F1: Lewis Hamilton wins Japanese GP to extend championship lead
Mercedes champion wins Japanese GP to open 59-point lead over title rival Vettel and come within striking distance of fourth world championship title
Lewis Hamilton clinched victory in yesterday's Japanese Grand Prix to move within reach of a fourth world title after rival Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire due to engine problems on his Ferrari. The Mercedes driver crossed the line 1.2 seconds clear of Max Verstappen after vibrations from his tyres allowed the Red Bull driver to apply late race pressure on an otherwise straightforward Sunday afternoon cruise for the Briton. Daniel Ricciardo was third.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton with the Japanese Grand Prix trophy atop the victory podium in Suzuka yesterday. Pic/AFP
Vettel in trouble
Vettel did not make it beyond the fourth lap. His Ferrari appeared to be in trouble even before the race started, with his mechanics working in a frenzied manner to replace the German's spark plug on the starting grid. The four-time champion took the start and made a clean getaway. But it soon became apparent that the problems hadn't been fixed with Vettel, clearly lacking power, plummeting down the order until he was called in to retire the car. Before the Suzuka setback Vettel had crashed out on the opening lap in Singapore and started last in Malaysia after engine problems in qualifying. This is the most decisive yet for he now trails Hamilton by 59 points in the overall standings. Only four races remain with a maximum 100 points up for grabs.
Such is Hamilton's advantage that he could wrap up the title as early as the next race in the United States. "Of course it hurts, and we're all disappointed. But now I think we just have to get back, get some rest and go flat out for the last four races," said the four-time champion.
61st win for Hamilton
Sunday's win was the 61st of Hamilton's career and third at Suzuka. It came a day after the Briton smashed the track record to seize a maiden pole at the 5.8-kilometer track in style. His only scare of the afternoon came when his tyres developed a vibration in the dying laps, allowing Verstappen to reel him in. For a moment it looked like the Dutchman could cause a late race upset and snatch a second consecutive win to add to his Malaysia win last week.
But Hamilton, strategically putting back markers between him and the pursuing Red Bull, hung on. "All I can really say is that I have to put it down to my team. They've done a phenomenal job, reliability has really been on point. That's really why we have the reliability we have and the result we have been having," said Hamilton (32).
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