Lewis Hamilton win Japan Grand Prix and moves closer to drivers' championship

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton competes during the first practice session of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton competes during the first practice session of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka

A period of Mercedes dominance in 2015 and 2016 saw Vettel fall behind in the Championship race, failing to win a single Grand Prix in 2016 and raising serious questions over his ability to perform the way he could at Red Bull. The move led to Vettel spinning onto the run-off, with little effect on Verstappen's position. I thought that was how it was going to be being that they were so strong at the previous two races.

"Knowing that obviously he closes and we don't make the corner, then, no, you don't do it again".

The most simple way for Hamilton to win the title would be to replicate the results of the last two races, in Russian Federation and Japan, by leading home Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in a one-two finish.

It was on lap four when Vettel's race began to unravel.

The Spaniard, who infamously embarrassed McLaren's former engine supplier Honda at its home circuit three years ago by yelling "GP2 engine, GP2 engine" over the team radio, called the penalty "random" and said it proved "how bad Formula One is".

"We knew we would have a tough battle this year, and you have seen all of the ups and downs, but competition-wise it has been one of the most I have enjoyed in my career".

"In terms of Sebastian's performance, I definitely hadn't anticipated that they would tail off as they have", he said, after Vettel's fading title hopes were all but extinguished. He was quick off the line and had passed the Toro Rosso's of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley by the time he was into the esses to take sixth and the Haas of Romain Grosjean fell swiftly afterwards.

Verstappen finished third and Australia's Daniel Ricciardo was fourth behind his Red Bull teammate, after starting 15th on the grid.

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"I think we expected that there was more rain coming and obviously it didn't".

Verstappen had already incurred a five-second penalty after nudging Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari off the track. For me, the gap was there - otherwise I wouldn't do it.

"I don't regret the move", he bristled.

A year later, and following an even stronger start to the season, come the summer break and Ferrari and Vettel are all over the place, with both making repeated and unnecessary - dare one say amateur - mistakes. "Obviously with that outcome you would do it differently".

Raikkonen was also in a dark mood after an incident on the opening lap when Verstappen drove over the grass at the chicane before bumping into his Ferrari. Vettel appeared to want to avoid letting Mercedes open up too much of a gap in front, which he had to do given his deficit in the championship fight.

"He ran wide and he went off the track and I just went on the outside at the next corner, leaving him space on the inside", Raikkonen said.

Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene said the podium had been within the team's grasp.

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