Jenson Button failed to secure the world championship in Suzuka as Sebastian Vettel recorded a dominant victory to put him right back in the title hunt.
Vettel led from start to finish, but Button will be happy to head to Brazil having conceded just one point to main rival Rubens Barrichello.
Button eventually finished eighth, grabbing a single point, and he did well to hang onto that meagre reward after capitalising on an Adrian Sutil error and then resisting huge pressure from Robert Kubica following a late safety car. Barrichello finished one position ahead in seventh.
Vettel recorded his third win of the year after holding off Lewis Hamilton at the start and proceeding to build up a three-second lead, the McLaren driver saying it was ‘impossible to keep up with him’. Even after the safety car bunched the pack up with just eight laps to go, Vettel managed to stretch out a five-second lead by the chequered flag.
It was a frustrating race for Brawn, who could have wrapped up the constructors’ championship if it wasn’t for Jaime Alguersari’s crash late on, which allowed Nico Rosberg to nip ahead of Barrichello into sixth.
However, Brawn require just half a point in the next two races to ensure they keep the constructors’ championship. Even with their recent lack of pace, surely they’ll be confident of picking that up?
Things could have been worse for Button, who lost a place to Kovalainen off the start line and slipped to 12th place. But the Brit passed Fisichella’s Ferrari and Kubica in the opening laps, and then took advantage of a tussle between Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil to sneak through for eighth.
But today is all about Vettel. He’s 16 points adrift of Button with a maximum of just 20 remaining: can he possibly sneak the championship? On the evidence of today, there’s half a chance…