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From first-lap nutcase to startline hero… Romain Grosjean’s Japanese Grand Prix fortunes have changed beyond measure in the space of 12 months, but the Lotus driver was denied a shot at a maiden Formula 1 victory as he fought single-handedly against Red Bull’s two-pronged strategy. The result was familiar enough – Sebastian Vettel headlining a team one-two with his fifth consecutive victory – but this was a triumph borne of stealth, speed and tactical improvisation. The Red Bulls made equally poor starts from the front row, allowing Lewis Hamilton to slice between them as Grosjean set off with the kind of vim that would have given him a fighting chance at Santa Pod. “When I dropped the clutch,” he said, “I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s a good one, come on, come on…’” He did. The Lotus ran arrow-straight by the pit wall and was far enough ahead by Turn One for the Franco-Swiss to corner without compromise. Hamilton wasn’t so fortunate, his right rear Pirelli snagging Vettel’s front left wing. The Mercedes wobbled wide with a puncture and Hamilton hobbled back to the pits, although the car was sufficiently badly damaged to trigger his retirement after seven slowish laps. He wasn’t the only one in trouble: Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi tangled, the Dutchman smiting the tyre wall and his rival ending a troubled weekend in the gravel.