Vettel clinches F1 title

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (R) tosses his trophy in the air next to...

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (R) tosses his trophy in the air next to McLaren Formula One driver Jenson Button of Britain after the Japanese F1 Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit October 9, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 PM ET

TORONTO - The drama was pretty much over the moment the lights went out at the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel needed just a single point to wrap up his second consecutive world driving championship.

Last season, the 24-year-old old Red Bull driver became the youngest champion in the history of the sport and on Sunday he became the youngest back-to-back winner.

But the young German didn’t do it in his usual dominating fashion, even thought he had put his Red Bull Renault on the pole the day previous.

On the start he had to steer hard to the right to keep eventual race winner Jenson Button behind him, a move that many thought should have deserved a penalty.

Then the Red Bull team went with a four-stop pit strategy that, at one point late in the race, had Vettel in ninth position.

He fought back, however, to finish third in the race behind Button’s McLaren and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

Vettel admitted that while he had to wait until the final race last season to claim his championship and he did it this season with three races still left on the calendar, it was not as easy as it looked.

“The hardest thing is winning after winning last year,” he said. “We won the championship, it was so close and we were so excited, even knowing how to do it doesn’t allow you to forget all these steps.”

Vettel also laid out a warning to his F1 competitors that this second championship is just a start to what many agree might be an assault on Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships.

WICKENS A WINNER

Lost in the hoopla of Vettel’s championship clinching finish at Suzuka was Canada’s Robert Wickens winning his first major European racing title on Sunday at Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya.

Wickens came into the final race of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship having one the penultimate race the day before giving the Toronto driver a nine-point edge over Carlin teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.

That turned out to be just enough of a cushion as Wickens ended up clashing on the track with Vergne on Sunday, damaging his car to the extent he was forced to retire from the race.

But Vergne, with a damaged car himself, was not able to secure the fifth place he needed to overtake the Canadian.

“Well it’s not the way I wanted to seal the championship but I’m happy to be champion,” Wickens said afterward. “I’ve been fast here all weekend, I think (Saturday’s) race pace demonstrated that.

“It’s obviously a shame we didn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate that in (Sunday’s) race but it really does come down to the whole season and overall it’s been a good year.”

Make that a great year.

Wickens now gets to test with the F1 Renault team next month as part of his championship booty, but he will go to South Korea first to continue his F1 apprenticeship as reserve driver for the Virgin Marussia team in next week’s Korean Grand Prix.

FINISH LINES

Cue the theme from Jaws because Jimme Johnson served notice on Sunday that he is indeed serious about his run for six straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championships with his compete crushing of the opposition at Kansas Speedway in the Hollywood Casino 400.... And say goodnight to the Chase chances of four-time champion Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman. Gordon’s blown engine with three laps left, and Newman’s 18th place finish at Kansas, makes it next to impossible for those two to mount a challenge in the final six races.

NUTS AND BOLTS

NASCAR SPRINT CUP

Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson boosted his chances for a sixth title for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on Sunday in a dominating victory in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Johnson led 198 of the 272 laps, jumping into third place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, a razor-thin four points back of Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

"Yeah, boys!" Johnson said on his radio. "Let's drink some champagne!"

Non-Chase driver Kasey Kahne was second in the No.Ê4 Red Bull Toyota with Brad Keselowski third in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge.

CHASE STANDINGS

1 Carl Edwards 2161

2 Kevin Harvick 2160

3 Jimmie Johnson 2157

4 Brad Keselowski 2150

5 Matt Kenseth 2149

6 Kurt Busch 2145

7 Tony Stewart 2142

8 Kyle Busch 2141

9 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2118

10 Jeff Gordon 2114

11 Ryan Newman 2107

12 Denny Hamlin 2082

FORMULA 1

Jenson Button won the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday for McLaren at the Suzuka circuit but the victory was overshadowed by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who clinched the world championship with his third-place finish.

Vettel only needed one point to repeat as Formula One champion Sunday and he got 15.

Fernando Alonso was second for Ferrari.

Vettel had started on the pole and held the lead for the first 20 laps when the team called him in for a pit stop, handing the top spot to Button.

Button dedicated his win to the Japanese people and their struggle to bounce back after last spring's earthquake and tsunami.


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