Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of a fourth Formula 1 world title, as he won at Japan on Sunday while Sebastian Vettel retired after just four laps with engine troubles.
Hamilton coasted to victory in Suzuka to extend his points lead over Vettel to 59 points with just four Grands Prix remaining, meaning that he could clinch the title next time out at the U.S. Grand Prix at Austin, Texas, on Oct. 22.
Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull completed the podium.Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen recovered from grid penalties to finish in fourth and fifth.
Hamilton's margin of victory was 1.211 seconds. Just five cars finished within one minute of the winner.
“Honestly, I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap," Hamilton said. "Ferrari have put on such a great challenge all year long. All I can really say is, I have to put it down to my team. They’ve done a phenomenal job, reliability has really been on point. They’re just so meticulous and really that’s why we’ve had the reliability we have and the results we’re having.
“I wouldn’t say that I have one hand on it (the championship), no. There’s still 100 points available so I’m still going to keep the pedal to the metal.Of course he’s (Vettel) been very unfortunate through no fault of his own.”
Vettel had made a strong start from second on the grid but his troubles quickly became evident as he was easily passed first by Max Verstappen before the floodgates opened -- his lack of power becoming painfully evident for all to see.
At the end of lap 2, Vettel was told to retire the car.
“It’s normal to be critical, especially when things go wrong so it’s part of our job but I think I need to protect (the team),” said Vettel. “We’ve done an incredible job so far. Obviously, bitter the last two races with reliability issues but, you know, it’s like that sometimes. Unfortunately today it was and we’re all disappointed but now I think the best is to get back, get some rest and work flat out for the last four races and see what happens.
“We still have a chance this year. Obviously it depends on what happens in the next races but obviously it’s not as much in our control as we would like."
Red Bull continued their strong end to the season with Verstappen following up his victory in Malaysia with a strong second place finish as teammate Ricciardo joined him to complete the podium positions.
“It was a great day again,” said Verstappen, whose early run of retirements in 2017 are ading to a distant memory. “Suzuka is great to me. I think the pace today was really promising. The first stint on the super soft I was struggling a bit with the left front but, as soon as we switched to the soft tires, I was actually very competitive and I was always with Lewis and, especially the last few laps, we had great pace.”
Formula 1 now takes a two-week break before heading to the United States and the Circuit of the Americas where both the drivers' and constructors' championships could be decided.
By Sam Hall
Formula 1, Racing
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