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Sebastian Vettel Perfects Japanese Grand Prix

Red Bull pilot takes pole, fastest lap and win in dominating show, catapulting himself to within four points of the 2012 Drivers Championship and extending his lead in the race for the 2012 DHL Fastest Lap.

The sun was shining brightly on Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel last Sunday in Suzuka, where the reigning Drivers Champion scored the second perfect score of his Formula 1™ career and pulled dangerously close to current championship leader, Fernando Alonso of Team Ferrari. After taking the pole position Saturday afternoon, Vettel went on to pilot a dominating race, leading every lap and driving the Fastest Lap to grab the checkered flag way out ahead of the competition.

Vettel appeared to be in a class of his own the entire race. By Lap 10, he had opened up a 6.2 second lead over Kamui Kobayashi of Team Sauber, who piloted a superb race of his own, eventually scoring his first podium finish in front of a thrilled home crowd.

By Lap 20, Vettel had widened the gap to ten seconds. It took a series of fastest laps by Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, who had leapfrogged into second place over McLaren’s Jensen Button and Kobayashi after a timely pit at the end of Lap 18, to reduce that gap to less than ten seconds. An exciting but a short-lived success for Ferrari’s number two.

By Lap 38, the German had a monster 18-second lead. To fans' delight, that didn’t keep him off the throttle. In a variety one can now only call vintage Vettel, the reigning world champ and relentless crowd pleaser repeatedly pushed his car to the limit to drive fastest laps.

In the final stages of the race the Vettel show climaxed on Lap 52 with the day’s DHL Fastest Lap. After nearly two hours behind the wheel, Vettel navigated the historic 5.8 km Suzuko figure eight in 1min 35.775 seconds, obliterating his previous fastest lap of 1min 36.466 seconds in Lap 46.

Coming off his win two weeks ago in Singapore, Vettel's third checkered flag of 2012 puts him only four points behind an unlucky championship leader, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was forced to retire from the race with a tire puncture after spinning out of Turn 1. Fans now have a five-race showdown for the title to look forward to that begins this weekend in Korea. With the odds now in Vettel’s favor to retain his title and Team Red Bull looking impressively strong, it’s certainly going to be one heck of showdown.

Vettel, winner of the 2009 DHL Fastest Lap Award, has now notched up four fastest laps this season and holds a commanding lead over Lotus driver Kimi Räikkönen and Mercedes pilot Nico Rosberg, each with two.

There’s still plenty of racing left in the 2012 season so stay tuned to this space as we watch the race inside the race unfold over the final five Grand Prix. And get a behind-the-scenes look at Formula 1 on our Facebook page Formula 1 Backstage by DHLExternal Link / New Window