03:00PM AEDST: Away they go on the parade lap. BBC commentator Jonathan Legard has heard that Mark Webber, who is starting in the pit lane, will only stop once today and will start on the soft tyre. Webber may be on the softs, as is Lewis Hamilton, but Seb Vettel, Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg are on the harder compound. Will the use of soft tyres and KERS help Hamilton to vault into the lead at Turn 1?

START: Great getaway for Vettel and Hamilton; Lewis passes Trulli around the outside into Turn 1, but can’t take the lead. Dreadful start for Button, who drops to 11th.

The lights go out and it's on!

Lap 1: Heikki Kovalainen, who started 11th, is up to ninth. Jenson Button back to 11th but desperately trying to overtake Robert Kubica. Vettel has sprinted away from the field by the end of the opening lap.

Lap 3: Vettel is lighting up the timing screens, and has already pulled out a gap of 1.9s on Hamilton. Mark Webber has pitted once already – and is now back in for a second time.

Lap 4: Jenson Button passes Robert Kubica to move back up to 10th in a neat move at the Casio chicane.

Lap 5: Rubens Barrichello is chasing down Kimi Raikkonen in fifth – the title challenger is encouraged not to take any risks by his Brawn engineer. Meanwhile, Button is on the charge: Adrian Sutil his next target.

Lap 6: Webber pits again. The initial problem was a loose headrest. Now he has a puncture. He’s already one lap back and it’s pretty much game over – he hasn’t scored a point since Hungary. Hamilton has picked up his pace, and is now matching Vettel for pace.

Lap 7: A great battle in the midfield: Jenson Button, in 10th, is on the tail of Adrian Sutil, who in turn is right behind Heikki Kovalainen. Button is clearly struggling to hang onto them in their "dirty" air, and is understeering horribly.

Lap 9: Vettel sets a new fastest race lap and now leads by 3.3s from Hamilton, Trulli is a further 1.9s behind.

Vettel begins to pull away from Hamilton

Lap 12:

And we have our first DNF: Sebastien Buemi pulls into the Toro Rosso garage.

Lap 14: Adrian Sutil tries to take Heikki Kovalainen coming into the chicane, but the Finn refuses to cede and tips the Force India into a spin. Button moves past them both and up to eighth – and in the points. A move very reminiscent of Massa on Hamilton at the same race last year; surely Heikki will be penalised for that clumsy move? Sutil clearly had the corner.

Heikki Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil come to grief

Lap 15: Hamilton pits and switches from soft to hard tyres.

Lap 18: Button makes his first pitstop. He comes out onto a clear track, which is perfect to make up ground. He must outscore Barrichello by 5 points to clinch the title today.

Lap 19: Vettel, Barrichello, Raikkonen and Heidfeld all make their first stops. Vettel is held for a couple of seconds for Heidfeld to come past as Red Bull’s lollipop man plays it safe. Apparently Vettel was able to save fuel and delay his first stop by a few laps.

Lap 20: Jenson Button is back in 14th now, but the four drivers ahead of him have yet to stop and his pace looks good in clear air. Vettel in the lead ahead of Nico Rosberg, who is yet to stop. Then Hamilton, Trulli, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Kubica and Raikkonen.

Lap 23: Rosberg pits earlier than expected from second place and, crucially, rejoins behind Barrichello.

Lap 24: Vettel is cruising out in front, leading by 4.3s from Hamilton in second. Kovalainen pits from sixth. Meanwhile, McLaren tell Hamilton: "You need a three-second gap to Trulli by the pit-stops." It’s currently 2.3s.

Hamilton needed a bigger gap to stay ahead of Trulli.

Lap 27: Button is up to 10th now, but there are still two in front of him yet to stop, so he should be up to 8th and only two places behind Barrichello.

Lap 29: Romain Grosjean, down in 13th, has a wobble at the Spoon Curve and allows Sutil through. Meanwhile, Trulli is causing a stir by maintaining his race pace – the gap to Hamilton is still under the 3s mark.

Lap 30: Fastest lap for Vettel. He leads by 6.1s.

Lap 32: Ferrari are confident they can leapfrog Heidfeld at the next pit stop. Meanwhile, Tonio Luizzi passes Kazuki Nakajima for 16th along the main straight.

Lap 34: Raikkonen sets the fastest race lap, closing the gap to Heidfeld to just 1.6s.

Lap 35: The pendulum swings back to Barrichello as Button finds himself stuck behind Rosberg, with Kubica quickly catching him.

Lap 36: Raikkonen in for his second stop now, and takes on the option tyres. He comes out right into the middle of the Rosberg-Button-Kubica party, which is the last thing he needs to happen if he wants to pass Heidfeld.

Lap 37: Heidfeld into the pits, and he also takes on the softs. A very pedestrian stop from BMW… can he get out in front of Kimi Raikkonen? NO!

Lap 38: Hamilton pits from second, but he appears to hit the pit-lane limiter again on his way out, costing him valuable time. Button is up in sixth again, but yet to stop.

Lap 39: Trulli into the pits now. Can he get out ahead of Lewis Hamilton? Yes… easily, in fact. Cheering in the Toyota garage. A great job by the driver and team; his middle stint pace was excellent and he deserves to leapfrog the McLaren.

Trulli drove a storming race to leapfrog Hamilton

Lap 41:

Vettel makes his final pit stop and still rejoins in front.Looks like the three-way title fight will stay alive heading to Interlagos Brazil. Button pits as well. Kovalainen sneakily passes Fisichella as they exit the pits; Fisi was caught napping and Heikki jumped on the KERS button into Turn 1.

Lap 42: Button back out in 9th, but Kubica in front of him needs to stop again. Barrichello into the pits.

Lap 44: Into the closing stages and Vettel leads from Trulli, Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Button. Kubica pits.

Lap 45: Yellow flag… and now safety car as Alguersuari has a HUGE accident at 130R. He cleans out an advertising hoarding and smashes into the tyre wall, destroying his Toro Rosso. Fortunately, he appears unhurt.

The safety car is out after Alguersuari's monster shunt

Lap 47: Hamilton’s lack of pace is explained as he radios back to the pits: "What’s wrong with KERS?" It’s bust, is the short answer. This will leave him vulnerable to Raikkonen behind him at the restart.

Lap 48: Webber makes his fifth, yes fifth, pit stop, this time for a new nose and tyres. Alguersuari is being loaded into an ambulance, no doubt as a precaution given the enormity of the shunt. He gives the crowd a thumbs up.

Lap 49: In comes the safety car.

Lap 50: Can Raikkonen use his KERS to get past Hamilton? Not immediately, he can’t. Vettel is away well at the front.

Lap 51: Kubica is chasing hard, with Button’s point under real threat. Barrichello only just in front of Button.

Lap 52: Webber, ironically, sets the fastest race lap in 17th place.

FINISH: VETTEL WINS. Button holds off Kubica, but it’s close. The placings are: Vettel, Trulli, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Button.

04:35PM AEDST: Button will take a 14-point lead to Brazil, with Barrichello in second. Vettel is now 16 points behind – with just 20 points available. The German did everything he could to maximise his chances with a thoroughly deserved win. A great drive from Trulli as well after a horror weekend for Toyota.

Celebrating on the Japanes GP podium

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.