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By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter

Race winner Sebastian Vettel (on the left) celebrates with third placer Lewis Hamilton (on the right) on the podium, photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images.
Race winner Sebastian Vettel (on the left) celebrates with third placer Lewis Hamilton (on the right) on the podium, photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images.

RIO DE JANEIRO – German driver Sebastian Vettel of the Red Bull Racing Team won last Sunday’s Japanese GP in Suzuka. He started the race in pole position and clocked up lap after lap without losing the lead.

Completing the podium along with him were Italian driver Jarno Trulli, of Toyota, who finished second, and Lewis Hamilton, of McLaren, in third. Brazilian Rubens Barrichello finished in seventh, while his teammate and championship rival Jenson Button ended up in the eighth position.

Vettel claimed the pole during the chaotic Saturday qualifying, in which several accidents took place. Both the Team Toro Rosso drivers (Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari) crashed, just as did Toyota’s Timo Glock and McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen.

Brawn GP drivers Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button were penalized during the qualifying, as they didn’t slow down when the yellow flag was up (commanding them to do so, as there could be debris on the track). They ended the qualifying on fifth and seventh position, respectively, but after suffering the penalty, they dropped down to the sixth and tenth positions.

In the struggle over the championship, Button kept a comfortable advantage over his main rival, Barrichello, who took only one point from his lead in Suzuka. Now, with only two more races to go (Brazil GP on October 18 and the United Arab Emirates GP on November first), Button has eighty-five points, while Barrichello has seventy-one.

In order to win the championship, Barrichello must achieve two good results in São Paulo and Abu Dhabi, while his teammate must score few or no points.”The most important thing is that I gained a point on Jenson this weekend,” said Barrichello. “I’m looking forward to my home race in São Paulo in two weeks. The Brazilian Grand Prix is always a very special occasion for me and I’ll be giving it my all there to do as well as possible for the championship.”

Rubens Barrichello leading teammate and championship rival Jenson Button in the Suzuka Circuit, photo by Brawn GP.
Rubens Barrichello leading teammate and championship rival Jenson Button in the Suzuka Circuit, photo by Brawn GP.

Vettel’s victory in Suzuka, along with Button’s eighth place result gave the young German driver a tiny but real championship shot. Vettel has now sixty-nine points, and a very small chance of winning, but he said nothing is impossible, mentioning the dramatic end of the 2007 season.

In that year, Ferrari driver Kimi Raikonnen, in order to claim the championship, had to win the last race of the season, while his title rival Lewis Hamilton had to finish seventh or lower. That unlikely combination of results came true and the Finnish driver won the championship by only one point.

Button said he was calm and confident. “I only lost one point to Rubens today, which is my main priority. Obviously we lost a few points to Sebastian but we were expecting them to be strong here.”, he said. “We go to two circuits now which should suit our car so I’m excited about the end of the season and already looking forward to the next race in Brazil.”

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