Vettel, Button and Hamilton all among Grand Prix sub-plots

By Martin BrundleBBC F1 commentator

Sebastian Vettel is only 24 years old, and yet he has already achieved his life's dream - to win the Formula 1 world title - twice.

So what now for him and the rest of his career, as F1 heads directly to Korea this weekend?

After he clinched his second world championship at the Japanese Grand Prix, I asked him how he would motivate himself further, and his answer was that being on the podium and acknowledging the fans was totally addictive for him, and he wanted much more of it.

In Suzuka, he was content to clinch the title from the bottom step of the podium.

In a news conference on Monday, he talked about looking in the mirror and liking the person you see. It was deep stuff; he even touched on being unfair to other drivers.

The context was his aggressive defence of the lead from Jenson Button at the start in Suzuka. Given the respective positions of the two cars, I think the stewards were right not to give Vettel a penalty. Button's victory was the sweet revenge.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Suzuka race.

There were 11 lead changes, including the pit-stop phases, and particularly notable was Michael Schumacher, out front from laps 38 to 40 - the first time he has been in that position since his comeback at the start of 2010.

On one of the world's best and most challenging race tracks, there were some very classy performances.

Vettel became the champion but he was not the star of this particular day by any means.

Button was superb for McLaren - even, unusually for him, setting fastest lap en route to a glorious win.

He showed speed and maturity by qualifying on the front row, making a great start and sensibly yielding to Vettel's aggressive move down to the first corner. It saw Button on the grass at one point, and losing a place to the equally fast-starting Lewis Hamilton.

Instead of being rattled by all this, and after delivering the inevitable radio message aimed firmly at getting the stewards to investigate Vettel's defence, Button settled down to manage his pace and tyres through a technically and strategically difficult race.

The tyres were degrading quickly, reminding me of races in the early part of the season, and some quick thinking was forced by a safety car being deployed during the collection of debris left on the track after Hamilton and Ferrari's Felipe Massa got too friendly - again.

The short DRS overtaking zone down the pit straight served only to help faster cars making their way back through the field after pit stops. Between cars of similar pace, overtaking generally seemed difficult by 2011 standards.

Most key positions were gained through pit-stop phases and the closeness of the race was emphasised by the fact that for much of the time you could see all the top six cars on the pit straight at the same time.

Fernando Alonso put on a great performance in his Ferrari for a close second place, underlining his quality and resilience.

Ferrari often threaten to race much better than qualifying pace suggests, but it does not always transpire that way.

In Japan, though, Alonso pushed Button so hard that the latter had to get back on the gas in the closing laps, to such an extent he parked the car immediately after the finish line, short on fuel.

When you consider that there was a safety car for four laps, McLaren must have been pretty extreme on their fuelling. It paid off, though.

One of the most surprising aspects of the race was that Vettel's leading Red Bull was chewing up its tyres faster than most. Traditionally that car's extra downforce, grip and balance has helped them in this respect.

However, even in qualifying the Red Bull hadn't looked so settled and a McLaren should have been on pole.

I just can't understand what is going on with Hamilton, who finished a lowly fifth. Are his troubles just an unlucky phase of bad form, or a more deep-seated issue?

He has speed and skill of which I could only ever have dreamed, and a car which won the race in his team-mate's hands.

Over the past few years we have witnessed such daring and breathtaking overtaking moves, literally from the first corner of his first grand prix.

But suddenly his peripheral vision and general awareness seem to have taken a break as he wanders into the side of others and damages his car.

At the wheel you do have a sixth sense of when another car is around you, and often you can hear them long before you see them.

Following his collision with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi in the Belgian Grand Prix three races ago, Hamilton appeared either knocked out or motionless for some while, in total disbelief.

As for Sunday, there is no way he would have moved over on Massa intentionally at 190mph on the exit of 130R, for the safety of either of them.

Button, though, doesn't seem to agree with Hamilton that the McLaren's mirrors vibrate badly.

Hamilton seemed very shocked post-race by his lack of pace in Suzuka, a circuit almost tailor-made for his consummate skills.

I just can't fathom it out, but let's hope normal service resumes very soon for the sake of Hamilton and F1. The sport needs him on form - as do McLaren.

And what about the remaining four grands prix now the main prize has gone?

To many in the paddock, the constructors' championship is more important than the drivers' - especially if their annual bonus depends on it!

Red Bull must simply outscore McLaren this weekend to secure another double, but there is much at stake elsewhere. There are many fights down the field in both league tables.

After Korea, we have the new venue in India, which will ignite fresh interest, and then Abu Dhabi and Brazil.

But the teams will very much be into 2012 car mode now. Let's hope they find the golden solution to matching and beating the charging Red Bulls.

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