Quick, blink your eyes. Now, blink again. That's essentially how fast the fortunes have changed in favor for Vettel since Belgian GP. Other than the untimely retirement at Italian GP, Vettel has been superbly fast in his Red Bull, so fast that Vettel is now 4 points behind Alonso after the Japanese GP. Alonso should be plenty weary as he watches his massive points lead fade away.
The Japanese GP started out with Vettel on pole, with Webber on P2, making it a Red Bull front row at the grid. This hasn't happened for Red Bull for a while, much of this is credited to the Red Bull engineering team in making iterative improvements that are now paying off. Button was originally P3 but had to take a 5 place grid drop due to gear box change, so Kobayashi ended up in P3 and P4 was Grosjean.
Right off the starting lights, Vettel zoomed off into the Japanese sunset, so to speak, and ultimately dominated the rest of the race to win the Japanese GP. Meanwhile, chaos for the rest of the pack at Turn 1. Kobayashi got ahead of Webber, who was promptly hit by Grosjean, then Alonso went wide and didn't recover from gravel, Rosberg is also out of the race. With all the commotion, the safety car made an appearance in the 1st lap to get the race back in order. Grosjean is now on par with Maldonado in causing dangerous incidents during races.
With Alonso out of the race, Massa became the only hope left for Ferrari team in Suzuka. Massa knew this and promptly stepped up a notch on his driving, inching up the positions from P10 to a well-deserved P2 on the podium. Massa hasn't been on the podium for 2 years, and one must admit that Massa hasn't been quite on form ever since his freak accident in 2009 Hungarian GP. In fact, Massa looked slightly stunned and not quite sure what to do with himself on the podium.
The 3rd spot on the podium went to Kobayashi, much to the Japanese fans' delight. There hasn't been a Japanese driver on the F1 podium in Japan since 1990, Kobayashi's podium win made him an instant National hero. The crowd basically went wild, especially when Kobayashi made a number of comments on the podium in his native tongue.
Other performances of note include Button, whose attempts to chase down Kobayashi near the end of the race never quite gave him a chance to overtake, and Hamilton, who drove a rather lack-luster race overall. Losing his position to Perez early in the race and almost losing another later to Nico Hulkenberg, Hamilton leaves me wondering, where is the man known as the fastest driver in F1? Is Hamilton's decision to switch to Mercedes causing the team to try a little less harder than usual?
I wondered during the race if the championship is really now down to Alonso and Vettel. I'm not ready to see the competition settle down; I would love to see some fierce comebacks to keep the rest of the season exciting. We've all seen the Red Bull domination before in the last few years. For pure selfish reasons, I'd like to see some good fights from other teams until the end of the championship. And the next fight will come soon enough. We are a few days away from Korean Grand Prix on 10/12 - 10/14. Any predictions for who will take the lead in Korea?