SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday but will have to wait to seal a fourth-straight Formula One title as nearest rival Fernando Alonso finished fourth.
Vettel surged into the lead on the 41st lap and led a Red Bull one-two ahead of teammate Mark Webber by 7.1 seconds. Webber, who started from pole position, passed Lotus' Romain Grosjean on the penultimate lap. Grosjean led much of the race but could not take his maiden F1 victory and finished third.
It was Vettel's fourth win in the past five races at Suzuka and his ninth win of the season.
"We had a great car and were fast again this year," Vettel said. "Being able to finish on the podium and to win four times here is incredible. The fans here are incredible, they really respect us."
Vettel managed the rare feat of a fifth-straight race win and leads the championship by 90 points from Alonso with four races remaining. The last driver to win five races in a row was Michael Schumacher in 2004.
Vettel's two-stop strategy and controlled tire wear was the difference.
Grosjean, who started on the second row, grabbed the lead at the first turn and held it until the 29th lap when he went into the pits for the second time to change tires. Vettel took the lead and waited for his final pit stop on lap 37.
With fresh hard tires, Vettel blasted past Grosjean on lap 41 to take the lead for good.
Vettel got off to a rough start when he clipped Lewis Hamilton's right rear tire before Turn 1, forcing the Mercedes driver to retire after the ninth lap due to a puncture and associated damage.