Lewis Hamilton 59 points clear of Sebastian Vettel after Japanese Grand Prix victory

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory at Suzuka
Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory at Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton took a major step towards a fourth world title with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix as championship rival Sebastian Vettel retired.

Japanese Grand Prix top three

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)

Scroll down for full race result

In brief

Lewis Hamilton took a major step towards a fourth world title with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix as championship rival Sebastian Vettel retired.

The Briton started on pole and his Mercedes performed in the Suzuka heat - although he was pushed by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen in the closing laps - to extend his lead to 59 points in the drivers' standings.

Vettel was hamstrung by a spark plug failure which caused his second retirement in three races for Ferrari, while he started at the back of the grid in Malaysia last weekend after engine trouble and could only recover to fourth.

Verstappen won in Sepang but had to settle for second here as his late push was ended as he was caught up in back-markers, while his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took the final step on the podium.

Betting Reaction

Lewis Hamilton was already a huge 1/10 favourite for the title before extending his lead by another 25 points. With the Mercedes driver now possibly just one race away from wrapping it up he's now 1/50. Sebastian Vettel is out to 14/1 after a second pointless race in the last three, while the only other theoretical contender is Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas at 300/1.

More frustration for Sebastian Vettel
More frustration for Sebastian Vettel

Japanese Grand Prix: Full race report

Lewis Hamilton took a major step towards a fourth world title with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix as championship rival Sebastian Vettel retired.

The Briton started on pole and his Mercedes performed in the Suzuka heat - although he was pushed by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen in the closing laps - to extend his lead to 59 points in the drivers' standings.

Vettel was hamstrung by a spark plug failure which caused his second retirement in three races for Ferrari, while he started at the back of the grid in Malaysia last weekend after engine trouble and could only recover to fourth.

Verstappen won in Sepang but had to settle for second here as his late push was ended as he was caught up in back-markers, while his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took the final step on the podium.

Hamilton can win the championship next time out at the United States Grand Prix if he out-scores Vettel by 16 points or more in Austin - the scene of his last title triumph in 2015.

Vettel's mechanics were working furiously on the car as it sat on the starting grid as concerns grew that another reliability issue would impact on the title picture.

Unlike team-mate Kimi Raikkonen last week, Vettel was able to take the start but it was obvious all was not well.

He was passed by Verstappen, Force India's Esteban Ocon, Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes before the end of the first lap, leaving him down in sixth when the safety car came in after Carlos Sainz crashed out for Toro Rosso.

At the restart he was overtaken by the Force India of Sergio Perez before being told to retire the car with just five laps raced.

Ferrari continued to work in the garage in the hope of sending Vettel back out but it was a forlorn effort and he eventually climbed out of the car.

Vettel insisted he would still fight for the title this season and said he would "protect" his team after more technical problems dented his championship hopes.

"It is normal to be critical, especially when things go wrong. I think I need to protect them," he told Sky Sports F1.

"We have done an incredible job so far. It is like that sometimes, of course it hurts and we are all disappointed.

"We (will) go flat out for the last four races and see what happens. We still have a chance this year."

Unlike last weekend, Verstappen had no answer to the pace of Hamilton here, who was pulling away and controlling the race with the ease at which he stormed to pole position on Saturday.

The Red Bull was the first of the leaders to pit on lap 22 and he fed out just ahead of the Ferrari of Raikkonen - who was making up positions having started in 10th following a gearbox change.

Hamilton responded by coming in on the next lap to maintain his lead but the soft compound tyres appeared to favour Verstappen, who began to close the gap.

Bottas was holding up his team-mate before eventually making way as Hamilton then kept Verstappen at arm's length.

The second Mercedes of Bottas was the car on the move as the Finn homed in on Ricciardo for third.

But a virtual safety car- following the retirement of Williams' Lance Stroll - checked his progress while giving renewed optimism to Verstappen.

The Dutchman was given permission by his team to push but he was held up by both the McLaren of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa's Williams and ended the race a little over a second behind Hamilton.

Hamilton was visibly emotional as he brought his car back to the pits and was pleased to see off the charge of the Red Bulls.

"The track was fantastic and the team did an incredible job. Max didn't make it easy for us, though," he said.

"It wasn't an easy one for us at all. Today the Red Bulls seemed to be rapid in race-trim. We were quick in qualifying but I was still just able to hold him behind, particularly at the end.

"I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap (in the championship), Ferrari have put on a great challenge all year. I can only put it down to my team, reliability has been on point."

Japanese Grand Prix: Full race result

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1hr 27mins 31.194secs
  2. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:27:32.405
  3. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:27:40.873
  4. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:27:41.774
  5. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:28:03.815
  6. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:28:32.982
  7. Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:28:42.618
  8. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:29:00.147
  9. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:29:01.077
  10. Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams at 1 Lap
  11. Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren at 1 Lap
  12. Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault at 1 Lap
  13. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap
  14. Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren at 1 Lap
  15. Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari at 2 Laps

Not Classified:

16. Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 45 Laps completed
17. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 40 Laps completed
18. Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 7 Laps completed
19. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 4 Laps completed
20. Carlos Sainz (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 0 Laps completed

Fastest Lap: Valtteri Bottas 1min 33.144secs on Lap 50

Updated Drivers' Standings

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 306pts
  2. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 247
  3. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 234
  4. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 192
  5. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 148
  6. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 111
  7. Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 82
  8. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 65
  9. Carlos Sainz (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 48
  10. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 34
  11. Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 34
  12. Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 32
  13. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 28
  14. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 15
  15. Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 13
  16. Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 10
  17. Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault 8
  18. Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari 5
  19. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 4
  20. Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 0
  21. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Haas F1 0
  22. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 0
  23. Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 0
  24. Paul di Resta (Gbr) Williams 0

Updated Constructors' Standings

  1. Mercedes GP 540pts
  2. Ferrari 395
  3. Red Bull 303
  4. Force India 147
  5. Williams 66
  6. Scuderia Toro Rosso 52
  7. Haas F1 43
  8. Renault 42
  9. McLaren 23
  10. Sauber-Ferrari 5

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