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Red Bull leads title charge

The race for the Formula One championship is now down to five drivers after Sebastian Vettel beat his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber at Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

Some British commentators wrote off McLaren's hopes, after world champions Jenson Button finished fourth in Suzuka ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

"A wretched weekend for McLaren's 'dream team' ended with neither in control of his own championship destiny," wrote the Telegraph.

Vettel's victory meanwhile puts him back in contention, the German moving level on 206 points with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, 14 points adrift of Australian Webber. Both the British McLaren drivers are still in with a chance with three races remaining in South Korea, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, but both Hamilton (192) and Button (189) now need their rivals to fail.

"Still three races to go, still 75 points available, but these guys continue to pick up points. It will be very difficult, but we'll keep pushing," Hamilton told BBC Sport after finishing for the first time in three grands prix.

McLaren is now pinning its hopes on the next race in Yeongam, South Korea, on 24 October on a track which might prove less favourable to the Red Bulls.

"We've just got to hope that when we put the new package on the car in Korea, we get the best out of it," Button said. "For the next race, we'll hopefully have the performance we'd expected to have here."

For most commentators though, it is now between Webber, Vettel and Alonso, who all know that they could clinch the title if they win their last three races.

"If I win the next three races everything will be fine, so that has to be the aim," said Vettel, hoping to become Formula One's youngest world champion. For Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport, the German is now the man to beat. "When he drives likes this he is unbeatable," it said.

Britain's Guardian said: "The momentum is with Red Bull but Webber will be looking nervously over his shoulder as Vettel has finally found his form."

In Germany, the Spiegel online agreed: "McLaren is out, Vettel is back. They are the two conclusions to be drawn from Suzuka."

The next race in South Korea on a new circuit will provide fresh challenges for all the teams. A technical team from the governing body, the FIA, inspected the track, which has only just been laid, and has signed it off.

"We think that we can be competitive at all remaining tracks," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "There's nothing that we fear in the remaining three races."

Alonso and Ferrari meanwhile remain confident after finishing third in Suzuka in what they believe was the best result possible for them in a circuit favouring the Red Bulls. Alonso said anything was still possible in the championships which after South Korea moves to Brazil and will climax in Abu Dhabi on 14 November.

"We knew before coming here that third was probably our maximum position," the Spaniard said, "but we are convinced that this was the worst track of the remaining races for us. We only lost three points in the championship, so overall we have to be extremely happy. When we arrive at circuits with more difficulties for Red Bull we need to take our opportunities."

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