Michael Schumacher went from 24th to fifth at Spa.
But team mate Nico Rosberg could only manage tenth having started 23rd at Suzuka.
The race data reveals much about their differing performances.
At Spa, Schumacher gained nine places on the first lap alone, largely thanks to a crash at the first corner.
Rosberg had no such luck in Suzuka and came round at the end of the first lap in 20th place. As the lap chart shows he made some progress over the following laps, passing Jerome d’Ambrosio, Jaime Alguersuari and Jarno Trulli.
Rosberg benefitted from a safety car period in the middle of the race to cut his deficit to the leaders, much as Schumacher did in Spa.
However Rosberg’s biggest obstacle was the relative difficulty of overtaking at Suzuka. The DRS zone at Spa was very generous, and passing opportunities elsewhere on the circuit are numerous.
That wasn’t the case at Suzuka. Even so, Rosberg made some excellent moves, particularly over the final dozen laps. He capitalised on Paul di Resta being held up by Vitaly Petrov to pull off an unlikely move in the Dunlop Curve.
Mercedes were the fastest team in the pits as they were in Belgium and at four other races this year.
They weren’t just fast, they were consistent too: the silver team did the three fastest pit stops of the race and five of the top eight.
Rosberg’s first two stops on laps 12 and 24 were the quickest of the race.
All lap times
Rosberg ended the race trying to chase down Vitaly Petrov for ninth place. He set the third-fastest lap of the race on the way, just 0.054s slower than the fastest lap, set by Jenson Button on the penultimate tour.
2011 Japanese Grand Prix
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- Red Bull: Conservative approach delivers Vettel’s title
- McLaren: Button pleased to win on ‘Red Bull track’
- Ferrari: Alonso edges Vettel for second
- Mercedes: Schumacher closes on Rosberg’s tally
- Renault: Petrov makes progress, Senna slips back
Image ?é?® Daimler