0752 GMT: AFP IS NOW CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT, after an imperious Sebastian Vettel started from pole to claim victory in Japan and reduce Fernando Alonso's lead in the drivers' standings to just four points with five races to go. The next grand prix is in Korea next week.
0747 GMT: Outside the top three, Button powered home just half a second behind Kobayashi. Fifth was Lewis Hamilton, followed by Raikkonen and Hulkenberg. Maldonado was eighth, Webber ninth and Ricciardo took 10th, fending off Schumacher.
0743 GMT: The German national anthem rings around Suzuka in honour of winner Sebastian Vettel. In the picture bigger, ahead of Korea next week, the Red Bull man must now be favourite for the drivers' title.
0741 GMT: "Kamui! Kamui!" The fans salute home driver Kamui Kobayashi after he held off a rampaging Jenson Button to come in third in his home GP.
0739 GMT: Sipping bottles of water, the leading trio discuss what happened at the start of the race as they wipe off the sweat. Vettel, who was on pole, clearly had no idea of the chaos at the start of the race that saw Alonso out.
0737 GMT: Vettel climbs onto the cockpit of his Red Bull and milks the applause, before stroking his car like a pet. Warm congratulations from Massa, who may have secured his seat at Ferrari for next season.
0735 GMT: That win sees the German just four points behind Fernando Alonso in the drivers' standings after the Ferrari man went out of the race in the first lap.
LAP 53/53: VETTEL WINS, MASSA SECOND, KOBAYASHI THIRD
SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE JAPANESE GP
LAP 52/53: Vettel has just clocked a lap record as he closes on victory.
LAP 52/53: Button is haunting the Sauber of Kobayashi but will he have enough time left in the race to make a move?
LAP 51/53: Kobayashi is fending off Button to keep his grip on a podium place. The gap is 1.2 seconds with three laps to go.
LAP 49/53: Just four laps to go. The imperious Vettel leads.
LAP 48/53: Kobayashi has picked up his pace and is holding off Button. That particular battle is going down to the wire.
LAP 46/53: Vettel leads from Massa -- a gap of more than 19 seconds -- followed by Kobayashi and Button. Hamilton is up to fifth, followed by Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Maldonado.
LAP 45/53: The gap is down to 1.8 seconds between Button and home hero Kobayashi. Button will not be a popular man if he ousts the Japanese from a podium place.
LAP 44/53: Button is pushing Kobayashi in the scrap for third. There is only 2.2 seconds between the pair. "Come on mate, there's a podium here," the McLaren team tell Button over the radio.
LAP 43/53: Ten laps to go and it is surely Vettel's race to lose now. He has dominated. So far...
LAP 41/53: Vettel has been told by his team to look after his tyres and not push his Red Bull too hard. With a lead over Felipe Massa of nearly 18 seconds, he can afford to ease up marginally. Kobayashi is third.
LAP 39/53: Mark Webber is into the points in his Red Bull, as his team-mate Vettel leads by nearly 18 seconds.
LAP 37/53: A glut of pit stops but it is as we were at the top of the order, although Kobayashi jumps ahead of Button into third -- to the delight of the home fans.
LAP 36/53: Button pits but it is not a good stop for McLaren and he loses a vital couple of seconds, moving Kobayashi back into third.
LAP 35/53: Back at the front, Vettel leads, from Massa, Button, Kobayashi and Hamilton.
LAP 34/53: Narain Karthikeyan, running in 20th in his HRT, retires.
LAP 33/53: Great battle between Hamilton and Raikkonen in the fight for seventh, but the Briton holds on -- just.
LAP 30/53: The fastest man on the track is now Romain Grosjean. He was penalised after that crazy start and is down in 16th, as a pack of drivers pit.
LAP 28/53: The fans at Suzuka look like they're loving this, and they go mad as the cars roar past the packed grandstands. They'll be delirious if Kamui Kobayashi can get a place on the podium. He is in third in his Sauber.
LAP 27/53: Mark Webber, second quickest in qualifying, pits. He is down in 10th. Schumacher is 12th.
LAP 26/53: So we are halfway through at Suzuka. Vettel leads from Massa, Kobayashi, Button and Raikkonen. Next up is Hamilton, in sixth, Hulkenberg and Maldonado.
LAP 24/53: Ferrari are really finding Alonso's retirement at the first corner hard to take, they have just tweeted: "Felipe's pace increases the regret for what happened to Fernando...."
LAP 23/53: Massa and Vettel are exchanging fastest laps, but the McLarens of Button and Hamilton are struggling. Hamilton is in sixth but not gaining on the race leaders while Button, in fourth, seems to be having gearbox issues.
LAP 22/53: Massa, in second, is really pushing leader Vettel and the Ferrari man has just clocked the fastest time of the race so far.
LAP 21/53: Bruno Senna has now been given a drive-through penalty after a minor prang. It's all happening at Suzuka.
LAP 20/53: Ferrari have just tweeted: "It was a puncture provoked by a contact with Kimi's front wing who made Fernando spin."
LAP 19/53: Jenson Button of McLaren has just recorded the fastest lap of the race. He sits fourth, with Vettel leading ahead of Massa and Kobayashi.
LAP 18/53: Vettel and Massa both pit to get on fresher tyres.
LAP 17/53: Now it's Hamilton's turn. He comes out just ahead of Perez, but it's pole-sitter Vettel who leads the race, followed by Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
LAP 15/53: The drivers are all going onto the harder tyres now. Sergio Perez, of Sauber, pits and returns to come out in eighth spot.
LAP 14/53: "All the stops are happening," the Mercedes garage tell their man Schumacher, who is down in 13th. Kobayashi pits.
LAP 12/53: Vettel leads from Kobayashi, with Button third, as the Briton makes an early pit to go from soft to the harder tyre. Looks like a two-stop strategy.
LAP 10/53: Another of the big winners from the start was Lewis Hamilton. He started on the fifth row of the grid but is now up to seventh.
LAP 8/53: Romain Grosjean has been handed a stop-go penalty for causing that collision at the start of the race.
LAP 6/53: So Vettel leads, followed by Kobayashi, Button, Massa and Raikkonen. Mark Webber is last after starting at the front of the grid.
LAP 5/53: The safety car has left the scene and we are back racing again. What. A. Start.
LAP 4/53: Replays show that Grosjean may have been responsible for that first-corner mayhem that claimed Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg. With Alonso out, the championship has been blown wide open.
LAP 2/53: Mark Webber also needed to pit after damage to his car. The big winners were pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel and Kamui Kobayashi, who is up to second.
LAP 1: Championship leader Fernando Alonso is out the race and the safety car is out after a dramatic start to the race. Romain Grosjean lost the nose of the car as several cars came together at the green light. Rosberg also out the race.
IT'S GO GO GO!
0602 GMT: The cars are lining up. Here we go.
0559 GMT: Two minutes to go...Fasten your seatbelts.
0555 GMT: Lewis Hamilton zips up and climbs into his McLaren. He'll need to take those sunglasses off first.
0547 GMT: Thirteen minutes to go... AFP photographer Toshifumi Kitamura, at the circuit, says that it's a packed house and under glorious sunshine. Just like the olden days, he says, as thousands of F1 fans decked out in the colours of their favourite team take their seats.
0545 GMT: And what of the retiring Michael Schumacher? The German legend, who announced in Japan that he will retire (again) at the end of this season, is in the last row of the grid in his Mercedes.
0542 GMT: It has not been a good weekend for McLaren so far at Suzuka. Jenson Button was third-fastest in qualifying but was dumped five places for a gearbox change, while Lewis Hamilton is way back on the fifth row of the grid.
0538 GMT: There are just five races left in the season after Japan and Sebastian Vettel is squeezing Fernando Alonso at the top of the drivers' standings. Ferrari have struggled for pace so far in Japan, as they did in Singapore, which must be a real concern for Alonso as we approach the decisive end of the campaign.
0533 GMT: So less than 30 minutes till the big off. AFP photographer Toshifumi Kitamura tells me from the track that it's perfect racing conditions -- sunny and about 25 degrees Celsius (78 F).
0530 GMT: WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT of the Japanese Grand Prix, where Sebastian Vettel will start on pole after a blistering performance in qualifying. The German shot his way to the front of the pack at Suzuka ahead of team-mate Mark Webber as Red Bull locked out the front of the grid.
Vettel, the double defending world champion who won last month in Singapore to rise to second in the standings, claimed his fourth pole in a row in Japan with a supreme level of speed and a lightning fastest lap of 1min 30.839secs.
The German's fourth pole of the season and the 34th of his career gives him a great opportunity to close the 29-point gap on Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the championship leader who was only seventh fastest in qualifying.
Jenson Button was third fastest but was hit with a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. His McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton is back on the fifth row of the grid.
Home hope Kamui Kobayashi, of Sauber, and the Lotus driver Romain Grosjean are on the second row, followed by Sergio Perez in his Sauber and Alonso. Kimi Raikkonen, of Lotus, is along side Button on the fourth row, with Hamilton and Felipe Massa rounding out the top 10.