Vettel seals historic world title defence

Germany’s Sebastian Vettel (24) became Formula One’s youngest back-to-back world champion on Sunday when he finished third in the Japanese Grand Prix behind Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.

Vettel, who has dominated the season and needed just one point to clinch the championship, joins Juan Manuel Fangio, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher as one of only nine drivers to successfully defend the world title.

Button’s victory, which came after he passed Vettel in the second round of pit stops on lap 21, was his third of the season and the 12th of his career.

The McLaren driver finished 1.1 seconds ahead of Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, with Vettel’s third place easily enough to secure his second straight world title.

But the day belonged to Vettel, who follows Alberto Ascari (1952/53), Fangio (1954 to 1957), Jack Brabham (1959/60), Alain Prost (1985/86), Senna (1990/91), Schumacher (1994/95 and 2000 to 2004), Mika Hakkinen (1998/99) and Fernando Alonso (2005/06) in winning consecutive drivers’ crowns.

Australian Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull, eight seconds adrift of Button, while Briton Lewis Hamilton of McLaren had another controversial race, clashing again with Felipe Massa of Ferrari en route to finishing fifth.

Schumacher was sixth for Mercedes, briefly leading the race after the final round of pit stops, while Massa was seventh.

Mexican Sergio Perez came through from 17th on the grid to take eighth for Sauber with a two-stop strategy, while German Nico Rosberg drove his Mercedes from second-last on the grid to finish 10th.

With four races remaining, Vettel has 324 points, with Button’s victory keeping the Briton in second place for the season with 210.

Alonso retains third on 202, while Webber stays fourth with 194. Hamilton rounds out the top five on 178 points. — AFP

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