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'Nutcase' shunts Webber's title hope

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Vettel honing in on F1 Championship lead

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel wins the Japan Grand Prix to cut F1 Championship leader Fernando Alonso's advantage to four points in the standings.

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Mark Webber has slammed formula one rival Romain Grosjean as ''a first-lap nutcase'' after the Frenchman's early nudge ruined the Australian's Japanese Grand Prix.

Webber, who started second on the grid, was shunted on the first turn by Grosjean, which dropped the Red Bull driver back to 22nd after he was forced to make a pit stop for running repairs.

While Webber recovered to finish ninth, the 36-year-old's already faint hopes of vying for this year's championship were effectively extinguished at Suzuka.

The car of Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber after being forced off the track in the first corner of the Japanese Grand Prix.

The car of Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber after being forced off the track in the first corner of the Japanese Grand Prix. Photo: Reuters

His Red Bull teammate, Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, slashed the F1 title race to just four points when he stormed to victory after championship leader Fernando Alonso also spun out on the first turn.

Double defending world champion Vettel escaped a chaotic start and sped away to win by more than 20 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa and home favourite Kamui Kobayashi, whose first podium received huge roars from the capacity crowd.

Vettel, 25, who won in Singapore two weeks ago, threw the championship wide open as he became the only man this year with back-to-back victories. With five races left, he trails Alonso 194 points to 190.

Grosjean, who was slapped with a one-race ban over a first-corner crash in Belgium, was given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty in the pits after the incident involving Webber.

But Webber suggested the Lotus driver should reconsider his race strategy.

''I haven't obviously seen what happened at the start, but the guys confirmed that it was the first-lap nutcase again - Grosjean,'' Webber said.

''The rest of us are trying to fight for some decent results each weekend, but he is trying to get to the first corner as fast as he can at every race.

''It makes it frustrating because a few big guys probably suffered from that and maybe he needs another holiday.

''He needs to have a look at himself. It was completely his fault. How many mistakes can you make? How many times can you make the same error? First-lap incidents, yeah, it's quite embarrassing at this level for him.''

Red Bull team chief Christian Horner said Lotus might have to consider how to deal with Grosjean's recurring problems at the first corner.

''I think the most concerning thing is when it is repeat incidents,'' Horner said. ''If you make mistakes, that's fine. But the key thing is to learn from them.

''He's hosing away points for his team, they are fighting in the constructors' championship and I would be surprised if they were too impressed by that.

''Seven incidents this year is more than enough. Mark was a victim of the action today and that cost him at least a podium.''

Grosjean, 26, admitted that the incident was a ''stupid crash''.

''I was trying to avoid making any contact, but it didn't work,'' said the Frenchman, adding: ''We ticked all of the worst boxes again - and maybe I need to have a few whiskeys and get some luck that way.'' AFP

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