Lewis Hamilton took a dominant win at the Japanese Grand Prix and is now one step closer to claiming the world championship as Sebastian Vettel made a crucial mistake by crashing into Max Verstappen early in the race.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver can now claim the world championship at the next race in the United States if Vettel doesn’t finish in second. Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two with Valtteri Bottas holding back Verstappen in the final stages of the race.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing had an eventful race with the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers early on. The Dutch driver was handed a penalty for leaving the track and not rejoining in safe manner when Kimi Räikkönen attempted to pass around the outside.
But the main incident was with Vettel when the German made a last second attempt to pass the Red Bull driver at the Spoon curve but Vettel made contact with Verstappen, sending the Ferrari off the track and down the field. He was able to recover to sixth place but heavily damaging his title hopes.
Daniel Ricciardo was able to turn around a horrible qualifying from fifteenth place to finish fourth overall ahead of both of the Ferrari cars of Räikkönen and Vettel.
Racing Point Force India F1 Team‘s Sergio Pérez was the best of the rest with seventh place ahead of Haas F1 Team‘s Romain Grosjean. Esteban Ocon finished in ninth place as Carlos Sainz Jr. snatched the final point away from Pierre Gasly at Honda’s home race.
Vettel started the race cleanly from eighth place, clearing the two Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda cars at Turn 1 and passing Grosjean before the end of first lap. Verstappen locked up at the chicane on the first lap which opened the door for Räikkönen to pass but the Dutch driver defended his position aggressively to keep third place when he returned to the track. The stewards investigated the incident and handed the Red Bull driver a five second time penalty to take in his next pit stop.
Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc made contact down the straight with the Sauber hitting the rear of the Haas car as the Dane driver made a last second move to defend his position which resulted in Magnussen gaining a puncture. The slow Haas left debris over the track as it returned to the pits which caused the safety car to come out.
Vettel’s race was compromised after making contact with Verstappen at the Spoon Curve when the German attempted to make a late move on the Dutch driver. The Ferrari suffered bargeboard damage and dropped down to the back of the field whilst Verstappen remained in third.
Ferrari pitted Räikkönen early as he struggled with his tyres, but the Finn came out in traffic and lost time, which allowed Ricciardo to stay ahead of the Ferrari when he pitted in for the Supersoft tyres.
Vettel clawed his way back through the field with his damaged Ferrari to get back into the points, passing cars cleanly as he attempted to fight his way back through the field to sixth place, with team-mate Räikkönen lying ahead in fifth but over 40 seconds ahead.
Leclerc’s race ended unexpectedly after the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team driver went off at Degner 1, resulting in a Virtual Safety Car for the marshals to clear the stranded car.
Verstappen was able to chase down second placed Bottas, with an opportunity presenting itself at the hairpin when the Mercedes driver locked up but the Finn was able to hold his position. Bottas made another error at the Casio chicane by cutting the corner and allowed Verstappen to close back up but he couldn’t execute a move for second.
Hamilton was able to clinch victory, increasing the points gap to 67 with four races to go as Vettel’s title aspirations have shrunk with an ambitious points gap to reduce.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport||1:27:17.062|
|2||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport||12.9s|
|3||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||14.3s|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||19.5s|
|5||7||Kimi Raikkonen||FIN||Scuderia Ferrari||51.0s|
|6||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Scuderia Ferrari||69.9s|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Racing Point Force India F1 Team||79.4s|
|8||8||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Haas F1 Team||87.2s|
|9||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Racing Point Force India F1 Team||88.1s|
|10||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||Renault Sport Formula One Team||+1 Lap|
|11||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda||+1 Lap|
|12||9||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team||+1 Lap|
|13||28||Brendon Hartley||NZL||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda||+1 Lap|
|14||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||McLaren F1 Team||+1 Lap|
|15||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||BEL||McLaren F1 Team||+1 Lap|
|16||35||Sergey Sirotkin||RUS||Williams Martini Racing||+1 Lap|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||Williams Martini Racing||+1 Lap|
|DNF||16||Charles Leclerc||MCM||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team||Lap 41/Mechanical|
|DNF||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Renault Sport Formula One Team||Lap 39/Mechanical|
|DNF||20||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Haas F1 Team||Lap 10/Mechanical|