Sebastian Vettel believes Fernando Alonso ‘was a bit aggressive’ in last-gasp Japan GP battle

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso making a point to Sebastian Vettel. Baku June 2022.

Taking the chequered flag by 0.011s ahead of the charging Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel acknowledges it was “very, very close”.

Vettel was voted ‘Driver of the Day’ at his favourite circuit, Suzuka, the Aston Martin driver hoping for a good result in his final Japanese Grand Prix.

Qualifying P9, he found himself fighting his former title rival Alonso on the opening lap and again at the very end of the timed grand prix.

The latter was a thrilling battle between two World Champions, sadly one the TV coverage missed as the cameras focused on other drivers.

Vettel started the last lap of the grand prix over two seconds ahead of Alonso but with the Spaniard on fresher intermediate tyres.

Alonso easily chased him down, before making a move down the inside into the first part of the chicane with barely an inch of space between the two cars.

Vettel stayed firm, the two then accelerating down the hill to the finish line as they ran side-by-side.

Vettel took it by 0.011s.

“Well, it was very, very close,” Vettel said as per Motorsport.com. “He was a bit aggressive, I would say.

“But yeah, there was a bit of a confusion because I lost radio and I looked at the pit board, and I think race direction changed their mind of how long the race is going to go, and I didn’t know.

“I think we got away with it.”

But while they managed to avoid contact in that tussle, the German revealed there was a bit of paint swapping on the opening lap.

“We did touch,” he said. “I went to the left because he had a poor start, and I had a good start.

“Then I got a lot of wheel slip and some aquaplaning and sort of lost the car, and then touched, and lost the car entirely. But then we had a great recovery in the end.”

Vettel finished P6 ahead of Alonso, the driver putting his charge through the field down to Aston Martin’s call for him to swap his full wets for inters on the first lap of the restart.

“Yeah, we spoke about it before,” Vettel said. “The team worked something out. And I obviously made the call judging the conditions, but it worked really well.”

“We dragged the car up to where probably doesn’t belong. Even splitting the Alpines, which are a lot faster than us, But we managed to hang in there, so I really enjoyed the weekend. And I love everything about this place.”

Sebastian Vettel proving ‘check out’ critics wrong

Scoring in Singapore and Japan, Vettel’s farewell to Formula 1 is ending on a high note.

Having announced prior to the summer break that this season would be his last, some pundits questioned whether the German would check out during his long goodbye.

He’s done anything but.

With 16 points in the last five races, he was also P8 in Belgium, he’s helped Aston Martin move from P9 prior to the summer break to P7.

As for his position on the log, the four-time World Champion is up to P11 in the Drivers’ standings with 32 points.

“To be honest in the big picture, it doesn’t matter,” he said when asked if he was happy to prove his critics wrong. “It only matters to me.

“I mean, I obviously live for results for winning, and I have all my life. It will be a change, but I’m happy that I had a great run around here in particular.”