Suzuka: A rampant Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday to move to the brink of a fifth Formula One world title.
The Briton dominated at Suzuka after starting on pole, stretching his lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to 67 points with just four races left as the German’s hopes were dashed by a collision with Red Bull’s Verstappen.
Valtteri Bottas held off Verstappen to take second almost 13 seconds behind Hamilton in a breathless 53-lap race at the fast-flowing Japanese circuit.
“Woo-hoo! I love you guys!” Hamilton screamed over team radio after his sixth win in the last seven races.
“I hope you guys are not getting bored of this — because I’m definitely not.”
Vettel realistically needed to win to keep alive his fading title hopes but, despite making up four places in a frantic start after starting on the fourth row, spun off on lap eight in a shower of sparks after a risky lunge on Verstappen.
The German, who began from eighth in qualifying, survived the scrape but found himself back in 19th and could only finish sixth, dealing a hammer blow to his slim title hopes.
Hamilton will retain his world title if he wins the next race at Austin and Vettel fails to finish second.
“It’s a great one-two for Mercedes and a true showing of the strength in depth we have,” said the Briton after his fifth Japan victory and ninth of the season.
“I can’t wait to unleash this beast in Austin,” he added, pointing at his car. “We’ve gone from strength to strength this year as a team but I’m taking it one step at a time.”
Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull after starting way back in 15th with Kimi Raikkonen fifth after Ferrari opted not to switch his position with Vettel for the sake of two extra points.
Vettel was left wondering what might have been after a ruining an electric start with an ill-advised attempt to duck inside Verstappen at turn 13.
“In that corner you can’t overtake,” shrugged the Dutchman, who had earlier received a five-second penalty for nudging Raikkonen off the track.
“I even gave him space but he understeered into my car.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner put it even more bluntly when asked to assess Vettel’s rush of blood.
“It was a bit late and obviously opportunistic,” he said. “You know with Max, he’s never going to give an inch and it’s cost Sebastian dear today. That’s probably the end of his championship.”
Further down the order, Sergio Perez took seventh for Force India ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Haas.
The second Force India of Esteban Ocon came in ninth with Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr rounding out the top 10.
Results & Standings
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 307.471km in 1hr 27 min 17.062 sec
2. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) at 12.919 sec
3. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) at 14.295
4. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) at 19.495
5. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari) at 50.998
6. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) at 1 min 09.873 sec
7. Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India) at 1:19.379
8. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas) at 1:27.198
9. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Force India) at 1:28.055
10. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Renault) 1 lap
11. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Toro Rosso) 1 lap
12. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber) 1 tour
13. Brendon Hartley (NZL/Toro Rosso) 1 lap
14. Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren) 1 lap
15. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL/McLaren) 1 lap
16. Sergey Sirotkin (RUS/Williams) 1 lap
17. Lance Stroll (CAN/Williams) 1 lap
Charles Leclerc (MON/Sauber): lap 39
Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Renault): lap 37
Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas): lap 10.
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 331 pts
2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 264
3. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 207
4. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) 196
5. Max Verstappen (NED) 173
6. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 146
7. Sergio Perez (MEX) 53
8. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 53
9. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) 53
10. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 50
11. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 49
12. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 39
13. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 31
14. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 28
15. Charles Leclerc (MON) 21
16. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 8
17. Lance Stroll (CAN) 6
18. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) 6
19. Brendon Hartley (NZL) 2
20. Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) 1
1. Mercedes 538 pts
2. Ferrari 460
3. Red Bull 319
4. Renault 92
5. Haas 84
6. McLaren 58
7. Force India 43
8. Toro Rosso 30
9. Sauber 27
10. Williams 7