand prix two weeks ago in Singapore. Vettel came to Japan 29 points behind Alonso.
"In terms of the championship, this race was a big step, and it helped us, but we see how quickly things can change," Vettel noted.
Alonso's Ferrari teammate, Felipe Massa, finished second and made his first appearance on the podium since the Oct. 2010 Korean Grand Prix.
"It's nice," Massa said. "It's like a relief. It was great race and was able to push hard from the beginning to the end and show that we are here to fight for victory and for pole and not just to fight for a few points."
Japan's Kamui Kobayashi placed third in front of his home crowd. The Sauber driver held off McLaren's Jenson Button at the finish to earn a podium position for the first in his F1 career. Kobayashi also became the first Japanese driver on the podium for this race since Aguri Suzuki did it in 1990.
"Finally, we finish in the points and on the podium, and that's fantastic, especially in front of my home grand prix. That's amazing," Kobayashi said.
While Button finished fourth, his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, took the fifth spot. Raikkonen came in sixth, followed by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado from Williams. Webber and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo completed the top-10.
Alonso's misfortune in the Japanese GP also allowed Raikkonen, Hamilton, Webber and Button to gain ground in the championship points battle. Raikkonen is now 37 points behind Alonso, while Hamilton trails by 42. Webber is 60 markers behind and Button 63.
"It's a shame when you can't even get past the first corner," Alonso said. "When you get a (tire) puncture and have to retire, there's nothing you can do. We need to keep working well and not doing mistakes."
Five grand prix remain on this year's calendar, with Korean GP scheduled for next weekend.