Sebastian Vettel gave his hopes of claiming a third-consecutive world title a huge boost as he took advantage of Fernando Alonso's first-lap retirement with a consummate Japanese Grand Prix victory at Suzuka.
Vettel cruised to his third victory of the season, and second in a row, to move him to within four points of Alonso at the top of the drivers' championship, after the Spaniard dramatically crashed out at the first corner after contact with Kimi Raikkonen.
In a chaotic start, Alonso was edged to the outside on the run down to turn one, but clipped Raikkonen's front wing, running wide before spinning and coming to a halt in the middle of the track. Vettel seized his opportunity with a controlled performance to claim victory.
Vettel admitted it had taken him half the race to realise his principal title rival was out, but admitted his car was "a dream" to drive. He said: "I saw there was a safety car at the very beginning, we had a very good start which was very important as behind me there was a crash.
"I saw a Ferrari had crashed, but I was not sure who it was but halfway through the race I looked at the (timing) tower to see where the others are and I saw the car that was still racing was Felipe, so I assumed Fernando was not racing any more.
"The guys have pushed so hard over the last couple of months and when you dream at night you dream about being able to drive a car like that, the balance was fantastic and I was enjoying every lap, which I think was why we had such a big gap to the others and I am very happy."