LIVE: Japanese Grand Prix – follow all the Formula One drama from Suzuka
06:59 GMT, 7 October 2012
The Formula One circus has parked up in Suzuka this weekend for the Japanese Grand Prix. It's round 15 of the world championship and with five races remaining both the drivers' and constructors' titles are still very much up for grabs.
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Click here to follow our dedicated Formula One service on TwitterJapanese Grand Prix: Lap 33 of 53
Sebastian Vettel leads from Felipe Massa
Fernando Alonso has retired after a first-lap collisionJenson Button is fourth but nursing a gearbox problem
Lewis Hamilton is sixthRomain Grosjean handed a stop-and-go penalty for crashing into Mark Webber on the first lap
Lap 31: Button's slowly been reeling Kobayashi in and the Sauber man comes in for his second stop of the day. He's joined by Hamilton and Hulkenberg. Hamilton leaves the pits alongside Raikkonen. The Lotus ace looked to have sealed the move but Hamilton came back at Raikkonen. Great driving from the pair of them to avoid a high-speed crash.
Lap 30: What a story it would be if Kobayashi earns his first podium in Japan. The home fans absolutely adore him here.
Lap 29: Vettel is absolutely cruising here. He's maintaining a ten-second gap to Massa, who looks poised to end his barren-podium run… 36 races in fact.
Lap 28: Button is told his pace is encouraging as Grosjean sets the fastest lap of the race.
Lap 27: Schumacher, a six-time winner around Suzuka, plants a move down the inside of Di Resta into Turn 1 to take tenth after starting 23rd. A very solid show from the veteran today.
Lap 26: Webber, struggling with his rear tyres, pits from P9.
Lap 25: As we approach half-distance here's a run down on the top 10: Vettel leads from Massa, Kobayashi, Button, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Webber and Ricciardo.
Lap 24: Vettel leads Massa by 10 seconds with the Ferrari driver three seconds ahead of Kobayashi. Hulkenberg is complaining about his rear tyres, but that aside and it's another strong performance from the German today.
Lap 23: Sportsmail's Simon Cass: 'Kobayashi and Massa, two drivers who need to get their contracts sorted out are doing the business today. Just saying…' Indeed, Massa is second and Kobayashi, without a podium in his career, is third.
Lap 22: Hamilton is moaning about his front tyres, saying they've 'gone off'. The McLaren man is in P6 and coming under pressure from Hulkenberg.
Lap 21: Button reporting yet more problems with his gearbox. Up top and Vettel is cruising here. Massa, who hasn't finished on the podium since the 2010 Korean Grand Prix, is the fastest man on track in P2, as Bruno Senna comes into the pits for his drive-through penalty after being punished by the stewards for his first-lap misdemeanour.
Lap 20: 'Debate as to whether this will be a two or three stopper,' says Sportsmail's Simon Cass. 'If any one team can make the tyres last then it is Sauber. A Kobayashi win on home soil The place would go bonkers.'
Lap 19: Hero to zero for Perez in Suzuka as the Sauber man retires from the race.. Eyeing another move on Hamilton, the Mexican lost control of his Sauber under braking before almost hitting the McLaren and then spinning out of the grand prix.
Lap 18: 'I've got a problem with the gearbox,' Button says before being reassured by the McLaren pit-wall. The British driver then posts the fastest lap of the race. We'll keep an eye on that one.
Early bath: The Spaniard gets a lift back to the paddock after crashing out
Lap 17: Vettel and Massa pit from P1 and P2, and they exit the pits in P1 and P2. Massa has gotten the jump on Kobayashi and Buton.
Lap 16: Hamilton is into the pits as Kobayashi and Button are held up by the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo. This is playing into the hands of Felipe Massa, who's yet to stop. Could the Ferrari man leapfrog the pair of them
Lap 15: Raikkonen, after his stop, leapfrogs Jean-Eric Vergne and then Heikki Kovalainen. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez pits, but he exits the pits behind the Lotus of Raikkonen. Vettel, who leads, is yet to pit. He's looking oh-so-comfortable today.
Lap 14: Kobayashi pits from P2 and the Sauber man, who is stationary for just 3.5 seconds, exits comfortably ahead of JB to maintain a net second.
Lap 13: Jenson Button comes into the pits from P3. The McLaren man is joined by Raikkonen and Hulkenberg.
Out of the race: Alonso retires after spinning out on lap one
Lap 12: The first-lap incident between Bruno Senna, who damaged his front wing, and Nico Rosberg, who has retired, is now under investigation. I'll keep you posted on that one.
Lap 11: The Saubers are looking very racy here. What a year they're having. Perez is closing in on fifth-placed Raikkonen while his team-mate Kobayashi is holding Button at bay.
Lap 10: Vettel leads comfortably from Kobayashi, with the Red Bull man lapping one second quicker than Kobayashi and Button.
Lap 9: Glum faces in the Ferrari garage. Alonso's been in control of the championship for a number of races now. But that's all set to change following today's retirement. Massa in the sister Ferrari is doing a decent job today. He's up to fourth after starting in P10.
Lap 8: Back up front and it's looking pretty tasty for Vettel who has built a five-second lead over Kobayashi. The Red Bull ace is the fastest driver on track right now. Meanwhile, Grosjean serves his penalty for wiping out Webber on the first lap.
Lap 7: Hamilton is under intense pressure from Hulkenberg, now. The Force India man just tenths behind the struggling Hamilton, Perez is now almost three seconds ahead of the man he's poised to replace in 2013.
Lap 6: There will be mixed emotions on the McLaren pit-wall there, as Sergio Perez plants a sweet move on Lewis Hamilton at the hairpin to move up into P6. Meanwhile, Grosjean has been handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for causing a collision on the opening lap.
Lap 5: Vettel leads by over three seconds with Button stuck behind Kobayashi – with Alonso out of the race, a victory for the German would see him move withing 14 points of the championship lead. Not a bad incentive, eh
Lap 4: We've seen a replay of the start and it looks as though Alonso squeezed Raikkonen out leaving the Lotus man no room before tagging the Spaniard. Alonso lost control of his Ferrari and was fortunate not to be collected by the rest of the field. Meanwhile, the replay also showed Romain Grosjean punting Webber at Turn 2. Another first-lap incident involving the Swiss-born Frenchman, and that incident is being looked at by the stewards. Webber is plum last.
Lap 3: The safety car is in and Vettel maintains the lead of the race. Perez takes a look around the outside of Raikkonen and drops a wheel on to the dirt before backing out of the move and loses his place to Hamilton – the McLaren man is up to sixth after starting in P9.
Lap 2: So, we're hearing that Kimi Raikkonen made contact with Alonso on the run down to turn 1. No replays as of yet. Vettel leads from Kobayashi, Button, Massa, Raikkonen, Perez and Hamilton, Safety car is in at the end of this lap. Frantic start.
Lap 1: Sebastian Vettel leads into Turn 1 but it's carnage behind the double world champion as a slow-starting Mark Webber is overtaken by Kamui Kobayashi before Fernando Alonso dips a wheel on to the dirt, loses control of his Ferrari and is out of the race. Jenson Button is up to third as Webber limps his way back to the pits. The safety car is out, I haven't seen the replay yet, but Nico Rosberg retires, too. Incredible.
7.00am: The tyre blankets are off and the cars have been lowered as all 24 drivers make their way on to the parade lap. We're just moments away from the start of the Japanese Grand Prix. Hold on to your hats….
6.55am: So, with five minutes to go until lights out in Suzuka, I'll give you a run-down on the top 10: Vettel starts on pole from Webber, Kobayashi, Grosjean, Perez, Alonso, Raikkonen, Button, Hamilton and Massa.
6.51am: Red Bull are strong favourites to dominate today's grand prix. Could it be another case of damage limitation for Alonso again He's been the master of it so far this season in a Ferrari which is arguably only the fourth-best car on the grid.
6.45am: Now, let's go down to the grid and grab a word with some of the drivers, starting with Webber, who starts in P2: 'We're normally pretty good on Sundays so we are confident we can do pretty well.' And on Kobayashi and Grosjean starting behind him: 'I've seen plenty of action before so nothing will surprise me.' And here's Button, starting in 8th after his penalty: 'It was always going to be disappointing whatever happened in qualifying. But looking at the timings on the long runs on Friday anything is possible.'
Adopted son: Button and his girlfriend Jessica Michibata ahead of today's grand prix
6.42am: Now over to Suzuka and a word from Sportsmail's motor racing correspondent, Simon Cass: This is what is known as a proper race. A proper track, fanatical fans and so often the place where championships are won and lost. That won't happen today but for anybody thinking Fernando Alonso has it in the bag just remember that with six races remaining in 2010 Sebastian Vettel cut a 31 point gap to then leader Lewis Hamilton. Vettel is currently 29 behind Alonso with the Red Bull looking to have found speed just at the right time. Set-up problems cost Hamilton yesterday and while this is a must win if he is to stand any chance of heading to Mercedes as world champion his chances of victory are very slim from ninth on the grid. Button starts one place further up but back-to-back wins in his beloved Japan is a real tall order.'
Waving goodbye: Schumacher, who announced his retirement on Thursday, waves to the Japanese Grand Prix fans
Farewell to the fairground: Hamilton and Rosberg will be team-mates at Mercedes next term
6.40am: Fernando Alonso, who leads Vettel by 29 points in the drivers' championship, starts in sixth, while the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will start a disappointing 8th and 9th respectively – the former taking a five-place grid drop after changing his gearbox.
6.37am: What of Vettel's challengers The Red Bull driver will be joined by team-mate Mark Webber on the front-row with home favourite Kamui Kobayashi starting in third. Incident-prone Romain Grosjean joins the Japanese star on the second row. Could we be in for some fireworks off the start-line
6.35am: And we should be in for a decent morning of racing shouldn't we The smart money is on Sebastian Vettel to win today's Japanese Grand Prix after the double world champion recorded the 34th pole position of his incredible career on Saturday. That takes the Red Bull man to third in the all-time list behind only Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.
6.30am: Good morning everyone, and welcome to Sportsmail's coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix. For those of you based in Europe, I congratulate you for getting up nice and early this morning for round 15 of the 2012 Formula One world championship.
Full house: The Japanese Grand Prix is one of the most recognisable on the Formula One calender