Lewis Hamilton returned to the top step of the podium by sweeping to a commanding victory in yesterday's Japanese Grand Prix, leading team-mate Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes one-two that marked a return to form for the champions.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates with the trophy on the podium after winning the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka. Pic/AP, PTI
Hamilton crossed the line 18.9 seconds ahead of Rosberg with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel finishing a further 1.8 seconds adrift in third.
Yesterday's win was the 41st of Hamilton's career, equalling his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna's tally of victories, and his eighth of the season.
It was also Mercedes' eighth one-two finish of the year with the dominant lights-to-flag display re-establishing Mercedes' supremacy at the head of the Formula One field after their uncharacteristically underwhelming outing in Singapore.
'Important for us to strike back'
"It definitely was important for us to strike back," Hamilton, who was forced to retire from the race in Singapore, said later on the podium. "The Ferraris were incredibly quick in the last race and I guess we didn't bring our A-game, so we really had to take a step back these last few days and make sure we brought it here."
The win in Japan sees Hamilton resume his march to a third world title. He now leads team-mate Rosberg, winner of three races this season, by 48 points in the drivers' standings with five races to go.
Never has a driver who has won eight or more races in a season gone on to lose the title and Rosberg acknowledged that with the championship racing to its conclusion, his title prospects are looking increasingly remote.
"It's going the wrong way, definitely. I had to win today, you know, that was important," he said. "It didn't work out, so just need to try and win the next time out."
Vettel remains third in the standings but the German, who had closed in on the Mercedes duo following his assured win in Singapore, now trails Hamilton by 59 points and Rosberg by 11.
'He just made it stick'
Rosberg started yesterday's race from pole position, only his second of the season, and was chasing his first win since June's Austrian Grand Prix. But he was beaten off the line by Hamilton.
The two former childhood friends turned title-rivals barrelled towards the first corner side by side. Rosberg resisted but Hamilton had the inside line and muscled his way past through the second corner, forcing his team-mate wide, who lost momentum and fell to fourth behind Vettel and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.
"Lewis just got a better start, fair play," Rosberg said. "It was a good battle into turn one but turn two actually he had the inside and just made it stick. So that was the end of it there. Second was the best possible thing after that."
Hulkenberg sixth for Force India
Behind the top three, Kimi Raikkonen followed team-mate Vettel home in fourth for Ferrari. Bottas, who had run as high as third in his Williams, finished fifth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who raced through from 13th on the grid to finish sixth.
Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado took seventh and eighth, scoring a double-points finish for Lotus on what has been a difficult weekend for the team.
The Enstone-based squad has been locked out of its hospitality hut in Suzuka all weekend and heads into what will be a pivotal week for its future, starting with a court hearing on Monday in which the team hopes to avoid being forced into administration.
Max Verstappen finished his last race as a 17-year-old in ninth, the Toro Rosso rookie putting on an incredible display of overtaking to fight through from 17th on the grid. He celebrates his 18th birthday on Wednesday.
His Toro Rosso team-mate Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten. McLaren Honda failed to finish in the points in their home race with a frustrated Fernando Alonso crossing the line eleventh. "The drivers we are racing with, unbelievable...,"
Alonso said, the feisty Spaniard letting his frustration at being forced to fight on the fringes of the top-ten boil over on the team radio, comparing the underpowered Honda power unit to a GP2 engine.
Jenson Button, whose future has been in the spotlight this weekend, fared even worse, trailing home in 16th.