Hamilton takes Japanese GP as Vettel retires

Hamilton celebrates on the podium in Japan with Verstappen and Ricciardo

Lewis Hamilton’s charge to the Formula One title has been strengthened with victory in Japan while rival Sebastian Vettel failed to finish.

The Mercedes ace converted pole into an early lead while second-placed Vettel began to drop back immediately, minutes after his Ferrari team had taken the engine cover off the car on the grid to check a spark plug problem.

Vettel’s lack of pace meant Max Verstappen, who passed Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo off the line, picked off Vettel at the hairpin on the opening lap, before the Ferrari dropped another three places at the start of the second tour.

After a brief safety car period, caused by Carlos Sainz crashing his Toro Rosso at Turn 6, Vettel slumped to eighth before getting the call on the radio to pit and retire the car on lap 4.

Hamilton then extended his lead to just over four seconds before Verstappen pitted to change his supersofts for soft tyres on lap 21, with Hamilton covering off the undercut on the following tour.

Bottas began to hold up Mercedes teammate Hamilton after Ricciardo made his stop, allowing Verstappen to close within a second of his rival, but the gap grew again when Bottas allowed Hamilton through at the Casio Triangle at the midway point and started to hold up Verstappen.

It wasn’t until lap 30 that Bottas pitted for supersofts by which time Verstappen had fallen 3.4s adrift.

The Dutchman then managed to cut Hamilton’s advantage to a little over two seconds, but couldn’t keep up the pace until Hamilton found himself impeded by Fernando Alonso on lap 51.

That allowed Verstappen to close to within a second at the start of the final lap, but more traffic allowed Hamilton to escape once more and seal the win by a slight margin.

Ricciardo completed the podium in third after a succession of fastest laps late on but couldn’t make further inroads after switching to supersoft tyres on lap 25.

The sole surviving Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth, recovering after dropping to 15th on the opening lap when he was forced wide at Spoon by Nico Hulkenberg.

The Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished sixth and seventh. Ocon had run as high as third early on after passing Ricciardo on the opening lap, but was soon demoted to fifth on successive laps by Ricciardo and Bottas.

An aggressive late move at Turn 1 on the Williams of Felipe Massa gave Kevin Magnussen eighth place, with Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean following through to grab ninth.

Fernando Alonso finished 11th in the final home race for Honda as engine partner to McLaren, ahead of Jolyon Palmer’s Renault and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.

Stoffel Vandoorne came home 14th in the second McLaren after dropping to the rear on the first lap.

Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein was the only other finisher in 15th, his team-mate Marcus Ericsson crashing out early on at Degner 2.

Lance Stroll retired when an apparent failure on the front-right of his Williams sent him skating across the gravel late on, while Nico Hulkenberg’s DRS refusing to close forced him out.

RESULTS: Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka

Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 1h27m31.194s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1.211s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 9.679s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 10.580s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Scuderia Ferrari 32.622s
6 Esteban Ocon Sahara Force India F1 Team 1m07.788s
7 Sergio Perez Sahara Force India F1 Team 1m11.424s
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 1m28.953s
9 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team 1m29.883s
10 Felipe Massa Williams Martini Racing 1 Lap
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1 Lap
12 Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team 1 Lap
13 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso 1 Lap
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1 Lap
15 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber F1 Team 2 Laps
DNF Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing Retirement
DNF Nico Hulkenberg Renault Sport F1 Team Retirement
DNF Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Spun off
DNF Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari Power Unit
DNF Carlos Sainz Scuderia Toro Rosso Spun off

STANDINGS

POS DRIVER POINTS
1 Lewis Hamilton 306
2 Sebastian Vettel 247
3 Valtteri Bottas 234
4 Daniel Ricciardo 192
5 Kimi Raikkonen 148
6 Max Verstappen 111
7 Sergio Perez 82
8 Esteban Ocon 65
9 Carlos Sainz 48
10 Nico Hulkenberg 34
11 Felipe Massa 34
12 Lance Stroll 32
13 Romain Grosjean 28
14 Kevin Magnussen 15
15 Stoffel Vandoorne 13
16 Fernando Alonso 10
17 Jolyon Palmer 8
18 Pascal Wehrlein 5
19 Daniil Kvyat 4
20 Marcus Ericsson 0
21 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
22 Pierre Gasly 0

CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

POS CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Mercedes 540
2 Ferrari 395
3 Red Bull/Renault 303
4 Force India/Mercedes 147
5 Williams/Mercedes 66
6 Toro Rosso/Renault 52
7 Haas/Ferrari 43
8 Renault 42
9 McLaren/Honda 23
10 Sauber/Ferrari 5

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