Sebastian Vettel eased to a comfortable victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, and closed to within four points of the F1 world championship lead after overall leader Fernando Alonso retired on the opening lap.
Vettel was already clear of Alonso when the Spaniard spun as a result of punctured right rear tyre, the result of being clipped by Kimi Raikkonen as the field funnelled into turn one. Although the Ferrari spun back across the circuit, Alonso avoided being hit by anyone else, but the ensuing melee saw Romain Grosjean collect the second Red Bull of Mark Webber, and Bruno Senna punt Nico Rosberg into retirement. While the assailants would subsequently receive penalties for their transgressions, Webber had to restart his pursuit of a podium from the rear, allowing his team-mate to control the race.
A brief safety car period worked in the German's favour as Kamui Kobayashi - who had vaulted into second at the original start - was caught napping, and Vettel ran away from that point on, eventually winning by more than 20 seconds.
Behind him, Kobayashi's hopes of a career-best second place were dented by Felipe Massa managing to run longer onto his first set of tyres, putting the remaining Ferrari up into second and into his first podium since Korea in 2010. The Japanese favourite - his seat at Sauber under fire - then had to keep Jenson Button at bay through to the end of the 53 laps to claim the first podium finish for a Japanese driver since Aguri Suzuki followed Nelson Piquet and Roberto Moreno home in 1990.
Lewis Hamilton cut a subdued figure as he continued to wrestle with handling problems on his McLaren, but had his afternoon enlivened by two passing moves from his replacement at the Woking team, Sergio Perez. The Mexican made his first lunge at the hairpin stick, but spun off - and out - when attempting to repeat the move after the first round of pit-stops. Hamilton also had to fend off Kimi Raikkonen as he exited from his second stop, and eventually completed the top five, albeit 21 seconds behind his team-mate.
Raikkonen came home sixth, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado and the recovering Webber, while Daniel Ricciardo resisted late-race pressure from Michael Schumacher to claim the final point.
Full race report available
Full race results available.