Lewis Hamilton secured his eight victory of the season and his fourth in the past five races to edge closer to the 2017 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship, with his advantage in the standings aided by Sebastian Vettel’s early retirement in the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team racer took his third career win at the Suzuka International Racing Course, maintaining his lead at the start and surviving an early safety car and a late virtual safety car to take the sixty-first victory of his illustrious career, holding off the late charge from Max Verstappen to win by 1.211 seconds.
Hamilton admitted that the virtual safety car saw him lose some temperature in his tyres and made his final laps more difficult than he wanted them to be, but he was still able to take the victory despite the close attention of Red Bull Racing racer Verstappen.
“The start was okay, although the initial getaway was not spectacularly good, I had a bit of wheel spin,” said Hamilton. “But from then on I had a good start and it was pretty much under control from there.
“I was trying to manage the pace and the tyres; it was a long way to go, it was the hottest the track had been all weekend, so that was really crucial. With the VSC towards the end, I lost a lot of temperatures in the tyres and waking them up was not so easy.
“I got stuck behind traffic, I was losing so much time and Max’ car was so big in my mirror. It was very close for a couple laps, but I was able to keep it together. It was not an easy walk in the park today, it was a win that I had to work very hard for. Great race by Max, I enjoyed racing him.”
Hamilton’s win, coupled with the early retirement of Vettel, leaves him fifty-nine points clear in the championship standings with only four races remaining, meaning there is a possibility that he can clinch the title next time out in the United States Grand Prix.
“It’s almost unbelievable to think we are where we are in the championship,” said Hamilton. “I was excited to race Sebastian today, but he was obviously very unfortunate.
“It’s still a long way to go, there are still a hundred points. I’m just going to keep my head down and hopefully will continue to be in a form like this.”