Fernando Alonso secured his second successive Formula One victory after winning the Japanese Grand Prix today while world championship leader Lewis Hamilton failed to finished inside the points.
The Renault driver, starting fourth on the grid, followed up his victory in Singapore with another win but a disastrous start for Hamilton meant the McLaren driver could only manage 12th. Hamilton’s title rival Felipe Massa cut the gap at the top of the driver standings to six points after finishing eighth.
BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica claimed second place while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished third.
Alonso's team-mate Nelson Piquet took fourth place while Jarno Trulli ensured Fuji Speedway circuit owners Toyota had a pleasing finish by claiming fifth.
Toro Rosso pair Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel were sixth and seventh respectively with Massa eighth.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld completed the top 10.
Honda’s Jenson Button finished 14th while David Coulthard’s race was brought to an abrupt end the Red Bull driver crashed early on.
``It is difficult to believe,'' said Alonso. ``The Singapore win was completely unexpected and we won again today.''
In contrast to last year’s race, conditions were dry today with just overcast skies above Fuji Speedway.
The race got off to a frenetic start as Coulthard’s session came to an almost immediate end when the Scot crashed heavily.
Hamilton led at turn one but was too quick into the first corner and consequently dropped places.
Then disaster struck for the 23-year-old when he spun following contact with Massa and had to enter the pits.
Kubica moved top of the field ahead of Alonso and Hamilton’s team-mate Heikki Kovalainen by the fifth lap while Raikkonen, who had started the race second on the grid, had dropped to fifth by lap six. Toyota’s Timo Glock returned to the pits in the following lap before retiring from the race.
Kubica remained at the front of the pack by lap 10 with a gap of 1.8 seconds over Alonso while Massa was seventh and Hamilton 16th.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil, who had climbed to 10th from 19th, became another casualty of the race when he had to retire with a punctured tyre.
Hamilton was then given a drive-through penalty by stewards for forcing another car off the track while Massa was also hit with the same penalty for his collision with the young Briton.
There was additional disappointment for McLaren when Kovalainen’s race came to an end after he pulled to the side of the track when smoke began emanating from the back of his car.
Hamilton admitted his aggressive approach to the first corner was risky.
“Yeah,” he said, before admitting in hindsight he would have done it differently.
“Of course. You can always look back and with you did something but I made a mistake and paid for it.
“That sort of thing happens, you’ve just got to keep your head up and keep going.”
Hamilton indicated he was unhappy with the drive-through penalty.
He told ITV1: “We (he and Massa) both got the same penalty – I didn’t hit anybody but he did. I guess that’s the name of the game.”
The Briton remains confident about his title chances.
“I don’t think it makes any difference, I lost one point today but I guess it’s damage limitation. We’ll move onto next week and make sure we win the next two races.
“We plan on winning. Not at any cost, but we plan on winning.”